HFCs

A reader reached out to me today and told me that I had to watch a YouTube video. I pulled it up not really knowing what to expect. It definitely surprised me. The video is a do-it-yourself guide on how to convert your vehicle’s R-1234yf system over to R-134a. Yes, you read that right. I didn’t have that backwards. We have end users actively converting HFO systems back over to HFCs. I am sure most of us knew this would be happening on one off bases here and there but I didn’t expect to see a full do-it-yourself guide for everyone to watch and learn.

As most of you know, I began my career in the heavy-duty diesel industry. I remember back in 2007 when a new regulation went into effect for our trucks. All new vehicles were to be equipped with a Diesel Particulate Filter, or a DPF. Along with that you had a new fluid to add to your vehicle every so often called Diesel Exhaust Fluid. The point of this was to reduce the pollutants of semi-trucks that move all over the country’s roads. (After all, trucking is the life blood of the country.) While most fleets adapted to the change without issue there were guys out there, mainly owner-operators, that decided they didn’t like the DPF on their new truck. These guys came up with their own work-around that completely bypassed the particulate filter. It wasn’t legal, it wasn’t right, and it caused a ton of damage to the vehicle. But hey, they got their work around and got to do it ‘their,’ way.

We’re seeing a very similar thing here. People assume that R-1234yf and R-134a can be interchangeable. Yes, the pressures between the two refrigerants are very close to each other, but they are NOT exact. Click here to see a pressure comparison chart, courtesy of Lexissecurities.com. (Third page down) As you can see, the two refrigerants meet at thirty degrees Celsius, but after that they differ. Like with any air conditioning equipment the parts on your 1234yf vehicle are specifically manufactured to take 1234yf and no other refrigerants. Contaminating your system with a foreign refrigerant will at best case shorten the life of your compressor and other components. At worst, it will permanently damage your system causing an entire replacement.

When watching this video you’ll notice that he had to get a specific adapter just so he could insert the R-134a refrigerant into the system. This should have been a red flag. There is a reason why there are two different fittings between R-1234yf and R-134a. It is to prevent accidental contamination. I’m not sure why these adapters exist, but there must be a market for them or else they wouldn’t be found in auto parts stores or online. On the upside here, in this video the narrator did go through the trouble of vacuuming out the remaining R-134a from his system. So, we don’t have a contamination of mixed refrigerants… we just have all of the wrong refrigerant.

The video in question can be found below:

The Why?

Now there is one main reason for someone to do this: Money. Yes, it’s all about money and savings folks. R-1234yf is not easily found in stores at this time. Yes, it is available at online sites like Amazon.com and also through certain auto-parts stores but it is hit and miss. While the availability is a problem it is not the main gripe from end-users. R-1234yf is significantly higher in price then it’s predecessor R-134a. Let’s do a comparison real quick just to show the price difference. We’ll use Amazon.com as a point of reference just to make things easy:

  • R-134a: Three twelve ounce cans are for sale right now at $19.95. (Price can change at any time.) Let’s do some math now and break this down by price per ounce. $19.95 / 36 ounces = $00.55 per ounce for R-134a.
  • R-1234yf: Four eight ounce cans are for sale right now at $168.99. (Price can change at any time.) Let’s do some math now and break this down by price per ounce. $168.99 / 32 ounces = $5.28 per ounce for R-1234yf.
  • That is an eight-hundred and sixty percent increase in price between the two refrigerants.

Now, we can begin to see the end-users’ reasoning here. That is one hell of a price increase. Now if we couple that with the fact that not many stores handle 1234yf we find that most car owners end up having to go to the dealership for air conditioning repairs. I can only imagine the mark-up on 1234yf. Ok so, we understand the end-users reasoning but now we need to look at the consequences of converting a system over to R-134a.

Consequences

As with any action there are always consequences. In the case of this moving a vehicle from 1234yf over to 134a we have two distinct consequences:

The first is that by doing this switch you are actively harming the environment. The point of 1234yf is to reduce the overall Global Warming Potential (GWP) of vehicles and the refrigerants that they use. R-134 has a GWP of fourteen-hundred and thirty times that of Carbon Dioxide. Inversely, R-1234yf has a GWP number of four times that of Carbon Dioxide. Beginning to see the difference here? If you switch your unit back to 134a you are actively harming the environment.

The second reason, and the one that will most likely get everyone’s attention, is the Federal Government. Yes, that’s right folks. This isn’t just about the environment. If you convert your vehicle over like what was done in this video you are actively breaking Federal Law under Section 203 of the Clean Air Act. What was done in this video is known as ‘tampering,’ with a vehicle’s emissions control device.

According to MACSWorldWide.com, “Any person other than a manufacturer or dealer who violates the tampering prohibition is subject to a civil penalty of not more than $2,500 per violation.” 

That is quite the fine and if you get caught doing this that extra mark-up at the dealership might not seem so bad. Also, see the below excerpt from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. Trust me in saying this folks, the Federal Government does not fool around with this stuff. Ask yourself is it really worth it?

Tampering. The CAA prohibits anyone from tampering with an emission control device on a motor vehicle by removing it or making it inoperable prior to or after the sale or delivery to the buyer. A vehicle’s emission control system is designed to limit emissions of harmful pollutants from vehicles or engines. EPA works with manufacturers to ensure that they design their components with tamper-proofing, addresses trade groups to educate mechanics about the importance of maintaining the emission control systems, and prosecutes cases where significant or imminent harm is occurring. – EPA.Gov Source

Conclusion

I am hoping that this isn’t the start of a trend. Remember folks, that the whole reason we’re moving away from R-134a is to reduce Greenhouse Gases and slow Global Warming. By having end-users actively retrofitting their systems back to R-134a we are defeating the entire purpose of this phase down. Now, I wasn’t really around for the whole R-12 phase out. (I was only seven in 1993.) so I don’t know if this was common place in the early stages of the R-12 phase out or not. Regardless, it needs to stop.

I’m hoping that writing this article we can grab the attention of other users out there who are thinking about doing this conversion and steer them away from the cliff. Sure, you might save a little bit of money upfront but you have to ask yourself is it really worth it in the long term? Also, maybe it’s time we get some 1234yf recharge kits out there so that we can prevent these types of retrofits in the future. If they have access to a recharge kit then maybe they will not go down the path of 134a.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

R-134a Refrigerant

In order to understand the full history of R-134a we first have to look at it’s predecessor. Before R-134a there was R-12. R-12 was one of first mainstream refrigerants used throughout the world. In fact, R-12 is where the brand name of Freon comes from. In order to trace back it’s origins we have to go all the way back to the 1930’s and a partnership between General Motors and the DuPont company. Through this partnership the two companies were able to invent a safe, reliable, and cost efficient class of refrigerants known as CFCs and HCFCs.

These new classifications of refrigerants were revolutionary. Before these came to the marketplace the world only had access to basic refrigerants such as Hydrocarbons and Carbon Dioxide. These previous refrigerants were either not very efficient,  operated at too high of pressure (Like CO2), or they were just not safe. One of the most popular refrigerants back then was R-717, or Ammonia. Ammonia is toxic when we are exposed to it and having an Ammonia operated refrigerator was a not something consumers wanted inside their home.

Because of the revolution CFC and HCFC refrigerants caused R-12 along with R-11, R-22, and R-502 were found all over the world in various applications. By the time we got into the 1970’s the product was everywhere ranging from automobiles, refrigerators, freezers, ice machines, vending machines, industrial plants, refrigerated trucks, and on and on. It was in the 1980’s that a team of scientists out of California realized that all of the Chlorine that was in CFC and HCFC refrigerants were causing damage to the Ozone layer. When vented or leaked the refrigerant would drift up and into the atmosphere. It is there where the Chlorine would do it’s damage. Eventually it got so bad that a thinning of the Ozone layer began to form over the Arctic. The scientists noticing this sounded the alarm and the world’s governments took action by creating the Montreal Protocol.

The Montreal Protocol is a treaty that was signed in the late 1980’s by more then one-hundred countries. It’s goal was to rid the world of using Ozone depleting substances like CFC and HCFC refrigerants. This treaty was enacted in countries all over the world. The first target was CFC refrigerants such as R-12. In 1992 R-12 was phased out of the automotive market in the United States and was replaced with the newer HFC refrigerant known as R-134a. R-134a had the benefit of not containing Chlorine so with its usage there would be no danger to the Ozone layer. The next refrigerant to go was the CFC refrigerant known as R-502 in the mid 1990’s. As time went by there were other CFC and HCFC refrigerants phased out but the big change didn’t happen until 2010.

R-134a

As I mentioned above 1993 was the beginning of R-134a usage. Since then it has ballooned and grew so that every vehicle around the globe was using it. It was a rare occurrence to find something other than R-134a or R-12 used in vehicles. The only exceptions that you would find were with refrigerated transport trucks such as ice cream trucks. In these instances you would either see a mixture of R-134a and R-404A or a straight R-404A system. Along with R-134a there were many other HFC refrigerants that began to take root. Some of these were R-404A and R-410A. (404A was used for supermarket freezers, ice machines, vending machines, and refrigerated transport. R-410A was used for home and commercial air conditioning.)

It was in the early 2000’s that a new problem was discovered with the currently used HFC refrigerants. Instead of refrigerants harming the Ozone layer the concern became the refrigerants impact on Global Warming. You see refrigerants are seen as a Greenhouse Gas. A Greenhouse Gas is a gas that can be released and get trapped in the atmosphere. These trapped gases cause Global Warming to accelerate. In order to measure a chemical or products risk for Global Warming a new scale was created called Global Warming Potential. The baseline measurement for this scale was Carbon Dioxide, or R-744. CO2’s GWP is one.

The downside of HFC refrigerants is their very high Global Warming Potential. As an example, R-404A has a GWP of three-thousand nine-hundred and twenty-two times that of Carbon Dioxide. Can you begin to see why these are seen as a problem? It was around 2010 when the push to begin phasing down HFC refrigerants began. Everyone’s first target was R-404A as it had the absolute highest GWP of them all. Depending on the applications 404A was to be replaced with Hydrocarbons, lower GWP HFC refrigerants, or the new HFO refrigerant line from Chemours and Honeywell.

Next in everyone’s sights was R-134a. While 134a didn’t have near as high as a GWP of 404A it still had a large number coming in at one-thousand four-hundred and thirty. At first the push to phase out 134a was stalled as there wasn’t a good substitute out there. After some time the two main refrigerant innovators Honeywell and Chemours came out with a new refrigerant under their HFO line known as R-1234yf. This new refrigerant worked very similar to R-134a but had a GWP of only four. That’s a heck of a difference! The only concern with this new refrigerant was that it was rated as an A2L refrigerant. What that means is that it is slightly flammable. (Remember, R-134a isn’t flammable at all.)

The European Union jumped at the chance for a 134a alternative. They enacted legislation called the ‘MAC Directive,’ to prevent R-134a from being used in new vehicles as of the 2013 model year. While this directive didn’t come out and mention R-134a by name it did state that no refrigerants with a GWP greater then one-hundred and fifty could be used in new automobiles. Europe switched over to 1234yf and the demand for R-134a began to die down. One thing to mention here though is that because 1234yf is slightly flammable there was some debate on rather or not it was a safe product to use. The German car company Daimler ran test after test to ensure it’s safety. In one of these tests Daimler claimed that when the refrigerant tank ruptured during an accident the refrigerant ignited and caused a fire to occur. The video can be seen below. In the video there is a test with 1234yf leaking and then there is a test with R-134a leaking. The video speaks for itself.

There were many disputes from numerous companies and organizations from all over the world to on test. Daimler claimed that the new refrigerant was unsafe for use. For a time it seemed like German Automakers were going to fight HFOs tooth and nail. They had their hearts set on R-744 CO2.  Since these first tests there have been numerous court battles and fines issued by the European Union but still Germany persisted against 1234yf. Here is the neat part, Daimler began to pursue a different alternative refrigerant for their automobiles, R-744. Yes, that’s right CO2 for vehicles. Over the years Daimler has been testing and innovating with CO2 and as I write this article today they even have some vehicles on the road with it.

Here in the United States we began going through the same route as Europe, just a little bit behind schedule. In the summer of 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency issued a new rule to their SNAP program. This rule called ‘Rule 20,‘ was aimed at phasing down and out HFC refrigerants including R-134a. This regulation aimed at preventing vehicle manufacturers from using R-134a in new vehicles as of model year 2021. These regulations were on the books until August of 2017. At that time a court overturned the EPA’s regulations stating that they had overreached their authority. Since then in the United States there is not a formal R-134a phase out date. This has caused a lot of confusion and unknowns within the automotive refrigerant industry.

1234yf is the future and there isn’t much we can do to get away from it. Auto manufacturers all over the world have begun to switch their new models over to 1234yf. In fact since 2015 the pace of vehicles beings switched over has grown and grown. The chances are high that if you buy a new vehicle today that it’s going to contain 1234yf refrigerant. The question now is when will 134a be phased down within the United States?

