UK Refrigerant Webinar: Recording and Q&AClimalife UK
Didn't get chance to join members of the Climalife team for the panel discussion covering important topics and providing useful information on UK market conditions, refrigerants and the resources available to aid with the shift to using low GWP refrigerants? Then you can now watch the recording here!
Questions and Answers
Q. Are you seeing a decrease in demand for R-410A?
A: R-410A has been a large volume refrigerant for many years with millions of units installed, so it’s not surprising there is still a high demand for the product. The low GWP alternative R-32 and very low GWP R-454B are now widely used for new equipment and demand for these refrigerants will increase as the installed base grows and a service market develops. It would be strongly recommended that wherever possible R-410A is not used for installation of new equipment as refrigerants with a GWP >2000 are not sustainable as the F-Gas phasedown progresses.
Q. What is the risk posed by pipework containing A2L refrigerant passing through confined spaces before entering the cold room?
A. If the pipe is continuous without joints then it can be considered as low risk but the pipe should be positioned or protected to avoid accidental damage. If the pipe run has any joints then it would be recommended the calculation under EN378 is performed to determine if, in the event of a leak, the refrigerant concentration in that space is within acceptable limits, requires additional protective measures or is above the recommended EN378 levels within the space. Where, in a leak scenario, the limits within EN378 could be exceeded in an enclosed space that a jointed pipe run passes through, it would be recommended that an alternative route for these pipe runs is found.
Q. Can you explain the baseline that is so often referred to regarding CO2 equivalent ?
A. The climate changing potential of a substance is assessed from a characteristic known as its radiative efficiency, a measure of how much warming it can cause when present in the Earth’s atmosphere. These numbers are typically not simple integers and it’s not immediately obvious how they compare between substances. The GWP value of substances is a simplification of the radiative efficiency values by comparing everything to a unit of mass of carbon dioxide (CO2) over a set period of time, which is set at a value of 1. For example, using the values in the F‑Gas regulation, methane has a GWP100ITH of 25 meaning 1 kg of methane has the same warming effect as 25kg of CO2. The GWP value is time dependent as different substances have different atmospheric lifetimes. Unlike CO2 which has an atmospheric lifetime of several hundred years, most refrigerants have an atmospheric lifetime of less than 100 years and therefore to capture the entire warming effect a 100 year integrated time horizon (ITH) is typically used. Since the GWP values are calculated using the CO2 values they are often expressed as CO2 equivalents i.e. the equivalent amount of CO2.
Since the original F-Gas regulation was introduced in 2006, manufacturers and importers of F-Gases have had to annually declare the quantity of each F-Gas placed on the market. When the second F-Gas regulation came into force in 2015, the F-Gas phasedown was based on the quantities declared as placed on the market. The baseline amount or phase down starting point was calculated from the average of the 2009 to 2012 figures but converted into the CO2 equivalent value which was approximately 183 million tonnes CO2 equivalents. This allowed the type of refrigerant used to be chosen by the user, as long as the total CO2 equivalent of all the refrigerant used was within the maximum quota.
When Great Britain left the European Union, it needed its own CO2 equivalent baseline in order to continue the phasedown within Great Britain. This baseline used the placing on the UK market figures averaged over 2018 to 2019 which equated to approximately 9% of the original EU28 baseline tonnes CO2 equivalent. Going forward the challenge for the RACHP and other industries using F-Gases is to transition from higher GWP refrigerants to lower GWP refrigerants so there are sufficient physical tonnes of refrigerant to satisfy demand and keep within the maximum CO2 equivalents allowed under the phasedown. Using the current version of the legislation it can be estimated that the average GWP of all F-Gases used in 2022 should be approximately 900, dropping to approximately 600 after the next cut in 2024 and eventually down to approximately 400 by 2030. To achieve this and stay within the phasedown limits the industry needs to accelerate the switch to lower GWP refrigerants.
Q. What is the name of the F-Gas app?
There is a smart phone app called Climalife F-Gas Solutions which gives information about refrigerants relevant to the F-Gas regulation. There is also an app called Climalife P/T Slider which gives pressure temperature information and on online web based tool called the Climalife A2L charge Calculator tool which enables calculations related to compliance with EN378 to be made quickly and easily.
Q. Do you see R-744 (CO2) as a refrigerant to be widely used in the UK?
R-744 is already widely used in the UK but with energy efficiency becoming an increasingly important consideration it is likely to become a challenge for the use of R-744. Although the GWP of R-744 is just 1, R-744 has an inherent low energy efficiency compared to other low GWP refrigeration technologies emphasising the need to thoroughly assess the application and all the possible low GWP options to ensure the energy efficiency is maximised.
There are a number of system enhancements made with R-744 systems e.g. ejectors, parallel compression, heat recovery, in order to enhance the energy efficiency of R-744 systems but it’s important to remember there are also a number of enhancements that can be made to other systems e.g. internal or mechanical subcooling and heat recovery, that will also improve the energy efficiency of these systems often at lower costs than the enhancements made to R-744 systems.
The major UK supermarket Asda recently announced preliminary results after replacing R‑744 with new systems using R-454A (GWP=239) in one of its stores. The increase in energy efficiency was in excess of 20% and easily compensated in terms of total emissions for the higher GWP of R-454A, not to mention the considerably lower operating costs now being seen. There will be systems where R-744 will be an option, but in the majority of cases a detailed analysis will show that other low GWP technologies are likely to be a lower cost and lower total emissions solution.
Q. Please include the issue of HFO's breaking into R-23 (GWP 12,690) and the trifluoroacetic acid problem. Do HFO's have a future? Are HFO's really environmentally better?
A. The short answer to the questions is that according to current research and regulation, HFOs are as sustainable as any other low GWP refrigerant option.
