F-Gas changes are just the beginning

The new F-Gas Regulations came into force on 1st January 2015 but as Dave Ball, Engineering Director explains, this is just the beginning of a raft of changes which will have a lasting effect on supermarkets and the food processing sector. 

Changes to European regulations mean that many of the HFC refrigerants widely used as replacements for CFCs and HCFCs will be phased out in the next five years.

The revised F-Gas regulations, EC 517/2014, aim to reduce HFC emissions from an estimated 90 million tonnes, CO2 equivalent in 2005, to 35 million tonnes, CO2 equivalent by 2030. This will be achieved by controlling the production and import of HFCs in Europe and banning the use of equipment and systems with high GWP refrigerants.

It is important to note that the regulations are no longer based on the weight of the refrigerant in the system but on the tonnes CO2 equivalent – that is the refrigerant global warming potential (GWP) divided by 1000 and multiplied by the system charge in kg.

For operators to comply with the latest regulations the first step must be to identify the refrigerant and the quantity (weight) in each system. This information is required to assess if there is a change in the leak checking intervals and a possible need for fixed automatic leak detectors. Each refrigeration system should be treated separately.

The previous regulations required operators of systems with between three and 30 kg of HFC refrigerant to check for leaks every year. This now has to be undertaken if the refrigerant has an equivalent weight of CO2 of between five and 50 tonnes. For the popular refrigerant R404a (GWP of 3922) this means that leak checks must now be carried out every year on systems containing between 1.27 kg and 12.7 kg.

Formerly if a system held between 30kg and 300kg of HFC the leak test had to be carried out every six months or a year if an automatic leak detection system was installed. Leak testing every six months is now required if the refrigerant CO2 equivalent is between 50 and 500 tonnes – for R404a this is between 12.7 kg and 127 kg of refrigerant.

For systems containing 300 kg or more of HFC refrigerant the leak testing had to be carried out every three months or six months if an automatic leak detection system is fitted. Now a system with the equivalent of 500 tonnes CO2 or more must have a fixed, automatic leak detection system and be manually leak tested every six months.

The detection system must automatically alert the operator or service provider of the leak so that this is “repaired without undue delay”. This means that there is now a requirement for R404a systems with 127 kg or more of refrigerant to have a fixed leak detection system fitted. All leak detection systems must be checked and calibrated every 12 months.

Examples of commonly used HFC refrigerants with a high GWP are R507A (GWP 3985), R422A (GWP 3143), R422D (GWP 2729), R434A (GWP 3245) and R428A (GWP 3607).

Article 11 and Annex III of the new regulations give details of products and equipment that will be prohibited from being placed on the market. Article 13 places a ban on using HFC refrigerants with a GWP of 2500 to service systems with a charge size of 10 kg (40 tonnes CO2 equivalent) or more from January 1 2020 unless the refrigerant has been recovered or recycled. This becomes a total ban on the use of HFC with GWP 2500 and higher by 2030.

Supermarkets and larger convenience store operators need to be aware that although refrigerants with a GWP of 2500 or more are targeted in the new F-Gas regulations, from January 2022 “multipack centralised refrigeration systems for commercial use with a capacity of 40 kW or more” will be prohibited from being placed on the market if the refrigerant GWP is 150 or higher. This will affect many operators unless the refrigerant is used in the “primary circuit” (high stage) of a cascade system when refrigerants with GWP less than 1500 may be used.

For operators these F-Gas change may appear to be a long way off, but make no mistake, planning should begin now. Change is already with us and for further advice on how it will affect your business talk to your refrigeration maintenance team. They should be able to ensure you are complying with the new regulations and provide the latest information to allow you to make the best choice when purchasing new refrigeration equipment.

To read the full article which appeared in the March edition of Food Processing > Click here

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