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

R-134a Refrigerant

R-134a is one of the most commonly used refrigerants in the world. It can be found under nearly hood but there are so many questions about it that I thought I would take the time today and do a quick question and answer session for our readers. If I missed anything in here or if you would like to see anything added please do not hesitate to reach out to me and send a suggestion.

  • What Happened to R-12?
    • As you know, R-12 was the default for automotive air conditioning for decades but in the 1980s it was discovered that R-12 was harming the Ozone layer. Because of this, R-12 was phased out across the world and was replaced by R-134a.
  • What is R-134a?
    • R-134a is an HFC refrigerant that is intended to be used in automotive applications. It was designed to replace R-12. It has no Ozone Depletion Potential but has a high Global Warming Potential.
  • Can I Buy R-134a Without a EPA 609 License?
    • No, as of January 1st, 2018 you can no longer purchase cylinders of R-134a without a proper 609 Environmental Protection License. This is due to what’s called the ‘Refrigerant Sales Restriction.’ The good news here though is that without a license you are still able to purchase cans of refrigerant that contain less then two pounds of product.
  • What Kind of Certification Do I Need to Work With R-134?
    • As I mentioned above,  you will need what’s called a 609 certification. 609 comes into play when you are working on an automotive air conditioning application and ONLY when you are working on an automotive application. If you wish to work on other AC units you will need to obtain your 608 certification as well. Once you have 609 certification you can purchase, handle, and install refrigerants into automotive applications.
  • Is R-134a Toxic or Flammable?
    • No, R-134a is rated as an A1 on the ASHRAE ‘s safety rating scale. The A stands for the product not being toxic or harmful. The 1 stands for no hint of flame propagation. This is a very safe refrigerant.
  • What Kind of Oil do I Use for R-134a Systems?
    • In most cases you are going to be using what’s known as PAG Oil. PAG oil, or Polyalkylene Glycol, is a fully synthetic hygroscopic oil specifically designed for automotive air conditioner compressors. It is used in R-134a air conditioning systems to lubricate the compressor. When looking at PAG oil you will notice various numbers such as PAG46 or PAG100. These numbers refer to the viscosity of the oil, similar to 10W30 oil. In order to determine the correct PAG viscosity for your vehicle you will need to look up the specifications of your make and model of your vehicle either online or in the instruction manual.
  • Is R-134a Being Phased Out in the United States?
    • Well, at one time it was. Way back in the summer of 2015 the EPA announced that R-134a was NOT to be used in new vehicles starting with the model year 2021. Since this regulation came out though there was a court ruling that overturned the proposed rules. Since then the EPA has retracted it’s regulations and as of today there is not a set phase out date.
  • What Countries Are Using R-134a?
    • Nearly every country in the world today is using R-134a. Yes, some countries have phased it out on newer vehicles, but there are still very many cars out there that are still  using 134a. We won’t see a total vanishing of R-134a usage for at least another twenty or thirty years. Remember, we have to wait for all of these old vehicles to die.
  • Can I Mix R-134a With  R-12 or 1234yf?
    • No, it is never a good idea to mix refrigerants. Refrigerants are designed to work in specific conditions and specific pressures. Mixing refrigerants together will cause it not to change states and will prevent your system from working correctly.
  • How do I Store R-134a?
    • Storage requirements for R-410A are the same as other refrigerants. Cylinders should be stored in a clean, dry area, and out of direct sunlight. If you have cylinders in the back of your work van ensure that the temperature does not rise above one-hundred and twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Keep valves tightly closed and caps in place when cylinders are not in use. This will prevent any damage to your product, to your facility, or to your vehicle.
  • What Sized Containers Does R-134a Come In?
    • R-134a can come in a variety of container sizes. The most common that we see today are your one to two pound cans or your standard thirty pound light-blue cylinder.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

R-134a Refrigerant

R-134a is the most commonly used refrigerant for automotive applications rather it be your twenty year old Toyota Camry or your Kenworth T-200 semi-truck. Ever since 1993 R-134a has been the staple refrigerant for automotive applications. Before 93 we used R-12 for our vehicles and now, as I write this article in 2018, there is a push to phase down R-134a and replace it with the new HFO refrigerant known as R-1234yf.

This article is going to into the facts of R-134a, some of the most common questions asked about this refrigerant, and some of the most important points of note on the refrigerant, as well as the history of the refrigerant. Let’s dive in and take a look:

The Facts

Name:R-134a
Name - Scientific:Tetrafluoroethane
Name (2):Norflurane
Name (3):Freon 134a
Name (4):Forane 134a
Name (5):Genetron 134a
Name (6):Florasol 134a
Name (7)HFC-R134a
Name (8)Suva 134a
Classification:HFC Refrigerant
Chemistry:Haloalkane Refrigerant
Chemistry (2):
Chemistry (3):The lower case 'a' indicates an Isomer, or different composition from R-134.
Chemistry:Production by reacting Trichloroethylene with Hydrogen Fluoride.
Status:Shrinking & Phasing Out
Future:Will be phased out across the world soon. (Prediction of 2030)
Application:Automotive: Light duty, medium duty and heavy duty.
Application (2):Heat Pumps, Chillers, Transport Refrigeration, and Commercial Cooling
Replacement For:CFC R-12 Freon
Ozone Depletion Potential:0
Global Warming Potential:1,430
Toxicity Levels:A (No Toxicity Identified.)
Flammability Levels:Class 1 -No Flame Propagation.
Lubricant Required:POE & PAG Oil Lubricants
Boiling Point:-26.3° Celsius or -15.3° Fahrenheit.
Critical Temperature:101.06° Celsius or 213.91° Fahrenheit
Critical Pressure:4059 KPA or 588.71 pound-force per square inch.
Auto ignition Temperature:770° Celsius or 1,418° Fahrenheit
Manufacturers:Various Including: Honeywell, Chemours, Arkema, Mexichem, Chinese, etc.
Manufacturing Facilities:All Over Including: USA, Mexico, EU, China, and others.
Form:Gas/Liquid
Color: Colorless Liquid & Vapor
Odor:None, if you do smell something it is most likely the oil.
EPA Certification Required:Yes, 609 certification required by January 1st, 2018.
Require Certification to Purchase?Yes, 609 certification required by January 1st, 2018.
Cylinder Color:Light Sky Blue
Cylinder Design:
R-134a Refrigerant
R-134a Refrigerant
Cylinder Design (2):Thirty Pound Tank
Price Point:Medium $-90-$160 a Cylinder Depending on Conditions.
Where to Buy Can or Cylinder?From Our Amazon Partner
Bulk Purchasing:CLICK FOR A QUOTE!

Points of Note

Alright folks so we’ve gone over some of the basic facts about R-134a but now let’s take a look at some of the more interesting points about this refrigerant:

  • I mentioned this briefly above but R-134a was designed and began to see use as an alternative product to R-12 Freon, or Dichlorodifluoromethane. R-12 has been around since the 1930’s and was being used in automotive applications for decades until it was discovered that it harmed the Ozone layer. As a replacement product R-134a was introduced into the automotive market in 1993.
  • Like it’s predecessor, R-12, R-134a was and is used across a wide array of applications in the automotive world. You can find R-134a in your Ford Focus or you could find it in your gigantic Semi-Trucks or in your Gray-hound Bus. Back in the early 2000’s one of my responsibilities was to purchase R-134 by the pallet or the trailerload and co-ordinate delivery to the company’s various dealerships. It is amazing  just how much R-134a a dealership  can go through.
  • Along with the automotive industry you can find R-134a in various heat pump applications and other commercial refrigeration needs.
  • R-134a is also used in quite a few refrigerant blends as well as a key ingredient. Some of these include: R-416A, R-420A, R-423A.
  • While R-134a does not have an Ozone Depletion Potential it does have a high Global Warming Potential. (GWP) The higher a GWP number the more damage the  product can do towards Global Warming. These high GWP chemicals are known as Greenhouse Gases. Across the world there has been a push to phase down our phase out entirely these high GWP HFC refrigerants.
  • Most refrigerants and refrigerant applications are left to professionals. Sure, there are some do-it-yourselfers out there, but for the most part technicians handle the repairs. The exception to this is R-134a and automotive applications. Many people enjoy working on their vehicle and buying a few cans of R-134a and repairing your air conditioning system is no big deal to them. This is a rare exception within the refrigerant industry.
  • Building off of my point above, this is why we saw such resistance and upset from the Environmental Protection Agency’s new law  that started in 2018. This regulation prevented R-134a cylinder sales to people who are NOT 609 certified. Do-it-yourselfers can still buy individual pound cans but they are restricted are larger purchases. So, they can still do their own repairs, they just can’t hoard cylinders of R-134a in their garage. You can go down to the local auto parts store today or on Amazon.com and purchase some cans without any issues.
  • The European Union has already phased out R-134a on any new vehicle models. Most car manufacturers have switched to the alternative HFO refrigerant known as 1234yf. The plan for the United States was to phase out 134a on new vehicles by  the year 2021, but this regulation was delayed due to Federal court rulings. Don’t let this fool you though. R-134a is ending and ending soon even here in the United States.
  • A few years back a law-suit was started with the International Trade Commission. The suit claimed that China was dumping low-priced R-134a into the US market which locally based companies were not able to compete with. In order to resolve this issue anti-dumping tariffs were issued against Chinese R-134a. The issuing of these tariffs caused the national price of R-134a to jump nearly twenty dollars for a thirty pound cylinder.
  • Since these tariffs were issued the  price point for R-134a has stayed relatively stable over the past few years. (I write this in summer of 2018.)
  • In another ten or fifteen years R-134a applications will be a rarity  or seen as an antique. While the new HFO-12134yf may  not be the perfect solution it IS the refrigerant that all  of the vehicle manufacturers are running to.  Another possible alternative to look at is Daimler’s experiments with CO2 or R-744 in their vehicles.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Happened to R-12?
    • As you know, R-12 was the default for automotive air conditioning for decades but in the 1980s it was discovered that R-12 was harming the Ozone layer. Because of this, R-12 was phased out across the world and was replaced by R-134a.
  • What is R-134a?
    • R-134a is an HFC refrigerant that is intended to be used in automotive applications. It was designed to replace R-12. It has no Ozone Depletion Potential but has a high Global Warming Potential.
  • Can I Buy R-134a Without a EPA 609 License?
    • No, as of January 1st, 2018 you can no longer purchase cylinders of R-134a without a proper 609 Environmental Protection License. This is due to what’s called the ‘Refrigerant Sales Restriction.’ The good news here though is that without a license you are still able to purchase cans of refrigerant that contain less then two pounds of product.
  • What Kind of Certification Do I Need to Work With R-134?
    • As I mentioned above,  you will need what’s called a 609 certification. 609 comes into play when you are working on an automotive air conditioning application and ONLY when you are working on an automotive application. If you wish to work on other AC units you will need to obtain your 608 certification as well. Once you have 609 certification you can purchase, handle, and install refrigerants into automotive applications.
  • Is R-134a Toxic or Flammable?
    • No, R-134a is rated as an A1 on the ASHRAE ‘s safety rating scale. The A stands for the product not being toxic or harmful. The 1 stands for no hint of flame propagation. This is a very safe refrigerant.
  • What Kind of Oil do I Use for R-134a Systems?
    • In most cases you are going to be using what’s known as PAG Oil. PAG oil, or Polyalkylene Glycol, is a fully synthetic hygroscopic oil specifically designed for automotive air conditioner compressors. It is used in R-134a air conditioning systems to lubricate the compressor. When looking at PAG oil you will notice various numbers such as PAG46 or PAG100. These numbers refer to the viscosity of the oil, similar to 10W30 oil. In order to determine the correct PAG viscosity for your vehicle you will need to look up the specifications of your make and model of your vehicle either online or in the instruction manual.
  • Is R-134a Being Phased Out in the United States?
    • Well, at one time it was. Way back in the summer of 2015 the EPA announced that R-134a was NOT to be used in new vehicles starting with the model year 2021. Since this regulation came out though there was a court ruling that overturned the proposed rules. Since then the EPA has retracted it’s regulations and as of today there is not a set phase out date.
  • What Countries Are Using R-134a?
    • Nearly every country in the world today is using R-134a. Yes, some countries have phased it out on newer vehicles, but there are still very many cars out there that are still  using 134a. We won’t see a total vanishing of R-134a usage for at least another twenty or thirty years. Remember, we have to wait for all of these old vehicles to die.
  • Can I Mix R-134a With  R-12 or 1234yf?
    • No, it is never a good idea to mix refrigerants. Refrigerants are designed to work in specific conditions and specific pressures. Mixing refrigerants together will cause it not to change states and will prevent your system from working correctly.
  • How do I Store R-134a?
    • Storage requirements for R-410A are the same as other refrigerants. Cylinders should be stored in a clean, dry area, and out of direct sunlight. If you have cylinders in the back of your work van ensure that the temperature does not rise above one-hundred and twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Keep valves tightly closed and caps in place when cylinders are not in use. This will prevent any damage to your product, to your facility, or to your vehicle.
  • What Sized Containers Does R-134a Come In?
    • R-134a can come in a variety of container sizes. The most common that we see today are your one to two pound cans or your standard thirty pound light-blue cylinder.

