A new paper from the Embraco looks at future refrigerant use in the light commercial sector

The global community, with Kigali Amendment to Montreal Protocol, made another important step towards reduction of CO2 emissions due to human activities, in order to preserve our planet for future generations. The global phase-down of HFCs in refrigeration sector is representing an important contribution to the international mitigation efforts. Embraco for many years has been actively investing in this direction by developing and promoting hermetic compressors for use with low atmospheric impact refrigerants in all continents. Apart from isobutane (R600a) in household appliances, significant progress is present also with propane (R290) implementation into light commercial plug-in systems as natural R404A alternative as well as use of carbon dioxide in supermarket sector. Recent EU F-Gas regulation imposes ban of high GWP refrigerants in next few years in several categories of commercial applications and will considerably limit the available quantities of those refrigerants on the market. A number of alternative synthetic refrigerants were offered by chemical industry and more are coming. For this reason, Embraco performed a number of activities to assess their potential to replace high GWP refrigerants presently in use. Main difficulty found was trying to replace R404A. This paper will summarize the present testing state of alternatives for both R404A and R134a replacements. Focus will be given to reliability and performances aspects as well as to the related safety legislation evolution.

EU F-Gas Regulation

NEW EQUIPMENT 1. From January 1st, 2020 Refrigerators and freezers for storage, display or distribution of products in retail and food service (commercial use) hermetically sealed systems that contains HFC with GWP of 2500 or more, will be banned (e.g. R404A, R507) 2. From January 1st, 2022 Refrigerators and freezers for storage, display or distribution of products in retail and food service (commercial use) hermetically sealed systems that contains HFC with GWP of 150 or more, will be banned (e.g. R134a, R407F, R407C, R410A) 3. From January 1st, 2020 Stationary refrigeration equipment, that contains, or that relies upon for its functioning HFCs with GWP of 2500 or more except equipment intended for application design to cool products to temperatures below -50°C will be banned. There are still some doubts in this new regulation interpretation, for example, it is not clear if commercial type of ice makers should fall under “refrigerators and freezers” category, or should be considered as a “stationary refrigeration equipment”. Questions like this can be addressed to major industry associations (eg. ASERCOM, EPEE), or thru European Commission (DG Clima) website or/and contacting national authorities in charge of EU F-gas regulation. EXISTING SYSTEMS MAINTENANCE From January 1, 2020 the use of F-gases with GWP of 2500 or more to service or maintain refrigeration equipment with gas charge size exceeding 40TCO2equiv (ex. more than 10,2 kg of R404A) will be banned, unless when using reclaimed or recycled refrigerants, if available, it is possible to service them until January 1, 2030. For systems impacted by the service & maintenance bans there are two options: retrofit with gases with GWP lower than 2500 or replace them with new equipment that uses lower GWP refrigerant. QUOTA SYSTEM EU F-gas regulation (517/2014) defines that sales and distribution of high GWP gases will be controlled with quota allocation system and will lead to its declining supply and increase of HFC prices (see Fig.1). Quantities of HFC gases available for all applications will be limited based on GWP value (in 2018 49% less if compared with 2015 usage - 87MTCO2equiv) and industry will be forced to switch quickly to low GWP alternatives.

Alternative Refrigerants for Commercial Refrigeration

Embraco is working on products for light commercial refrigeration segment, to comply with both phases of EU F-gases regulation. This means products for final  solution (below 150 GWP) with  natural and with synthetic refrigerants and as well as compressors for transition refrigerants (150<GWP<2500), that should allow the industry to convert all their product portfolio into final low GWP refrigerants by 2022. We recommend, if possible, go directly to the final refrigerants. For the time being only hydrocarbons can be considered a final solution, while synthetic refrigerants options are still under development and the legislation to allow their use, is still under development. Every appliance producer has to make a choice: go natural or wait for new synthetic blends when ready.

Conclusions

Hydrocarbons (isobutane-R600a and propane-R290), represent the best, long term solution for light commercial applications both in low and medium pressure. The next future expected legislation changes will remove part of existing road blocks related to charge limits. For the transition period, before 2022, based on preliminary testing, Embraco cannot consider R407F, R407A, R448A, nor R449A as an alternative replacement refrigerant for systems using Embraco R404A compressors. Usage of above referenced refrigerants may require system changes such as, system condensing temperature reduction (larger condenser, improved ventilation) or return gas temperature reduction in order to achieve  a similar thermal profile as with refrigerant R404A. To maintain Embraco warranty, final application needs to be validated by Embraco Technical Support Team case by case. Usage in systems operating under high compression ratio conditions in particular should be avoided. R452A can be in this stage considered as an only alternative refrigerant. Also R513A was approved as acceptable alternative to R134a for transition period in Embraco R134a models. R1234yf is as well an acceptable alternative for R134a also for long term, but flammability aspects of all A2L refrigerants requires specific product line for this refrigerant.   Read More

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