The questions specifically raised concerns about whether HFOs breakdown into R-23 and trifluoroacetic acid (TFA) in the atmosphere. These are two quite different questions and answered separately.
Formation of Trifluoroacetic Acid (TFA)
TFA is produced as a breakdown product of some HFCs, including HFC-134a, and from HFO -1234yf. No TFA is formed from HFO-1234ze(E). Some HCFCs (HCFC-123 and -124) also breakdown to produce TFA however the results of many peer reviewed research papers have concluded that more than 95% of TFA found in the environment is formed from naturally occurring processes e.g. chemical reactions in or around sub-sea volcanic vents.
Studies have also addressed the environmental impact of the increasing volumes of R-1234yf that are likely to be used over the coming decades in the major population areas of India, China, the Middle East U.S, and Europe. The studies affirm that TFA from HFO-1234yf will have a negligible effect on human and ecosystem health. Previous studies conclude that TFA does not bioconcentrate in organisms or biomagnify in the food chain, indicating that the risk TFA poses to humans and the ecosystem is negligible.
This was recognised in a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) publication which stated “based on estimates of current and future use of HFCs, HCFCs, and HFOs, additional inputs to the global oceans, salt lakes and playas will add only fractionally (estimated to be less than 0.1%) to amounts already present from natural sources such as undersea vents and volcanic activity.”.
Cited below are a number of references to peer reviewed scientific papers containing the data mentioned in the summary above. When gathering information sources it is important to confirm the data has come from a peer reviewed source as there are many sources of information that are not peer reviewed which contain erroneous and misleading information.
TFA Formation References
UNEP Ozone Secretariat, 2015, Ecological Issues on the feasibility of managing HFCs: Focus on TFA, Intersessional informal meeting.
Liji M. David, Mary Barth, Lena Höglund-Isaksson, Pallav Purohit, Guus J. M. Velders, Sam Glaser and A. R. Ravishankara, Trifluoroacetic acid deposition from emissions of HFO-1234yf in India, China, and the Middle East, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 21, 14833–14849, 2021 https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-21-14833-2021
Stephan Henne, Dudley E. Shallcross, Stefan Reimann, Ping Xiao, Dominik Brunner, Simon O’Doherty, and Brigitte Buchmann, Future Emissions and Atmospheric Fate of HFC-1234yf from Mobile Air Conditioners in Europe, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2012, 46 (3), pp 1650–1658 DOI: 10.1021/es2034608.
Kajihara, H., Inoue, K., Yoshida, K., Nagaosa, R. 2010. Estimation of environmental concentrations and deposition fluxes of R-1234yf and its decomposition products emitted from air conditioning equipment to atmosphere. Proc. 2010 Int. Symposium on Next-Generation Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology, paper no NS24, Tokyo, Japan
Luecken, D. J., Waterland, R. L., Taddonio, N., Hutzell, W. T., Rugh, J. P., Andersen, S. O.,2010. Ozone and TFA Impacts in North America from Degradation of 2,3,3,3-Tetrafluoropropene (HFO-1234yf), A Potential Greenhouse Gas Replacement. Environmental Science and Technology, 44(1): 44,343–348
Papasavva, S., Luecken, D. J., Waterland, R. L., Taddonio, K. N., Andersen, S. O., 2009. Estimated 2017 Refrigerant Emissions of 2,3,3,3-tetrafluoropropene (HFC-1234yf) in the United States Resulting from Automobile Air Conditioning. Environmental Science and Technology, 43(24):9252–9259
Formation of R-23
A non-peer reviewed paper (Hansen paper) was released in June 2021 by the University of New South Wales (Australia) claiming that an atmospheric degradation route of HFO-1234ze could lead to the formation of R-23 via a fluoroaldehyde intermediate. The paper stated “more research is needed” for their proposed degradation mechanism and the authors were apparently unaware that this had already been thoroughly studied. As early as 1994 the UNEP Ozone Assessment (Chapter 12), in its section on aldehydes, reported that the quantum yield for formation of R-23 through the fluoroaldehyde intermediate route suggested by the June 2021 publication was too low to significantly enhance the GWP of the parent compound.
Further research published in a peer reviewed paper from Chiappero (2006) stated “We conclude that formation of HFCs from the tropospheric photolysis of fluoroaldehydes is of no significance.”. The Hansen paper did not put forward any new data or research that would cast any doubt on the findings of the earlier peer reviewed published information and therefore has no validity to change the published conclusions that formation of R-23 from R‑1234ze, or any other HFO refrigerant, is not a significant source and therefore does not need to be considered. Since the Hansen paper was published a further peer reviewed paper (Anderson, 2022) stated “No formation of CF3H, HFC-23, was observed under any of the experimental conditions” confirming the conclusions of the earlier studies.
R-23 Formation Reference
Malisa S. Chiappero, Fabio E. Malanca, Gustavo A. Arguello, Steven T. Wooldridge, Michael D. Hurley, James C. Ball, Timothy J. Wallington, Robert L. Waterland, and Robert C. Buck J. Phys. Chem. A 2006, 110, 11944-11953, Atmospheric Chemistry of Perfluoroaldehydes (CxF2x+1CHO) and Fluorotelomer Aldehydes (CxF2x+1CH2CHO): Quantification of the Important Role of Photolysis
Mads Peter Sulbaek Andersen, Ole John Nielsen, Atmospheric Environment, volume 272, March 2022, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.atmosenv.2021.118935
The two issues raised emphasise the importance of either directly using peer reviewed sources or information where a peer reviewed sources are referenced. Current peer reviewed research on these matters does not cast any doubt on the long term viability of HFOs as a sustainable option for the future.