History of R-134a

In order to understand the full history of R-134a we first have to look at it’s predecessor. Before R-134a there was R-12. R-12 was one of first mainstream refrigerants used throughout the world. In fact, R-12 is where the brand name of Freon comes from. In order to trace back it’s origins we have to go all the way back to the 1930’s and a partnership between General Motors and the DuPont company. Through this partnership the two companies were able to invent a safe, reliable, and cost efficient class of refrigerants known as CFCs and HCFCs.

These new classifications of refrigerants were revolutionary. Before these came to the marketplace the world only had access to basic refrigerants such as Hydrocarbons and Carbon Dioxide. These previous refrigerants were either not very efficient,  operated at too high of pressure (Like CO2), or they were just not safe. One of the most popular refrigerants back then was R-717, or Ammonia. Ammonia is toxic when we are exposed to it and having an Ammonia operated refrigerator was a not something consumers wanted inside their home.

Because of the revolution CFC and HCFC refrigerants caused R-12 along with R-11, R-22, and R-502 were found all over the world in various applications. By the time we got into the 1970’s the product was everywhere ranging from automobiles, refrigerators, freezers, ice machines, vending machines, industrial plants, refrigerated trucks, and on and on. It was in the 1980’s that a team of scientists out of California realized that all of the Chlorine that was in CFC and HCFC refrigerants were causing damage to the Ozone layer. When vented or leaked the refrigerant would drift up and into the atmosphere. It is there where the Chlorine would do it’s damage. Eventually it got so bad that a thinning of the Ozone layer began to form over the Arctic. The scientists noticing this sounded the alarm and the world’s governments took action by creating the Montreal Protocol.

The Montreal Protocol is a treaty that was signed in the late 1980’s by more then one-hundred countries. It’s goal was to rid the world of using Ozone depleting substances like CFC and HCFC refrigerants. This treaty was enacted in countries all over the world. The first target was CFC refrigerants such as R-12. In 1992 R-12 was phased out of the automotive market in the United States and was replaced with the newer HFC refrigerant known as R-134a. R-134a had the benefit of not containing Chlorine so with its usage there would be no danger to the Ozone layer. The next refrigerant to go was the CFC refrigerant known as R-502 in the mid 1990’s. As time went by there were other CFC and HCFC refrigerants phased out but the big change didn’t happen until 2010.

R-134a

As I mentioned above 1993 was the beginning of R-134a usage. Since then it has ballooned and grew so that every vehicle around the globe was using it. It was a rare occurrence to find something other than R-134a or R-12 used in vehicles. The only exceptions that you would find were with refrigerated transport trucks such as ice cream trucks. In these instances you would either see a mixture of R-134a and R-404A or a straight R-404A system. Along with R-134a there were many other HFC refrigerants that began to take root. Some of these were R-404A and R-410A. (404A was used for supermarket freezers, ice machines, vending machines, and refrigerated transport. R-410A was used for home and commercial air conditioning.)

It was in the early 2000’s that a new problem was discovered with the currently used HFC refrigerants. Instead of refrigerants harming the Ozone layer the concern became the refrigerants impact on Global Warming. You see refrigerants are seen as a Greenhouse Gas. A Greenhouse Gas is a gas that can be released and get trapped in the atmosphere. These trapped gases cause Global Warming to accelerate. In order to measure a chemical or products risk for Global Warming a new scale was created called Global Warming Potential. The baseline measurement for this scale was Carbon Dioxide, or R-744. CO2’s GWP is one.

The downside of HFC refrigerants is their very high Global Warming Potential. As an example, R-404A has a GWP of three-thousand nine-hundred and twenty-two times that of Carbon Dioxide. Can you begin to see why these are seen as a problem? It was around 2010 when the push to begin phasing down HFC refrigerants began. Everyone’s first target was R-404A as it had the absolute highest GWP of them all. Depending on the applications 404A was to be replaced with Hydrocarbons, lower GWP HFC refrigerants, or the new HFO refrigerant line from Chemours and Honeywell.

Next in everyone’s sights was R-134a. While 134a didn’t have near as high as a GWP of 404A it still had a large number coming in at one-thousand four-hundred and thirty. At first the push to phase out 134a was stalled as there wasn’t a good substitute out there. After some time the two main refrigerant innovators Honeywell and Chemours came out with a new refrigerant under their HFO line known as R-1234yf. This new refrigerant worked very similar to R-134a but had a GWP of only four. That’s a heck of a difference! The only concern with this new refrigerant was that it was rated as an A2L refrigerant. What that means is that it is slightly flammable. (Remember, R-134a isn’t flammable at all.)

The European Union jumped at the chance for a 134a alternative. They enacted legislation called the ‘MAC Directive,’ to prevent R-134a from being used in new vehicles as of the 2013 model year. While this directive didn’t come out and mention R-134a by name it did state that no refrigerants with a GWP greater then one-hundred and fifty could be used in new automobiles. Europe switched over to 1234yf and the demand for R-134a began to die down. One thing to mention here though is that because 1234yf is slightly flammable there was some debate on rather or not it was a safe product to use. The German car company Daimler ran test after test to ensure it’s safety. In one of these tests Daimler claimed that when the refrigerant tank ruptured during an accident the refrigerant ignited and caused a fire to occur. The video can be seen below. In the video there is a test with 1234yf leaking and then there is a test with R-134a leaking. The video speaks for itself.

There were many disputes from numerous companies and organizations from all over the world to on test. Daimler claimed that the new refrigerant was unsafe for use. For a time it seemed like German Automakers were going to fight HFOs tooth and nail. They had their hearts set on R-744 CO2.  Since these first tests there have been numerous court battles and fines issued by the European Union but still Germany persisted against 1234yf. Here is the neat part, Daimler began to pursue a different alternative refrigerant for their automobiles, R-744. Yes, that’s right CO2 for vehicles. Over the years Daimler has been testing and innovating with CO2 and as I write this article today they even have some vehicles on the road with it.

Here in the United States we began going through the same route as Europe, just a little bit behind schedule. In the summer of 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency issued a new rule to their SNAP program. This rule called ‘Rule 20,‘ was aimed at phasing down and out HFC refrigerants including R-134a. This regulation aimed at preventing vehicle manufacturers from using R-134a in new vehicles as of model year 2021. These regulations were on the books until August of 2017. At that time a court overturned the EPA’s regulations stating that they had overreached their authority. Since then in the United States there is not a formal R-134a phase out date. This has caused a lot of confusion and unknowns within the automotive refrigerant industry.

1234yf is the future and there isn’t much we can do to get away from it. Auto manufacturers all over the world have begun to switch their new models over to 1234yf. In fact since 2015 the pace of vehicles beings switched over has grown and grown. The chances are high that if you buy a new vehicle today that it’s going to contain 1234yf refrigerant. The question now is when will 134a be phased down within the United States?

Conclusion

Regardless of what happens with these phase outs and phase downs I can be sure of one thing. R-134a is going to be around for a long time. Even if we switch over our new vehicles today there will still be vehicles manufactured last year that will be on the road twenty or thirty years from now. After all, there are still R-12 vehicles out there, right? In closing, R-134a has served it’s purpose. Now it’s time has come and gone. We now need to move towards alternative refrigerants like 1234yf or R-744.

Thanks for reading and I hope that I was able to answer all of your questions and concerns.

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

 

Supreme Court To Rule on HFC Refrigerants

Well ladies and gentlemen the fight to phase down HFC refrigerants in the United States continued today with the announcement that Chemours, Honeywell,  and the National Resource Defense Council are petitioning the United States’ Supreme Court to review the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to repeal the Environmental Protection Agency’s SNAP Rule 20 regulations. (That was a mouthful to say.) All of this can be traced back to two important dates. The first is the summer of 2015 when the EPA released a new rule for their Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP).

This rule, known as Rule 20, was intended to begin the phase down and eventual phase out of HFC refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, and R-410A. The original rule can be found by clicking here. The EPA referenced their authority for this new regulation under Chapter VI, 6, of the Clean Air Act. This section is what was used to phase out CFC and HCFC refrigerants due to the harm they were causing to the Ozone layer.

When this rule was introduced most everyone in the industry had already been expecting it. HFCs were on the way out and were already in the process of being phased out across the European Union and other countries. As the months, and eventual years, went by the new regulation was accepted as law and companies, businesses, and government began to prepare for it’s arrival. Refrigerant manufacturers Honeywell and Chemours began to invest into their new HFO refrigerant line known as Solstice and Opteon. They opened new plants abroad and here in the United States. They invested in multiple new refrigerants and innovations. HFOs were the refrigerant of the future and Honeywell and Chemours held all the keys.

The Ruling

The second important date was in the summer of 2017. To be more precise, in August something unexpected happened. A Federal Court of Appeals ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency’s SNAP Rule 20 regulation. This lawsuit filing and ruling were brought forward by Mexichem and Arkema. These two companies are two very large refrigerant manufacturers that have had a rivalry over the past couple years with Honeywell and Chemours. While Honeywell/Chemours have been working closer and closer over the years formulating their new HFO line the other companies like Mexichem and Arkema have been left out in the cold. I see this lawsuit from Mexichem and Arkema as a stalling tactic. By having the EPA’s rule overturned these two companies now have more time to develop alternative refrigerants to compete with the HFO and Hydrocarbons that will be taking place of HFCs.

The court’s ruling shook the industry throughout the country, and a good part of the western world. Everyone had assumed that the United States would be phasing down HFC refrigerants like the rest of the world. In fact, a year after the EPA announced their Rule 20 the US also announced that it was to sign the Kigali Amendment in November of 2016. The Kigali Amendment was an addendum to the now famous Montreal Protocol. The Montreal Protocol was the treaty signed in the 1980’s that began the phase out of CFC and HCFC refrigerants. This treaty was also the basis of the law and regulation that the EPA used to phase out these refrigerants here in the United States. Here’s the problem though folks, the Montreal Protocol was designed to combat Ozone harming pollutants such as CFC and HCFC refrigerants. The same can be said about the Clean Air Act.

The EPA tried using Chapter VI, 6, of the Clean Air Act to phase-out HFC refrigerants. The name of this chapter is called: “Stratospheric Ozone Protection” See a problem here? I do. HFC refrigerants do NOT harm the Ozone layer. While, yes, they do harm the environment through Global Warming, they cannot harm the Ozone as they do not contain Chlorine. Yes, one could argue that it is a matter of technicality, but the argument is still there and is valid. If we go inside this chapter of the Clean Air Act using the government’s official website we can see that all of the substances that were to be banned. There is no mention of HFC refrigerants anywhere. Funny, how they tried to just throw those in there. The Appeals Court saw this and agreed with Mexichem and Arkema.

Aftermath

The immediate aftermath of the ruling was silence, at least for a while. No one was really expecting a ruling against the EPA. After the dust settled though Honeywell and Chemours partnered up again and filed an appeal on the Appeals Court’s ruling. These two companies had two main arguments for while the court’s ruling should be overturned:

  1. First, they argued that the SNAP Rule 20 was well-founded and that the federal court’s ruling exceeded it’s jurisdiction as well as ignoring the original intent of the SNAP Program. (To replace Ozone depleting refrigerants with the safest alternatives.) This argument bothers me. They know they didn’t go through Congress and they know that they didn’t do it the correct way. But none of that matters. No. Their intent was good.
  2. The second argument and just as ludicrous in my book is that these two companies invested two much money to have these regulations end. Chemours noted that they had invested more then one billion dollars to research, develop, and commercializing their new HFO refrigerants. All of this development was done under the guise of HFC refrigerants being phased out. What they don’t tell you here is that Chemours and Honeywell, have been investing money into HFOs long before the EPA made it’s decision to phase out HFC refrigerants in 2015. This argument seems like a moot point. In business their a thing called risk as all of you know.

The appeal was filed in September of 2017. While there was some back and forth there wasn’t an official ruling until early 2018. On January 26th, 2018 the United States Court of Appeals out of District of Columbia ruled against the appeal on phasing down HFC refrigerants. I wrote an article about this that can be found by clicking here. Again, this appeal ruling caught everyone off guard. Everyone assumed that the court would rule in favor of Chemours and Honeywell.

It was announced today that Honeywell and Chemours will now be taking their appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States. This is their last hope and frankly I do not know what to expect here. The court has been changing since Trump has been elected. While he has only replaced one seat we may see another seat change by the time this HFC case gets to the court. That being said, I honestly don’t know what way the court would go on this. I would imagine that it would be a tight ruling 5-4 going in either direction.

Conclusion

This has definitely been a turbulent year when it comes to HFCs in the United States. At this point no one can say for sure what’s going to happen. The Supreme Court could rule in favor of the EPA and we could be right back where we were a year ago. But, if that doesn’t happen then we have many other options available such as the Kigali Amendment, new laws in Congress, or even States’ Rights such as California implementing their own HFC policy. Even if all of these fail or do not gain traction I can assure you that HFCs will be going away, it just may take a little bit longer. Manufacturers out there know that HFCs are on the way out and they have already started making plans with the newer alternative refrigerants. This may end up just being a game of attrition.

Thanks for  reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

 

Daikin, one of the largest air-conditioning manufacturing companies in the world, has launched an air-cooled scroll R-32 chiller. This is a world first and has caught the attention of many other manufacturers and distributors. The model, known as EWAT-B, has a cooling capacity range between eighty to seven-hundred kW, provides consumers with two efficiency choices (Gold/Silver), has three sound configurations, along with a whole host of other customization options. While Daikin is a Japanese based company the EWAT-B models are compliant with the European Union efficiency standards and will most likely be seen across Europe in the near future.

The reason this is such a big deal within the industry is due to the fact that this R-32 unit will be replacing currently existing R-410A applications. As you all know, across the globe there is an effort to reduce the Global Warming Potential, or GWP. Products with a high GWP, like refrigerants, directly contribute to Global Warming by trapping Greenhouse Gases in the atmosphere. Over the years alternatives have been invented and found for some of the most common HFC refrigerants on the market today. R-134a has R-1234yf and R-404A has R-452A. (Yes, there are other alternatives out there too.) The big question on everyone’s mind though is what will be doing with R-410A? It’s the elephant in the room so to speak.

Here in the United States we’ve only been really using R-410A for about ten years now and there are so many customers still using their older R-22 systems. The thought of switching everything over again is a headache most people don’t want to deal with. Over in Europe they have been dealing with R-410A for decades and they are now looking for a more environmentally friendly alternative refrigerant.

R-32

While there isn’t a preferred R-410A alternative, R-32 is quickly becoming the band-aid or patch for the short term solutions. A lot of you may already be familiar with R-32, or have at least heard of it. That is because R-32 is actually one part of the blended refrigerant known as R-410A. Yes, that’s right we’re going back to basics and away from blends, at least with this application.

R-32, also known by it’s chemical name of Difluromethane, is a HFC refrigerant very similar to the other refrigerants that we deal with day to day. The big reason that R-32 has been chosen as a proposed successor to 410A is due to it’s Global Warming Potential. R-410A has a GWP of two-thousand and eighty-eight. R-32 has a GWP of only six-hundred and seventy-five. That is a THIRD of the GWP that 410A has. So, by switching to an R-32 unit you are right away cutting your GWP emissions by two thirds. Along with the lower GWP R-32 is slightly more efficient then R-22 and R-410A. (Around ten percent)

Like with any refrigerant there are Pros and Cons. With R-32 the big con is that it’s safety rating set by ASRAE is A2. The A is no problem as it means that the refrigerant is non-toxic. What we need to look at though is the 2. This number stands for flammability and in this the 2 means ‘mildly flammable.’ In comparison, R-410A is rated at ‘No Flame Propagation Risk.’ So there’s the kicker. You get the lower impact to the environment but you also get to deal with a flammable refrigerant. Something slightly funny that I found when researching this article was that the European Union actually relaxes standards on charge limits for flammable refrigerants so that more R-32 usage could occur.

We believe that the timely relaxation of building codes and EN standards will be effective to remove the barriers for the transition to low-GWP refrigerants (such as R32) for residential air conditioners in the EU. – Source

One big thing to mention here folks. Yes, this is a flammable refrigerant, but like with anything if we are smart about it, go through proper training, and install correctly then there is nothing to worry about. All it takes is doing the job right. There is a reason R-290 (Propane) is used as a refrigerant. It’s very efficient and inexpensive. Yes, there is risk involved, but how is that Japan, Korea, and other countries are doing just fine with it?

The last con, and somewhat big, is that since R-32 is flammable it cannot be retrofitted into an existing R-410A application. R-32 is meant for a new machine. Also, please remember that R-32 is a not a long term solution when it comes to phasing down/phase out R-410A. With R-32 we cut the GWP number but we still have a very high GWP number. R-32 will be a bump in the road as we move no further towards more advanced, cleaner, and safer future refrigerants.

Conclusion

It seems that more and more we are leaning towards our neighbors in Asia for alternative refrigerant solutions. Hydrocarbons are used widespread in Japan, Korea, and China. These countries have been dealing with flammable refrigerants for a long time now and know what they are doing. It was no surprise to see Daikin come out with this new chiller. Daikin was one of the very first companies to come out with R-32 split systems back in 2012 and they also offer R-32 window and portable units within the United States. Since December of 2017 the Daikin company has sold around twelve million R-32 units across fifty countries. Maybe you’ve installed one of them already!

Daikin is leading the way into the future, the question now is who will follow? Will the United States began seeing more widespread R-32 usage? Or, will we hold onto our R-410A for as long as we can?

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Last month I wrote an article about a study that was done on the effects the Kigali Amendment would have within the United States. The study which was called the ‘Economic Impacts of US Ratification of the Kigali Amendment,’ was funded and sponsored by two groups: The Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy and the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI).

This report was another attempt to convince the Trump Administration to send the Kigali Amendment to the Senate so that it could be ratified and turned into law. What was unique about this report is that it specifically focused on the number of jobs and and ancillary jobs that would be created if the US adopted the amendment. This report was geared towards Trump’s jobs jobs jobs push that he has been doing since last year. I am assuming that they figure by showing Trump that this treaty will actually increase jobs within the US that Trump would push it down to the Senate for ratification.

Well, this report came out a little over thirty days ago and there has been no news. It’s been crickets from the Trump Administration. They either do not believe the study, have not had time to review, or they did not plan to move forward with Kigali in the first place. In a new development, last week a grouping of thirteen Senators sent a letter to Trump advocating for the passage of the amendment. What was unique about this letter is that it was thirteen Republican Senators that signed. This amendment has bi-partisan support within the Senate and will pass without a problem if it ever gets there.

It’s funny almost. The letter, which can be found by clicking here, reads like a plug for all of Trump’s campaign promises. I’m not going to get to political here or get into politics in general but the letter is an obvious attempt at pandering. There are references to the Reagan Administration, hundreds of thousands of jobs created, billions in exports increased, balancing the trade deficit in the HVAC industry, and even the dumping of refrigerants from China. All of it reads like one of Trump’s campaign commercials.

The question now though folks is will this letter work? Has the Trump Team even read through the initial report from last month? Did they have a plan to kill this amendment from day one? Or, are they just slow walking this to death without a real answer? At this point it is very difficult to tell what will happen next. It’s unpredictable. If you were to ask me for my opinion at this point in time I do not see Trump moving forward with this. To be honest, I don’t even think it is on his radar. That’s why there hasn’t even been a firm yes or no answer yet. I do however feel that if they keep pushing him on this that he will get frustrated and may just reject it outright without diving into the facts of the matter.

Getting back to the letter, the Republican Senators that signed this letter that was sent to Trump are:

  • John Kennedy – Louisana
  • Johnny Isakson – Georgia
  • John Boozman – Arkansas
  • Susan Collins – Maine
  • Lisa Murkowski – Alaska
  • Todd Young – Pennsylvania
  • Lindsey Graham – South Carolina
  • Bill Cassidy – Louisana
  • Roy Blunt – Missouri
  • Jerry Moran – Kansas (The best state, in case you weren’t sure)
  • Marco Rubio – Florida
  • Lamar Alexander – Tennessee

Conclusion

The good news here though is that even if we do not pass the Kigali Amendment the Environmental Protection Agency is actively working on rewriting their HFC rules and future phase-downs. These re-writes will be in compliance with the Federal Court ruling and will still hopefully accomplish similar goals as to what their SNAP Rule 20 was aimed to do. There is not an exact timeline on when these rewrites will be done but I hope to see something relatively soon. While we wait for the EPA we also have another line of defense against HFCs: States’ Rights. California is a prime example as they have already enacted their own version of the EPA’s former SNAP Rule 20. While I am not aware of another state passing new regulations/laws I know that there are some looking at Californias’ changes as a template or baseline for their own.

I’ve said it again, and I’ll say it now as well. Whatever happens over this year and next I can assure you all that HFCs are going away. It is just a matter of time and HOW they are phased down across the country.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Just a few days ago, on April 13th, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that they will be delaying the SNAP Rule 20 HFC phase downs that were announced back in the summer of 2015. This announcement may not come to a surprise to a lot of you, that is if you have been following the drama over the past year on HFC refrigerants and the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20.

When the initial rule was announced in 2015 by the EPA the industry was somewhat surprised but like with most phase downs/phase outs there was plenty of time on the clock before the real changes had to take place. Contractors, distributors, and manufacturers all slowly got ready for the move away from HFCs. Everything was going as expected, but then in the summer of 2017 a Federal Court overturned the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20. (My article on this from last year can be found by clicking here.) This ruling turned everything on it’s head and put the industry in a wave of uncertainty. While there was a wave of appeals filed by Honeywell, Chemours, and other groups they were all overturned or ruled against. It was towards the beginning of 2018 that the reality began to set in. The EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 was dead, and now this week the EPA has all but confirmed it. See the below excerpt from the EPA’s published note:

This notice provides guidance to stakeholders that, based on the court’s partial vacatur, in the near-term EPA will not apply the HFC listings in the 2015 Rule, pending a rule making. – Source

This motion suspends all of the rules that were laid out in SNAP Rule 20. Some of these were just around the corner too such as the vending machine move away from R-404A that was to start in January 1st, 2019.  Another one was the upcoming unacceptable use of R-134a in new 2021 automotive model years. I won’t get into every detail on the rule but if you want to read more about it click here to be taken to the EPA’s official fact sheet.

Along with the court ruling and loss of appeals there were also many industry advocate groups such as National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) pushing for a delay to these rules. NAMA was founded all the way back in 1936 and now represents the twenty-five billion dollar United States’ convenience industry. They aim to provide education, research, and advocacy for the industry. In fact, NAMA lobbied so well that they had an in person meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency even before the court ruling came down in August of last year. It was these groups along with pressure from the courts that finally led to this announcement from the EPA.

Conclusion

For a lot of people there just wasn’t enough time for manufacturers and companies to come up with solid alternatives that was cost effective, safe, and that still met the EPA’s guidelines. The good news here is that by having the Environmental Protection Agency publicly come out and comment on the court ruling and their rules they are able to remove the sense of uncertainty that has clouded the industry since last summer. The planned SNAP Rule 20 is no longer valid. Today, we are waiting in limbo to see what the EPA proposes next but at least we know that the EPA has recognized the ruling.

No one is for sure what the Environmental Protection Agency will decide in the future. Will there be a new rule to phase out these high Global Warming Potential refrigerants? Does the EPA even have that authority anymore due to the court ruling in August? Or, is all of this movement just a reaction to the court’s ruling? Another part of good news here is that the EPA will be holding a stake holder’s meeting scheduled on May 4th of this year. This meeting will be designed to get input from the various industries so that the EPA can come up with a new set of HFC refrigerant rules in the near future.

Besides going through the EPA there are a couple of other options out there to phase down or phase out HFC refrigerants. We could have the State Department push the ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Senate and we could  fall back to the tried and true Montreal Protocol. Or, the other option is to replicate what California has done and have HFC regulations and rules by each state.

Either way folks don’t be fooled into thinking that HFCs are going to stay around for a while. Their time has come and passed. We are slowly entering into the world of HFOs and Hydrocarbons. All of these bumps in the road are just that, bumps. We will still get to our destination.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

 

R-125, or Pentafluroethane, is one of the most prominent refrigerants in use across the world. It can be found in your grocery store, your office buildings, and even your home air conditioner. If supply runs out or there is a price constraint then it is felt across the world. It is truly astounding how one refrigerant can have such an impact across the industry.

Now, some of you may be thinking to yourself well I’ve never come across R-125 in the field, how can it be one of the most popular refrigerants? Well folks, R-125 is one of the key ingredients in a large amount of refrigerant blends. In fact, R-125 can be found in nearly twenty different types of blended refrigerants. Including some of the ever popular R-404A and R-410A refrigerants that we see and use daily. Along with those it is also found in R-402A, R-402B, R-408A, R-417A, R-419A, R-421A, R-421B, R-422A, R-422B, R-422C, R-422D, R-424A, R-426A, R-428A, R-434A, R-437A, and R-507[A].

 

 

 

The Rise & Incoming Fall of R-125

R-125 came to prominence at around the same time the world was phasing down and phasing out the Ozone depleting CFC and HCFC refrigerants. (R-12 or R-22 Freon.) The world needed an alternative solution that wasn’t going to affect the Ozone, that was non-toxic, non-flammable, and that kept an obtainable price point. The solution was HFC refrigerants. Just as R-12 and R-22 were the ‘Kings’ of their refrigerant classifications, I consider R-125 the ‘King’ of HFC refrigerants. As I pointed out above it’s found all over the place. This quick transition away from CFCs and HCFCs resolved the problem of the Ozone but now as the world began to use HFCs everywhere a new problem emerged.

Instead of worrying about the Ozone we now had to worry about Global Warming Potential from ‘Super Pollutants.’ These Super Pollutants were chemicals or artificial products that could get trapped in the atmosphere and that were much more potent then any naturally occurring element. To measure these chemicals the Global Warming Potential scale was invented.

Like with every scale a baseline is needed and in this example we used Carbon Dioxide as our baseline measurement of one. R-125’s Global Warming Potential, or GWP, is rated at three-thousand four-hundred and fifty. That means that R-125 is over three-thousand times more potent then Carbon Dioxide. When released or vented these gases get stuck in the atmosphere and directly contribute to Global Warming. HFC refrigerants are a great example of Greenhouse Gases.

Due to the impact and extremely large GWP that R-125 and all of it’s blends contain there has been a push from all countries and governments to phase down and eventually phase out these high GWP refrigerants. I’m sure most of you have heard of a lot of these by now. There have been agency regulations, legislation, and there was even an amendment added to the Montreal Protocol known as the Kigali Amendment to phase out HFC refrigerants. Just look at the bad wrap R-404A has gotten as of late. Many many customers and manufacturers are switching away from 404A and over to lower GWP HFC alternatives, HFO alternatives, or even over to Hydrocarbons.

Everyone wants to stop using R-125 as quickly as we can to prevent any more gases from being trapped in the atmosphere. 404A and the other lesser used blends are first on the list, but while the push for R-410A to be phased down hasn’t really come yet I can assure you that it will be coming soon. The days of R-125 and it’s use in blending are numbered.

Pricing & Shortages

The problem with R-125 being used in so many refrigerant blends is that when there is a price increase or a shortage then that shortage ripples across the industry and moves it’s way down the ladder towards the blends like 404A and 410A.

As an example, there was a worldwide shortage of R-125 during the summer of 2017. The majority of R-125 is sourced from China and something happened over the spring and summer of 2017 that caused the shortage that we all felt in our pocket books. I spent some time researching why this happened. The most common explanation that I found is that the chemical Flurospar experienced a forty percent price increase towards the beginning of 2017. (Flurospar is a main ingredient in the R-125 refrigerant.) This price increase caused a direct effect on the price of R-125 raising it by one-hundred and thirty percent. The price increase on Flurospar was blamed on China’s strengthening of environmental laws that directly affect the mining industry. So, because China wanted to become more environmentally conscious we all paid the price.

Depending on where you were in the world when this shortage hit you could have seen your prices raise by forty or fifty percent on 125 blends. In some cases though, especially over in the European Union, prices shot up hundreds of percents.

At this point there is no telling what will happen in 2018 on R-125, but if you ever wanted to make a guess as to what the refrigerant price will do over the summer then there is no better barometer than R-125.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Not everyone has lost hope since the Environmental Protection Agency’s SNAP Rule 20 was overturned by a federal court last August. This SNAP Rule 20 was the EPA’s planned phase down and phase out of HFC refrigerants across the United States. This Rule had been the law of the land for nearly two years before this sudden court ruling put everything into a tailspin. Now, no one knows for sure what is going to happen.

There have been a series of appeals by Honeywell and Chemours, there have been bills introduced in the United States’ Senate, and there is talk about ratifying the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. All of this though is merely conjecture and so far none of them have proven to be a promising alternative. So far the appeals have failed, the Senate Bill is stalled and most likely won’t pass due to Trump and Republican controlled Houses, and Trump hasn’t indicated one way or the other if he will be pushing the Kigali Amendment for Senate ratification. The question now though is what happens next?

States to the Rescue?

With all of this uncertainty now coursing through the industry there are some states that have taken it upon themselves to enact their own rules and regulations. I’m a big States Rights guy in the first place and so I am hugely in favor of this. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) will have more powers for regulations on refrigerants based on two new State Senate bills SB1383 and SB1013. (They were both introduced by State Senator Ricardo Lara.)The goal of both of these bills are to reduce the usage and consumption of the ‘Super Pollutants,’ known as HFC refrigerants. These include the ever so common refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, R-507A, R-410A, along with other HFCs.

For the most part both of these new bills actually mimic the Federal Government’s original EPA SNAP Rule 20 plan. There are slight changes here and there but the overall aim remains the same.  (The EPA SNAP Rule 20 fact sheet can be found by clicking here.) Under the SB 1383 California must reduce their HFC emissions by forty percent below 2013 levels by the year 2030. While this goal may seem a bit extreme it is worth noting that this goal is significantly less than the Kigali Amendment that is still in limbo. (Kigali wanted an eighty-five percent reduction by 2036.) This SB 1383 bill is the first step into reducing the usage, imports, and production of HFC refrigerants within California. An excerpt from the bill is below:

This bill would require the state board, no later than January 1, 2018, to approve and begin implementing that comprehensive strategy to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants to achieve a reduction in methane by 40%, hydrofluorocarbon gases by 40%, and anthropogenic black carbon by 50% below 2013 levels by 2030, as specified. The bill also would establish specified targets for reducing organic waste in landfills. – California Senate Bill 1383

This bill will be accomplished by stopping manufacturers from using HFC refrigerants in new machines and applications as well as retrofitting existing machines over to cleaner refrigerants. These applications where HFCs can no longer be used include supermarket refrigerators and freezers, food processing machines, self-contained refrigeration units, and vending machines. Like with most phase downs there is ample time for businesses and contractors to adapt to these changes. Remember, the deadline is 2030, so there are nearly twelve years for everyone to adapt.

Another rule, SB1013, restricts the use of HFC refrigerants in air conditioners and refrigerant applications. This bill gives CARB a few powers to wield. One of the most important of these powers is that it gives CARB the ability to grant incentives and benefits to businesses that move away from HFCs towards climate friendlier options like Hydrocarbons or HFOs. An excerpt from the bill is below:

This bill would establish the Fluorinated Gases Emission Reduction Incentive Program, to be administered by the state board, to promote the adoption of new refrigerant technologies to achieve short- and long-term climate benefits, energy efficiency, and other cobenefits, as specified. The bill would authorize moneys from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to be allocated for incentives offered as part of the program. – California Senate Bill 1013

Conclusion

Even though the rest of the country is still somewhat in a shroud of mystery on HFCs, California has taken their first step forward. With these two bills California has begun moving away from HFC refrigerants and towards the future of Hydrocarbons and HFOs. The good news is that many businesses have already begun planning for the phase down of HFCs so while the court’s ruling in August was a surprise I have a feeling that many companies were already prepared and are now just continuing on like the phase down is occurring anyways. HFCs are going away, it’s just a matter of time.

California has always been a trend setter and the first of many. The question now is will other States begin to follow suit? These changes may go the route that Net Neutrality went late last year. Even though the regulation was overturned by the FCC there have been many States that have begun adopting their own policies. As I said earlier, I am a big fan of State powers over Federal power and by having these States move forward with their own HFC laws we will achieve the same goal of phasing down HFCs across the country.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

I came across an article the other day referencing a refrigerant that I hadn’t heard much about. My curiosity was peaked so I began researching the product, what it was, and what possibilities existed. The refrigerant’s official name is R-458A but most of you may know of it as Bluon TDX 20. The TDX 20 is a relatively new refrigerant that has only been around for a few years now. It was designed as a replacement for R-22, R-404A, and R-507A.

If there’s anything the market needs right now it is a safe, cheap, and easy alternative refrigerant for the aging R-22 machines out there. R-22 isn’t coming down in price folks and if anything it is going to jump even higher as we inch closer to that 2020 total phase out. We’re going to be left with three choices fairly soon. The first is scrounging around for reclaimed R-22 refrigerant, second is talking your customer into purchasing a new R-410A unit, and the third is alternatives. But, are there good alternatives out there? And are they legal?

The Details

Now, I know that there are a lot R-22 replacements out there but a lot of them have not been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. In fact I know of a few stories of refrigerant manufacturers selling unapproved SNAP refrigerants. I can assure you that it never ends well for them. One company out of Wichita ended up paying a one-hundred thousand dollar fine for selling unapproved R-404A alternatives. (Link to the article here.) This is where things can get tricky. You do not want to be responsible for using an unapproved alternative. Before using ANY alternative to R-22 you have to make sure that it is approved by the EPA’s SNAP. There are so many people out there looking to make a quick buck during this R-22 phase out and a lot of them do not care about established laws.

The good news here is that Bluon’s R-458A is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency to be used in commercial air conditioning, industrial process refrigeration, retail food refrigeration, as well as residential air conditioning including heat pump applications. In fact it was approved just last year on July, 21st, 2017. The link to the EPA’s official approval can be found at the bottom of this article in my sources header.

The TDX 20, or R-458A, is non Ozone depleting which is already a markeable improvement when compared to R-22. R-458A has a Global Warming Potential of one-thousand six-hundred and fifty. While that number is still quite high it is lower than R-22’s one-thousand eight-hundred and ten. (Nine percent better.) This refrigerant is also non-flammable and non-toxic. It receives an A1 for it’s safety rating. All of these facts are pretty standard but there is a very unique feature to this refrigerant that you don’t see elsewhere. TDX 20 is a blended HFC refrigerant made up of FIVE varying refrigerants. Yes, you heard me correctly. Five different refrigerants are blended to make R-458A. Some of these refrigerants you may very well recognize form dealing with other blends.

Bluon’s TDX 20 consists of 20.5% of R-32 (Difluromethane), 4.0 percent R-125, (Pentafluroethane), 61.4% R-134a (Tetrafluroethane), 13.5% R-226ea (Heptafluropropane), and 0.6% R-236fa (Hexafluropropane). These five varying refrigerants actually results in a five to twenty-five percent energy savings when compared to a standard R-22 application.

Something else that I noticed during my research is that this refrigerant actually comes with a warranty. You don’t see that everyday in this industry. From what I have read the refrigerant comes with a one year warranty on new machines and a ninety day warranty on existing machines. Now like with most warranties, any claim is subject to Bluon’s approval. More on Bluon’s warranty policy can be found by clicking here.

Retrofitting

The thing that really caught my attention on this R-22 alternative is that it is a drop-in replacement. Now I’ve seen the words drop in and retrofit thrown around a lot over the past couple years. If there is any confusion on the difference let me explain. A drop-in is just that. You take out the old refrigerant and put in the new alternative. After that you are done. With a retrofit you will have change or replace key components of the machine in order for it to safely use your new alternative refrigerant. Retrofits are where things can get quite expensive for you and the customer.

The R-458A is a simple drop in. There are no equipment modifications required. In fact all there is to it is removing the old R-22, vacuuming out the system, and then recharging the unit with the TDX 20 replacement product. On a standard residential unit the job will take around three to four hours to complete. (Obviously, larger units will take more time.) Now, what I gave you above was a quick step process but please be aware that there are some more steps to a full conversion. If you are looking for a guide then I highly recommend watching the Bluon HVAC offical retrofitting video found below. They made it look easy!

Conclusion

So after writing this article about Bluon’s refrigerant I was only left with one question that I couldn’t get an answer for. What is the price on this product? Is it the same or even higher than R-22? If so, then why bother with it? To me the only thing this refrigerant is missing is a great price point and as I write this it very well may but I honestly couldn’t find much information about pricing. From the literature that I have read the product is marketed as significantly less expensive then R-22, but I am still wondering how much less expensive. Is it negligible, or is there a significant savings to the customer?

Lastly, before closing this article I wanted to reiterate that if you are converting a unit from R-22 over to R-458A to please please please re-label the machine once you are done with your work. There is nothing worse then coming to a site and beginning to work on a unit only to find that there is a completely different refrigerant in the machine then what the label says. Just like they teach us in elementary school, ‘Think of others!’

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson
RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Most everyone knows that over the past few years the European Union has been experiencing a large shortage as well as price hikes on HFC refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, and R-410A. While the shortages on R-134a can be traced back to the MAC Directive that took place on 2017, the shortage on R-404A and R-410A comes from the European Union’s F-Gas Regulation that went into effect January 1st, of 2015. This F-Gas regulation aimed at phasing down HFC refrigerants across the EU. It accomplished this by limiting the total amount of HFCs in the marketplace and by also banning these refrigerants from use in new applications.

While the intent of this law was clear the overall transition away from HFCs has been very rough for the EU. Not everyone was ready and not everyone had planned fro these phase downs. The old, ‘I’ll worry about it tomorrow,’ syndrome. These phase downs, as intended, have caused widespread shortages of 404A and 410A throughout the European Union. In fact last summer some countries saw a seven-hundred percent increase in price on 404A. Think about that for a moment folks. If you were buying a jug of 404A at ninety-dollars at the beginning of the season you would end up paying six-hundred and thirty dollars later on that season. Imagine trying to quote that to a customer. Imagine trying to absorb that extra cost. This was not sustainable. Solutions had to be found.

The intended solution here was to use more environmentally friendly refrigerants such as hydrocarbons, HFOs, or more friendly HFC refrigerants. Some of the machines running today can be retrofitted to accept some of these new alternative refrigerants, but not all of them can. Some contractors who are desperate for an alternative when dealing with a 410A unit that needs recharged have turned to using R-32 as a cheaper solution. Here’s the thing folks, these contractors are not retrofitting anything on these existing units. No, they are vacuuming out the remaining old 410A and replacing it all with R-32. They are putting this R-32 as a drop in replacement for 410A.

R-32 & The Retrofits

R-32 is an HFC refrigerant made from Difluromethane. It is being marketed as an alternative to R-410A and R-404A due to their high Global Warming Potential. For those of you who do not know R-32 makes up fifty percent of the R-410A blend that we use so much today. (The other component is R-125.) R-32’s GWP is set at only six-hundred and seventy-five and it has no Ozone depletion risk. When compared to R-410A’s two-thousand and ninety there is a remarkable improvement. The downside of R-32 is that it is classified as lower flammability where as R-410A is not flammable at all. While R-32 systems can and are being used across the world it is very important to note that an existing R-410A system cannot be retrofitted over to accept R-32 refrigerant. As I mentioned previously, there is a large difference between a retrofit and a drop in replacement. With a retrofit the system is brought up to necessary conditions to handle the new refrigerant. With a drop in replacement nothing is done except exchanging the refrigerant.

The contractors out there who are looking for a cheaper solution have been dropping in R-32 in place of R-410A. R-32 has not been approved for a direct retrofit on an R-410A system. Retrofitting a system to another refrigerant that hasn’t been approved is ignoring all of the specifications and components that are on that machine.  Remember that a R-410A unit is designed specifically to take the higher pressures of the 410A refrigerant. Using an unapproved refrigerant in place of 410A can have unintended consequences.

One of these side effects that has already been documented is premature compressor failure. This happens as the R-32 refrigerant operates at a higher discharge than R-410A. In some instances compressors have failed after only a few months of running with R-32. Then before you know it you are back in front of that customer with another expensive bill for them to pay. The other side effect of doing this drop in replacement, and a much more dangerous one, is flammability. R-410A is rated as an ‘1’ in the flammability measurement. This means that there is not a risk for ignition with R-410A. However, the R-32 refrigerant is rated as a ‘2’ on the flammability scale. The ‘2’ means that it has a ‘lower flammability’ rating. So, while it is not rated as a ‘3’ like Propane it is still rated as a flammable refrigerant. The R-410A system does NOT have the proper safety requirements to handle a flammable refrigerant.

The last one of these possible side effects to mention is that if the installer or technician doesn’t label the retrofitted unit as an R-32 unit and there is a leak later on down the road the future technician is going to assume that 410A is in the system. This is as big deal. Because of this assumption the tech isn’t going to take the proper precautions when dealing with a flammable refrigerant. There have been instances where a retrofit had occurred but it was not labeled correctly. This incorrectly labeled unit could directly lead to the deaths of future technicians. In one example two technicians lost their lives four years ago in Australia when attempting to repair a unit that had been retrofitted over to R-290. (Propane.) The Propane ignited due to it not being handled properly. One of these techs were smoking during the repair, which should never be done, but I can only hope that if this unit was labeled properly that this accident could have been avoided. A link to my article on this can be found by clicking here.

This event I mentioned above and the possibility of future events are why countries like the United Kingdom and Italy are now cracking down on unapproved retrofits.

United Kingdom & Italy

The United Kingdom’s Federation of Environmental Trade Associations (FETA) has come out against retrofitting R-410A units over to R-32. They stated a lot of the reasons and logic that I mentioned above. It is not safe. On top of FETA coming out against these retrofits REFCOM has also warned against them. REFCOM is one of the United Kingdom’s leading refrigerant certificate providers. While they do not have the 608/609 sections we have here they have their own certifications that techs have to go through and REFCOM is one of the leading providers. These two prominent names have come out against this dangerous practice and I can only imagine that there will be more to follow from the United Kingdom.

Over in Italy the Italian refrigeration association known as Assofrigoristi has announced that they will pursue fines and even jail time to installers that retrofit existing R-410A applications over to R-32. The jail terms could last up to three months and the proposed fine could be up to 5,200 Euros. (About $6,500 dollars.) All of that is not even counting what could happen if an accident comes from a retrofitted unit that your company changed over. Talk about liability.  Italy is not playing around with this folks.

If this trend continues into the summer season over the European Union then I could definitely see more countries voicing their opinions on the matter and maybe even enacting their own laws similar to what Italy has done.

Conclusion

At best these actions can permanently damage your customers air conditioner as well as void their manufacturer’s warranty. At worst, you could be responsible for injuries or deaths to future technicians who attempt to repair the retrofitted unit. Everyone understands that there is shortage of HFC refrigerants in the European Union but is it worth saving your customer a bit of money? Stick through the hard times of this phase out and know that it is not forever. With each passing year more and more machines will be using the alternative refrigerants. Hopefully, over time the demand of HFCs across the EU will begin to shrink and these crazy prices will begin to drop again.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

I was reading a story the other day on how the General Motors company is facing a class-action lawsuit due to faulty air conditioning systems installed on their newer model vehicles. (2014-2017.) The alleged suit states that the compressor as well as the condenser lines prematurely fail and cause refrigerant to leak out. This leaking refrigerant is ether leaked out under the hood, or worse, leaked into the cabin.

The two plaintiffs that started this lawsuit are suing due to the faulty systems and they are also claiming that General Motors knew about the failures in the first place but chose to ignore them and to get the cars on the marketplace. This all started when the two plaintiffs in this suit noticed that their air conditioners were no longer working at all or were blowing hot air. After taking their vehicles to the dealerships a repair was done and extra bracket was installed to secure the system. (Why wasn’t the bracket part of the system int he first place?) To top it off both plaintiffs had to pay for their air conditioning repairs out of their own pocket. In both instances their vehicle was barely out of warranty.

As I mentioned above there are two main defects that are being claimed in this lawsuit. The first is the line leading from the compressor to the condenser. The aluminum tube either becomes disconnected from a rubber hose connect or the aluminum simply began to degrade and eventually rupture causing refrigerant to leak out. The other problem and or complaint was that the condenser ‘could’ crack after only a short amount of use. Again, this would cause refrigerant to leak out of the system.

At this time the lawsuit is still pending and I have not been able to find an official word from General Motors on the topic.

The Consequences

In this General Motors example the only thing that was lost here the customer’s hard earned money. While that is never a good thing it is important to realize that things could have been much worse. When something like this happens, no matter how small it is, I always find my mind wandering to the what if scenarios. What if these faulty lines or condensers were using R-717 refrigerant instead of R-134a or R-1234yf? R-717, or Ammonia, is rated as a ‘Class B,’ on the toxicity levels for refrigerants. What that means folks is that Ammonia is toxic if breathed in. So, now let’s pretend we have this minor leak or fault in the air conditioning system but with an Ammonia based system. This minor failure has turned into a huge problem and may even endanger people’s lives.

This is what scares me so much about toxic refrigerants such as R-717. Yes, I understand that it is one of the most efficient refrigerants on the market but is the efficiency and cost savings really worth the risk? Now, I know that at this time there isn’t an automotive/mobile application that is using Ammonia but I wanted to point this out nonetheless. There are other applications on the market today such as ice rinks that do and have been using Ammonia for decades. In fact just last year there was a leak on an Ammonia based system up in Canada. The leak occurred due to component failures, just like they usually do. The difference here is that in this scenario three people lost their lives. On top of that large swaths of a city block had to be evacuated due to the leak. I won’t get into all of the details on the article but if you are interested in reading more please click here. This example is exactly why I fear Ammonia. Maybe I am wrong in my fear but to me it just doesn’t seem safe.

So with all of that in mind let’s now think about this. HFC refrigerants such as R-404A, R-134a, and R-410A are slowly being phased down or out across the world. But what alternative refrigerants will we be using? Is there a set plan yet? There are many people who are looking at Hydrocarbon refrigerants such as Ammonia for a solution. After all it’s very energy efficient and has a very low Global Warming Potential.  But, do we really need refrigerants like this in use, especially in public places like an ice rink?

I understand that we are being environmentally friendly here by using low GWP refrigerants but is our health worth saving the climate? I know what I would say when given this choice. We could develop the safest system in the world to go with Ammonia refrigerant but even the safest and most reinforced units will eventually fail either due to wear and tear over time, a faulty component, or negligence. It just takes one engineer or mechanic to miss something on a system like this and then tragedy could occur. In this case, the culprit could be General Motors.

Conclusion

While I am a fan of hydrocarbon refrigerants and other alternatives I feel we should all be vigilant and aware of any toxic refrigerants gaining popularity especially in larger markets. R-717 is used extensively today on the industrial refrigeration side of the market but there are also some more visible applications as we discussed above. In some circles of the world R-717 is seen as viable alternative to R-22. If you ask me, I think we should stick with CO2.

The other side of this coin is R-290, or Propane. While Propane isn’t toxic it is, as you know, highly flammable especially to novices who are not familiar with the product. R-290 is becoming more popular just like Ammonia is. We’re seeing Propane in home air conditioning units, super market freezers, and vending machines. While it is not as dangerous as a toxic refrigerant the danger is still there.

I will ask this question again. Is it worth the risk? Or, should we stick with HFC refrigerants that are tried and true until there is a better and safer alternative? In a few years time I would predict seeing a whole host of options and alternatives from the HFO refrigerant line and these will be much safer WHEN a leak does occur.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Most of you know by now that as of January 1st, 2018 end users are no longer able to purchase thirty pound cylinders without being licensed with the Environmental Protection Agency. This change was very similar to the purchase restrictions on other refrigerants such as R-22, R-12, and R-502. These regulations were put in place in an effort to reduce laymen’s access to refrigerant. While, some people may know what they are doing when working with refrigerant a good portion of them do not. It’s because of these outliers who do not know how to handle refrigerant that this new law/regulation was passed.

R-134a is an HFC refrigerant. HFC refrigerants are known for their extremely high Global Warming Potential, or GWP. GWP is a measure of how much heat a greenhouse gas traps in the atmosphere. The baseline measurement of GWP is Carbon Dioxide which is set at a GWP of 1. R-134a has a GWP of 1,430. Think about that for a moment folks. That’s over fourteen-hundred times that of Carbon Dioxide. These high GWP refrigerants are known as ‘Super Gases,’ due to the effect that they have on the environment.

It is worth noting that there are exceptions for R-134a. You can no longer buy cylinders but you are still able to purchase cans of refrigerant without a license. Single or multi-use cans can be found at most retailers or on Amazon.com as well.

How Can I Get Certified for R-134a?

In order to be able to handle these super gases you need to be section 609 certified with the Environmental Protection Agency. This section 609 comes straight from the Clean Air Act of 1990. Today there are more than one million people certified under this section 609. There are a few ways for you or your employees to become certified with the Environmental Protection Agency. Some of these options are listed below:

  • A licensed 609 certification trainer comes to your place of employment, puts on a class, and then hands out testing to each attendant. After the tests are completed they will then be mailed to MACS Worldwide to be graded. If passed you will then receive your license through the mail.
    • A 609 trainer can either be from an outside party like a vendor/salesmen or it could be a designated person at your company. I have seen both. A good trainer will go over all of the details and help attendees with questions that they are unsure of. Ideally, most everyone should pass this test.
  • The other option is to go directly through MACS Worldwide. MACS is the primary provider and manager of 609 tests and license granting. They started their program only a few years after the 609 rules were introduced back in 1990. Ever since 1992 MACS has been the leader in granting 609 tests and certifications. Review the links below to read up a bit more about them, order a study book, and even order a test.
  • Please note that for each of these scenarios it will take twenty dollars per person in order to take a test.
  • Lastly, if you are trying to purchase R-134a but are not licensed there is one more avenue for you to go through. You can provide a formal letter to the purchaser that you are intending to resale the product and that you or your company will not be using the refrigerant. According to the EPA’s website, “(The) EPA recommends that wholesalers obtain a signed statement from the purchaser indicating that he or she is purchasing the refrigerant only for eventual resale to certified technicians.”

Thanks for reading and I hope this article was able to help you,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

 

Well folks I’m back and doing another prediction on R-134a pricing for this upcoming season. Over the past few months I have written a few articles on this topic. The first, which can be found here, stated that the R-134a price would stay relatively stable through the winter and into the spring and summer seasons.  My thinking here was that the anti-dumping duties on Chinese R-134a had already happened and the market had already adapted. On top of that the European Union ended R-134a usage in new vehicles in 2017. So, with the lessened demand from the EU and the tariffs starting to settle into the market I thought we would remain relatively stable.

A few weeks later I wrote another article stating that R-134a pricing would be going up. Again, this article can be found by clicking here. The motivation for this article was that I had received two tips from some of my readers. The first was from a prominent manufacturer of R-134a stating that everyone’s price was going up seventy-five cents per pound. The next tip was from another manufacturer stating that pricing was going up one dollar per pound. Seeing both of these letters sent at right about the same time sent alarm bells off in my head and I wrote this article to alert everyone else.

Well now folks that the dust has began to settle I feel I can grant yet another prediction on R-134a for this year’s season. I haven’t seen much at all in price increases over the past few months. While initially I was a bit panicked by the pricing letters I soon began to realize that a lot of companies had plenty of stock on hand left over from the previous seasons. These price increases are on new product and there is so much older product in the market place that we haven’t seen much of an impact yet.

HFC Sales Restriction in 2018

Most of you know by now that R-134a and other HFC refrigerants are now subject to the Environmental Protection Agency purchase restrictions. These HFC refrigerants were added in January 1st of 2018. While we all knew this was coming there were some side effects that I had not foreseen. A lot of larger retail outlets out there like Sam’s Club, Costco, Wal-Mart, etc used to sell R-134a thirty pound cylinders to do-it-yourselfers. This was perfectly fine. There were no regulations and it was more or less treated like buying a new cylinder of propane at your local store. Well when this new regulation went into effect these companies decided to back out of the 134a market as they saw it wasn’t worth the time to check and record everyone’s 609 certification just to purchase a cylinder of refrigerant.

Here’s the thing though. These companies suppliers had stock piles of R-134a ready to be sold for the next season. With the cancellation of these purchases these suppliers were now stuck with a surplus of 134a inventory on hand. Think about it. If you had sixty percent of your sales coming from one customer and then that customer stopped buying you would be stuck with a ton of inventory. These vendors aren’t just going to let their inventory sit. No, they are going to find new customers and come in at a lower price than their competitors.

What that means is that there will be a lot more competition on the market place this season. With more competition means a lower price to the end user dealerships and repair shops across the country. While I don’t expect it to go down significantly I could see the standard thirty pound cylinder going down a few dollars all the way up to five dollars a cylinder when the season begins to pick up.

Here’s the caveat though. If everyone’s stock pile begins to run out halfway through the summer season then we could begin to see the opposite effect. We could begin to see the price starting to climb and climb. Remember, we have those price increases from the refrigerant manufacturers. So, when our distributors do run out of product they may end up buying at a much higher price.

That being said, I am skeptical that we will run out of 134a this season. There are so many factors going into decreased demand of R-134a this year. Just a few of them are:

  1. The European Union phase out in 2017 that we mentioned above.
  2. The HFC purchase regulation. No more do-it-yourselfers can purchase thirty pound cylinders. (They can still purchase cans.)
  3. More and more new vehicles here in the United States and other countries are now using the new HFO 1234yf refrigerant in place of R-134a. While the market is still small it is important to realize that with each passing year the 1234yf market share goes up and up.

Even with this decreased demand I believe the stock and surplus inventory is still at previous year levels. So, again, I think that we are going to see the R-134a price drop a few dollars, maybe even up to five dollars a cylinder. Let’s see how the season plays out. Best of luck to all of you!

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Honeywell Solstice Branded Refrigerant Line

Here’s something that a lot of us just don’t think about. Believe it or not our grocery stores and supermarkets that we visit once a week or so are some of the most energy intensive commercial buildings in the country. Why is that you may ask? Well folks it all boils down to refrigeration. (No pun intended on the boils!)

Seriously though, think about all of refrigerated and freezer units lining aisle after aisle. Now imagine how much power it takes to run all of those. Some reports put it at fifty percent of a store’s total power usage is dedicated to keeping food cold. That has to be quite the hefty bill to pay each month. I would imagine that store managers or owners are always looking for ways to shrink monthly expenses. But what options are out there? Well folks Honeywell has a fairly new alternative refrigerant under their Solstice brand name known as N40.

Honeywell’s Solstice N40

N40, also known under it’s refrigerant name R-448A, is a Zeotropic HydroFluroOlefin blend. It was designed to serve as a replacement to supermarket refrigerators and freezers that are currently using R-404A or other R-22 in medium or lower temperature applications. It is listed as an approved refrigerant in the Significant New Alternatives Policy from the EPA. (Source from the EPA’s website.)

The energy savings on switching from R-404A over to R-448A range between five to sixteen percent. Let’s think about that for a second. These supermarket freezers have to run twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. Going back to that monthly power bill and putting myself in a manager’s shoes I would gladly take a savings of ten percent of my power bill. I’ve read some figures that state an average supermarket can easily spend two-hundred thousand dollars on power per year. Ten percent of that back is an easy twenty-thousand dollars to reinvest into the business instead of throwing it to the power company.

It’s not all about energy savings though folks. A big part of this switch to a new refrigerant has to deal with Global Warming Potential, or GWP. GWP is a measurement of how much heat a greenhouse gas can trap in the atmosphere. The zero based scale of this is Carbon Dioxide or CO2. CO2 has a GWP of 1. If we look at R-404A we find a GWP number of 3,922. That means that R-404A has 3,922 times the GWP of Carbon Dioxide. That is a huge number and puts R-404A as the ‘king’ of GWP numbers. This combined with the energy savings is why there has been a big push to switch over to a lesser GWP alternative. Honeywell’s Solstice N40 refrigerant has a GWP of 1,273. While this number isn’t fantastically low it is sixty-eight percent lower than R-404A. So, while it’s not a fix all it does help immensely with the GWP problem of R-404A.

Along with energy savings and lower GWP the N40, or R-448A, refrigerant offers a few more benefits when comparing to R-404A:

  • This falls in line with energy savings but N40 is an average eight percent more more efficient than R-404A.
  • The flammability rating on Solstice N40 is rated at A1. That means it is NOT flammable. For more information on refrigerant toxicity and flammability classifications please click here.
  • This is one that we haven’t mentioned yet. With N40 the actual capacity, or amount of space that is cooled, goes up by an average of seven and a half percent. So, you get to cool more area for less the cost.
  • The retrofit process going from R-404A over to R-448A is rather simple. Honeywell’s official retrofit document can be found by clicking here.

Who’s Using It?

So, who is using this new refrigerant? Like with most new refrigerants the European Union has taken the first leap forward. Going all the way back to 2013 we can look at the ASDA supermarket chain out of the United Kingdom. They began using N40 and haven’t looked back. They have seen the energy savings in real life examples and at the same time have lowered their environmental impact. Sticking in the European Union we can look at the company Precision Refrigeration. These guys are a manufacturer of catering and restaurant equipment. They have recently selected R-448A as a replacement for R-404A. Again, with the EU, the Tewis supermarket chain out of Spain carried out a full conversion of their systems from R-404A over to Solstice N40 nearly four years ago back in November of 2014. Another Spanish supermarket chain known as Eroski went through a remodel in April of 2015 and during their remodel they switched their units from 404A over to R-448A.

But hey, don’t think it’s all Europe having the fun with this new HFO refrigerant. A super market chain out of Wisconsin named Festival Foods launched a new location back in 2016 that is using R-448A based equipment. What’s unique about this store is that it was the first super market that was built specifically catering towards the Solstice N40 refrigerant. Previous applications have been conversions or retrofits, but this was the first truly new building geared for N40. There are further plans to convert the other twenty Festival Food stores over to Solstice refrigerants as well.

Lastly, we can’t leave out Asia from this mass conversion away from R-404A. Just a few days ago it was announced that the South Korean supermarket chain called Lotte Mart would be converting and adding new R-448A/N40 machines to their stores. They expect to see an eight percent energy savings by the year 2025 along with three percent less energy consumption. I didn’t even come close to touching all of the companies out there that have converted or are in process of converting. One thing is certain: The reign of R-404A is quickly coming to an end.

Conclusion

There’s a war going on back and forth between these newer HydroFluroOlefin refrigerants and the tried and true Hydrocarbons or Natural Refrigerants. It seems everyday I’ll see a news article stating that XYZ company has converted their machines over to HFOs but then the very next day I’ll see another article saying that a different company has just moved to R-290 or CO2.

It’s hard to say what side is going to win or if any side is going to win at all. Who knows? Maybe we’ll have a fifty percent split market between Hydrocarbons and HFOs. Personally, I’m a bigger fan of the natural refrigerants just because they’ve been around for decades and we are all familiar with them. Introducing more and more new refrigerants I feel is only going to muddy the water.

What are your thoughts?

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

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Well folks the battle between Arkema/Mexichem and Chemours/Honeywell wages on! Everyone thought it was over towards the end of January when a US court rejected an appeal filed by Honeywell and Chemours. I won’t get into all of the history here as many of you are readers and already know what I’m talking about. The abridged version is that in 2015 the EPA issued a planned phase down of HFC refrigerants. Then, in August of 2017 a US Court ruled against the EPA stating they overstepped their bounds. A month later Honeywell and Chemours appealed stating that the EPA does have the right to phase down HFC refrigerants. The courts ruled against this appeal in January of 2018 and now here we are in February of 2018 with Honeywell announcing that they will be taking their case to the Supreme Court. Honeywell is turning to the Supreme Court as the lower court’s ruling is ‘unacceptable.’ Chemours has not yet published if they will be filing to the Supreme Court. But, if I was a betting man I would wager it’s only a matter of time before Chemours throws their hat in the ring as well. These two companies have been joined at the hip since all of this started.

At this point no one even knows if the Supreme Court will even take the appeal from Honeywell. So again, just like before, everything is up in the air and no one really knows what is going to happen. This uncertainty is causing a lot of anxiety across the industry and not only in the manufacturing section of refrigerant. Remember now that what happens here and in the courts trickles down to your average contractor or even to your typical homeowner. All of this is going to impact the price of refrigerants to business owners and to end users. If we do have an HFC phase down then we could easily run into the problems that the European Union is going through right now. They are seeing seven-hundred percent price increases on certain HFC types. Seven-hundred percent! (I wrote an article on this which can be found by clicking here.)

So Many Hats in the Ring, but Who Will Come Out on Top?

So now we have four different avenues and venues all trying to phase down or phase out HFC refrigerants across the United States. I fear that all of these parties pushing for the same thing is going to muddy the waters and we’re going to be left with exactly where are today: With no planned phase down of HFC refrigerants.

Let’s take a look at some of the hats in the ring today:

  • We discussed this above. Honeywell, and most likely Chemours, has announced that they will be filing an appeal on the HFC court ruling to the Supreme Court.
  • Last week a proposed bill was introduced in the United States Senate. If passed this bill would give the power back to the Environmental Protection Agency and allow them to phase down HFC refrigerants. In other words, it’s a reset button going back to before August 2017 and before the court’s ruling that overturned the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20. I wrote an article about this which can be found by clicking here.
  • Another avenue is going through the Montreal Protocol’s recent Kigali Amendment. This amendment was agreed about a year and a half ago in Kigali, Rwanda. The goal of this amendment is just like the other steps: to phase down HFC refrigerants across the world. The benefit on this amendment is that it gives set goals and achievements for every country across the globe. So, instead of having a country by country guideline we would have a global. If this is adopted it is a great win for climate advocates. The Trump Administration has not clarified if they will be moving ratification to the Senate. Again, I wrote an article on this topic which can be found by clicking here.
  • The last thing worth mentioning here is that individual states are now doing their own thing in wake of the US court’s ruling. In fact, California has introduced their own legislation that plans to reduce HFC emissions by forty percent by the year 2030. Following their lead eleven other states have signaled that they would be interested in regulating HFCs at a State level as well. What we could be left with is a patch work of state regulations all over the country. I’m a big States rights guy but this could definitely cause confusion and difficulty when working across state lines. Take it from me as a Kansas City guy on the border between Kansas and Missouri. We have different laws in Kansas and in Missouri and it can be a headache. (I can buy liquor in grocery stores in Missouri but not in Kansas.)

Conclusion

Remember now that all this boils down to money. At least, it does in my mind. We can all say it’s about Climate Change and kid ourselves but we all know the truth. Cash is king. The two plaintiffs that started all of this and who are responsible for the August ruling, Arkema and Mexichem, do not have suitable alternatives to HFC refrigerants. As most of you know, Honeywell and Chemours are the pioneers of HFO refrigerants and hold most of the patents, technology, and manufacturing plants. Mexichem and Arkema needed to stall and this ruling has done just that. They now have time to develop their own alternatives to HFCs and hopefully be able to compete with Honeywell and Chemours.

HFOs refrigerants are still very new to the marketplace. In fact the only mainstream usage of HFOs at this time is through the automotive market. The first target was R-134a which has now been replaced in the European Union by the HFO 1234yf. While the phase in of 1234yf is slow it is coming to the United States as well in newer car models. There has been some slow transition on R-404A applications but there is not ‘one’ set HFO refrigerant for 404A yet.

The question on everyone’s mind is will all of this back and forth in the courts give Arkema and Mexichem enough time to come up with their own alternatives? Or, will all of this be for not and Honeywell and Chemours will remain the dominant manufacturer?

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

EU Phasing out HFC

It seems that the European Union is always a few steps ahead when it comes to climate and environmental technology. I remember back when I was in the trucking industry. It was the year 2007 and it was a big year for the US market. All new trucks were required by law to have a Diesel Particulate Filter and along with that came Diesel Exhaust Fluid. This invention was an effort to reduce the pollution caused by semi-trucks going across our roads. But here’s the thing though. While we here in the US were scrambling around trying to meet requirements our friends over in the EU had been dealing with DPFs and Diesel Exhaust Fluid for years. In fact if you look it up today some of the biggest suppliers of Diesel Exhaust Fluid here in the United States are European Companies.

The point that I’m trying to make here is that the EU is always a few steps ahead of us. If you ask me I prefer it this way. They get to be the guinea pigs and test all of these new technologies and new regulations out before they float across the ocean to us. In the latest example of this we can look no further then HFC refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, and R-410A. There are two main measures in the EU that are aimed to phase out HFC refrigerants.

  1. The first, known as the MAC Directive, was aimed at R-134a and it’s usage in the automobile marketplace. This change stated that no new vehicles manufactured in 2017 and on could use refrigerant that have a Global Warming Potential (GWP) greater than one-hundred and fifty times that of Carbon Dioxide. That requirement alone ruled out the standard R-134a refrigerant that we find in most vehicles today. Car manufacturers were basically left with one choice as an alternative refrigerant which was the new HFO-1234yf refrigerant. It met the GWP requirements and was also being pushed by Honeywell and Chemours. This transition was bumpy and there was some resistance from German manufacturers but in the end it worked out.
  2. The second change is known as the F-Gas Regulation. Most of you familiar with the industry will know exactly what I am talking about. Instead of targeting automobiles this regulation went after everything else. That meant home air conditioners, supermarket coolers, industrial applications, and everything else in between. The new rule called for better and more proper leak detection methods, proper recovery, and additional training on working with HFCs.

That wasn’t the big change though folks. Another part of this regulation and the problem that everyone over there is running into is that this F-Gas Regulation actively limited the amount of HFC refrigerants allowed in the European Union. While this is normally how phase outs work the European Union grossly overestimated their ability to phase out HFC refrigerants. Because of this poor estimation the EU is now running into huge supply problems on HFC refrigerants. At some points last year you could NOT obtain a cylinder of R-404A or R-507A and if you were lucky enough to find one you were going to pay an arm and a leg.

Just over the last year there has been a seven-hundred percent increase on various HFC refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, and even R-410A. Let’s take a moment and really think about that number. Seven-hundred percent. Let’s say R-404A is at $100 a cylinder here in the US today. Times that by seven. Imagine what that would do to your bottom line. This price increase is tied directly to the F-Gas regulation and the related scheduled phase out of refrigerants. Some refrigerants were affected more than others. The worst off are your R-404A, R-507A, and now R-134a. Puron is climbing up there too and it’s only a matter of time before it becomes scarce as well.

This phase out is not going according to plan and there are many companies, groups, and organizations that are up in arms about it. These Draconian rules are destroying people’s businesses. In fact there are many groups of refrigerant companies and workers that have asked the EU for an exception to some of these rules. One group out of Germany stated that they are in favor of phasing out these refrigerants but an exception should be made to new units that are pre-charged with refrigerant and that are being exported out of the European Union. Business wise it makes sense but I could also see the EU ruling against this stating that the new machine will still be using HFC refrigerant elsewhere in the world and will contribute to Global Warming. Another group from Sweden filed for an exemption or an extension claiming that they need more time to convert their systems to lower GWP refrigerants. How many exemptions will be granted? How bumpy will this phase out be?

Is the United States Next?

The question on everyone’s mind, or at least my mind, is what will happen here in the United States? In the short term I  could actually see this shortage helping to lower prices slightly. While there are still Fluorine supply issues in China that is causing the prices to stay high we should be thankful that the European Union’s demand is significantly lower than it has been in previous years.

As far as what will happen in the future I am just not certain. If you were to ask me a month or two ago I would have said that we may be running into this exact issue here in the United States due to the EPA’s phase out of HFCs under their SNAP Rule 20. But now, with the court overturning their rule and rejecting an appeal it is tough to know exactly what will happen to the United States’ HFC market. There is a bill that was introduced to the Senate last week but it is still preliminary and no real work has been done to it yet. The only other chance of HFCs being phased out here in the US is the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. But, here again, we are waiting for the Senate and Trump to ratify. At this point no one knows what will happen.

In closing all I can say as we watch prices go up and up this summer is be glad that you are not over in Europe and having to pay three or four times what you are paying here. Be thankful for the little things!

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

 

Sources

Last week a new bill was introduced into the Senate. This bill called ‘The American Innovation and Manufacturing Act,’ aims to give the power back to the Environmental Protection Agency. To understand this bill you have to know the history behind it and what has taken place over the past year.

Towards the end of the summer of 2017 a Federal Court struck down the EPA’s proposed phase out of HFC refrigerants under their SNAP program. The court’s reasoning was that the EPA had overstepped it’s bounds by using the Clean Air Act as a vassal to phase out non-Ozone depleting HFC refrigerants. While the August ruling was fought and appealed by Honeywell and Chemours the court’s decision stayed.

With the EPA no longer having the authority to unilaterally phase out HFC refrigerants such as R-410A, R-134a, and R-404A the United States is left with two options. The first is known as the Kigali Agreement. This agreement is actually an amendment made to the Montreal Protocol. While the amendment is nearly a few years old now we are still waiting on the United States’ Government to ratify it in the Senate. At this time there is some debate on rather or not the Trump Administration will move this amendment to the Senate or not.

The other option, which I have spoken of in previous articles, is legislation. In my opinion this is the way it should have been done in the first place. I’m never comfortable with goverment agencies making massive changes to the marketplace on their own. Big changes and regulations like these should go through Congress and be debated back and forth and that, as of last week, is now where we are heading.

The bill was introduced by two Senators: Republican Senator John Kennedy out of Louisiana and Democrat Senator Tom Carper out of Delaware. Now, it’s funny seeing what states these Senators represent. It’s very obvious why this bill was introduced. Delaware is home to DuPont and Chemours. Louisiana is home to one of Honeywell’s newest refrigerant manufacturing plants. This plant is designed for the new HFO refrigerants coming down the pike. So, we have two Senators from these states with a vested interested that these two companies succeed and bring jobs to their constituents. With HFC refrigerants on the way out that means that the demand for HFOs will only go up and up. This all comes down to money and jobs.

Power Back to the EPA

The bill’s goal is to give the power back to the Environmental Protection Agency when it comes to HFC refrigerants. In other words, the bill is designed to undo the court ruling back in August. Going way back to the summer of 2015 the EPA introduced the latest rule to their Significant New Alternative Policy, or SNAP. This new rule was known as Rule 20. This rule laid out the phase out of HFC refrigerants across the United States but the catch was that the EPA used the Clean Air Act as their cite for authority. This was the mistake that caused all of this controversy and which caused the courts to rule against the EPA. (Clean Air Act was designed for Chlorine containing refrigerant and additives and HFCs do not contain Chlorine.)

This new bill introduced last week resets all of this and allows the EPA to basically move forward with another type of SNAP Rule 20 plan. As stated from AHRInet.org, the bill is designed to have the EPA give a “market friendly approach to rule making that will help facilitate a cost-effective transition to alternative refrigerants while maintaining or enhancing the performance of the equipment that uses the new refrigerants.”

Besides that the bill also allows the EPA to initiate a cap and allocation system similar to what we saw with R-22. Like with all phase outs this cap and allocation would be staggered so that each year the numbers would shrink and shrink until the targeted HFC is deemed obsolete. This is nothing different to those of you in the industry.

The last thing that this bill mentions is that it gives the EPA the power of predictability. This goes hand in hand with the cap and allocation above. In order to successfully enact a cap and allocation program you have to have a baseline number and then a targeted number to shrink every year. We all know it’s a guessing game out there on how much refrigerant will be used each year. If this bill passes these yearly usage numbers and future predictions will be left in the hands of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Conclusion

Even if this bill does get past the Senate and the House it still has to get through the Trump White House. The question on everybody’s mind is would Trump sign it? I said it up above but the passage of this bill and or the passage of the Kigali Amendment is all going to come down to rather it will provide more jobs or if it will take away jobs and money from the United States. The whole ‘America First’ mindset. I do not believe Climate Change will be a factor in the administration’s decision.

At first glance yes, I can see the phase out of HFC refrigerants adding more jobs here in the United States. While there may be some shrinkage due to HFCs going away in the beginning I can definitely see the market growing as the HFO and Hydrocarbon refrigerants start to become the dominate refrigerant in the marketplace. After all, look at the new Honeywell plant in Louisiana and the new Chemours plant in Texas. Both of these plants are geared for producing HFO refrigerants. With HFCs out of the picture these plants can grow and grow all the while adding jobs. Perhaps Trump will see these new plants as a solid manufacturing add to the United States and push for phase out.

At this point though all of this is guessing. This bill was just introduced to the Senate and nothing has been done with it; and for the Kigali Amendment we’re still awaiting word from the Trump Administration on rather or not they will pass. For now we are in this weird limbo when it comes to HFC refrigerants. No one really knows what will happen. Will we continue using these refrigerants ten years down the road and slow the growth of HFOs, or will the Trump Administration see the light and either sign this bill or move the Kigali Amendment forward into the Senate? Only time will tell.

One thing is for certain the pricing on HFCs is definitely going to be interesting this summer with all of this uncertainty going around.

Thanks for reading folks,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

 

Donald Trump's Affect on the Refrigerant Industry

Well folks I hate to say I told you so, but I will anyways. A lot of people have said that the court’s ruling a few weeks ago that overturned the EPA’s planned phase out of HFC refrigerants wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t a big deal as we still had the Kigali Amendment on the table. In fact back in November of 2017 a Trump Administration employee, Judith Garber, stated that the administration was in favor of ratifying the amendment. But now, as expected, the tables have turned.

In some statements made yesterday by Trump’s adviser for International Environmental Policy, George David Banks, the intention of the Trump Administration is now unclear. Mr. Banks stated that the Administration was still reviewing and analyzing all of the data and possible outcomes that would come into effect by ratifying the Kigali Amendment. What this means is that they are digging into all of the details and turning over all the rocks to find out exactly what this amendment will do and if it will help or hurt American jobs, how it will affect the trade deficit, and any other potential detrimental effects.

“The president wants to make sure that any international environment agreement does not harm U.S. workers. If the president does decide to support Kigali … it will largely be because he wants to create U.S. jobs.” – George David Banks – Adviser for International Environmental Policy

If they find that this amendment is in fact a benefit to the American economy then I can see this amendment being sent to the Senate to be ratified. (A two-thirds vote would be required for the Senate to ratify.) However, if they find that this is going to hurt jobs and industry then I can see this amendment going the same way as the Paris Climate Deal. For those of you who don’t know Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Deal in 2017 due to the economic impacts that it would have the United States.

This administration is a wildcard, and in my opinion this is a good thing. There are so many companies and conglomerates lobbying for this HFC phase out. There are millions of dollars being spent to push through the end of HFC refrigerants. Like Trump or hate him he will come to his own decision without being influenced by the money. Unfortunately, while climate change is an issue I do not see it being a contributing factor to Trump’s decision. It’s all about money and jobs.

Back to the Montreal Protocol

If we do get the Kigali Amendment ratified by the Senate than the Environmental Protection Agency can begin to enact HFC phase outs across the country. There will not be a need for additional legislation. It will be like the court battle over SNAP Rule 20 hadn’t even happened.

Really, this is kind of funny. The EPA was told that they couldn’t phase out HFC refrigerants back in August 0f 2017 because they had overstepped their bounds. HFC refrigerants didn’t contain Chlorine and therefore couldn’t be phased out under the Montreal Protocol and the Clean Air Act. But, now if we adopt the Kigali Amendment then HFC refrigerants become part of the Montreal Protocol and then the EPA has the authority to begin phasing out. Talk about jumping through hoops. If there isn’t one way there’s always another…

Will He or Won’t He?

At this point in time folks I am leaning towards no. I do not believe Trump will push this amendment to the Senate. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that I could see Trump feeling like this new amendment could cause jobs and economic production. The second, and a bigger one in my opinion, is that part of the amendment requires richer countries such as the European Union and the United States to provide aid and support to poorer countries as they attempt to phase out HFC refrigerants in their countries. To me this is the killer. This is the main reason why Trump killed the Paris Climate Deal. He killed it due to all of the funding that the United States had to contribute. I have a feeling he is going to see this the same way.

If he does decide not to ratify this amendment there is no telling what will happen with HFCs in the United States’ Marketplace. While some manufacturers have already begun switching to lower GWP alternatives such as Hydrocarbons and HFOs many others haven’t. These smaller to medium sized businesses have been putting it off. It’s a lot of extra cost to absorb and most owners won’t do it until they absolutely need to.

They are running into this problem already in the European Union. Various countries and companies are asking for exemptions on their F-Gas rules because they are just not ready to transition over. Call it bad government planning or bad business planning but regardless these people aren’t ready.  (Example being Sweden.)

That European Union problem is happening even when there were solid phase out dates. They knew when these dates were coming and are still having trouble. If we do not adopt the Kigali and with the court overturning the EPA’s SNAP 20 program there is no telling what will happen here. We could be using HFCs easily into 2030 or even past. Sure, they will eventually began to disspiate just through attrition but to some concerned people it won’t be happening fast enough.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources