HFCs

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

Sources

 

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

 

On January 26th, 2018 the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled against the appeal on HFC refrigerants. The appeal comes from an earlier court ruling back in August of 2017. In August a US Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2015 SNAP Rule  20. This rule, which was announced in 2015, was aimed at phasing out HFC refrigerants by using the EPA’s power under the Clean Air Act. Specifically, they referenced section 612 of the Clean Air Act. The problem here is that this section of the Clean Air Act was designed specifically for CFC and HCFC refrigerants. It has nothing to do with HFC refrigerants. It’s design was to stop the damage to the Ozone layer by offering alternative refrigerants. Since HFC’s do not contain Chlorine and do not damage the Ozone they should not fall in the same category.

Mexichem and Arkema, two of the world’s largest refrigerant manufacturers, saw this opportunity and ran with it. They filed a petition with the court against the Environmental Protection Agency. (The court documents can be found by clicking here.) This petition stated that the EPA had overstepped it’s bounds by using the Clean Air Act and their SNAP program to push down and require changes on HFC refrigerants. The EPA defended itself in court and even had Chemours and Honeywell come in as intervenors in the matter but ultimately in August of 2017 the court ruled in favor of Mexichem and Arkema.

The Appeal

This ruling put everything in a tail spin. For years companies, contractors, educators, and everyone thought that HFC refrigerants such as R-410A, R-134a, and R-404A were on their way out and would be phased down and removed very soon. Companies had already begun to build contingencies. Honeywell and Chemours had invested hundreds of millions of dollars in their new HFO refrigerant line. What was going to happen if this ruling became the law of the land?

It was only a month after the initial ruling that Chemours, Honeywell, and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) all filed an appeal against the court’s ruling from August. (I wrote an article about this appeal which can be found by clicking here.) They had two arguments for their appeal:

  1. First, they argue 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 drives me crazy folks. They know they didn’t go through Congress and they know that they didn’t do it the right way. But none of that matters. No. Their intent was good. I guess as long as my intent is good I can do anything I want.
  2. The second argument and just as ludicrous in my book is that these two companies invested two much money to have this ruling being turned on it’s head. Chemours noted that they had invested more then one billion dollars to research, develop, and commercialize 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 there is a thing called risk as all of you know.

A few days later after the appeal was filed the court ruled that the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 would stay into affect until another decision was made on the appeal. This basically put a stay on the August ruling and set things back to ‘normal.’ For the short term everyone began to calm down as most everyone expected the court to rule in favor of Honeywell and Chemours. (I wrote an article on this matter as well which can be found by clicking here.)

January’s Decision

As I said in the beginning of our article a few days ago the US Court ruled against Honeywell, Chemours, and NRDC’s appeal. The court stated that the EPA’s authority only extended to those refrigerants or foam blowing agents that contained Chlorine and that actively damaged the Ozone layer. Since HFC refrigerants do not contain Chlorine and do not damage the Ozone layer the EPA does not have authority nor permission to force changes across the country. This ruling has once again caused turmoil in the industry. What happens now? How will prices react? How will manufacturers react? Will HFCs be around for decades now or will HFOs and Natural refrigerants still have an opportunity to dominate the market?

David Doniger, a senior member of the NRDC group, was quoted as saying on Twitter that, “This isn’t over. There’s the option to appeal to [the Supreme Court]. And there are other ways to skin this cat.” In other words folks they are not giving up on this fight. One possible avenue to appeal HFCs in the United States is the most recent amendment made to the Montreal Protocol known as the Kigali Amendment.

Kigali To The Rescue?

For those of you who are in favor of phasing out HFC refrigerants across the United States there is some hope out there. In a meeting in October of 2016 that took place in Kigali, Rwanda negotiators from more than one-hundred and seventy countries met together  for many days and nights until they all finally came to an agreement on HFC refrigerants. There was an agreement that was reached known as the Kigali Amendment. Like the Montreal Protocol, this new amendment is aimed at having a global phase down of HFC refrigerants instead of a country by country approach. More details on this amendment can be found by clicking here.

Although it has been nearly a year and a half since the world came to agreement the United States has yet to ratify the amendment. In fact there is some doubt if the Trump Administration will ratify this amendment at all. The Trump Administration did comment on the matter in late 2017 which can be read below:

“Judith Garber, the principal deputy assistant secretary, at the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, confirmed that the US supported the Kigali Amendment and had started the procedures necessary to ratify.” – Source.

Judith continued to say that there is not an established timeline on when the United States would adopt the amendment. Keep in mind folks that she is not a higher ranking Trump Administration personnel. I honestly don’t know if we can take her word for this or not. Nothing against her, I’m just pointing out that this kind of thing has happened before. In the past year the Trump Administration has contradicted itself and with the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement it is tough to say if we will ratify or not. Looking at the pattern of Trump logically I would say that we would NOT ratify the amendment.

Arkema and Mexichem are both pushing for adoption and ratification of the Kigali Amendment. In fact that was the reason of their lawsuit against the EPA. They are in favor of having one unified agreement on HFC refrigerants across the world instead of having a patch work of regulations and requirements by country or even by state. I mention state as California’s version of the EPA known as CARB has already announced that they will be using the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 regulations for their state regardless of what the federal ruling is. There are other states here in the United States that are expected to follow suit.

Conclusion

Regardless of what your politics are or how you feel about HFCs and the environment I feel that I can safely say that these rulings and the rejection of an appeal was a direct correlation of the Trump being in the White House. In fact when the ruling was overturned the EPA was silent. They didn’t appeal. They didn’t do anything. It took outside companies like Honeywell and Chemours to file an appeal. I believe that the EPA was silent due to the new people and new management.

Again, regardless of politics, this phase out of HFCs by the EPA did overstep their power. If the goverment thought it was absolutely necessary to phase out these refrigerants then why not go through Congress and enact an actual act of legislation instead of having these agencies install new regulations? By going through Congress we wouldn’t be in this mess and this turmoil where no one knows for what is going to happen.

Thanks for reading and I hope this article was helpful!

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

EU Phasing out HFC

 

The F-Gas regulation is a set of rules and guidelines that is now in place throughout the European Union. It can be traced all the way back to a 2006 legislation called the ‘F-Gas Regulation.’  The initial goal of this legislation was to stabilize levels of the European Union’s F-Gas emissions to that of 2010 levels. (In other words, they did not want future years’ emissions to go above the 2010 baseline level.) The EU had no reason to be squeamish about these types of phase outs as they had finished years ahead of other countries when it came to CFC and HCFC phase outs. They knew what they were doing.

This initial 2006 regulation was met with success just like before with the others. Then in 2014 a new F-Gas regulation was adopted that posed much stricter rules and restrictions. This part two of the F-Gas regulation went into effect on January 1st, 2015. This law accomplished three main things:

  1. It limited the total amount of F-Gases that could be sold in the EU from 2015 and onwards. The goal here was to slowly phase out the quantity and imports of HFCs into the EU. Death by attrition.
  2. Banning the use of F-gases in many new types of equipment. The same way how R-22 is banned from use in new machines today here in the States. Again, death by attrition. If they wait out the old machines they will eventually fail and be replaced.
  3. Preventing emissions of current and existing machines by requiring routine checks, proper servicing, and recovery of refrigerants using the proper methods and techniques.

One way to look at this law from our perspective is that it is similar to the Clean Air Act here but instead of applying towards CFCs and HCFCs it is towards HFC refrigerants that we use everyday. I hate to say it but for whatever reason the EU always seems to be ahead of the US when it comes to things like this. Just look at R-134a. No new vehicles can use it over there. Here we’re still chugging along. But don’t get too comfortable folks because something similar will be coming here to the States as well. Some would argue that it already has with the SNAP Rule 20 from the EPA.

If you look at the table below you can see the schedule of the planned HFC refrigerant reductions in the European Union. While these numbers can mean a lot at first glance to fully understand them you need to understand the baseline. (It’s a percentage, but a percentage of what?) In this case the EU used the average quantity of CO2 placed on the market in the EU between the years of 2009 through 2012. This baseline number ended up being 183 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. (Remember folks that the Global Warming Potential uses CO2 as their baseline as well.) Now with an established baseline we can begin to see the impact of these reduction schedules showing in the table below.

2015 2016-17 2018-20 2021-23 2024-26 2027-29 2030
100% 93% 63% 45% 31% 24% 21%

While the F-Gas regulation went into effect in 2015 the European countries really haven’t begun to feel the pinch until just this year. Most of you will remember the prices going like crazy on certain refrigerants in early 2017. Imagine what the EU went through. I’ve seen stories of over one-thousand percent increases from last summer. Here’s the scary part. That was at the 2017 reduction levels. Can you imagine another thirty percent reduction at the drop of a hat come January 1st, 2018? This next jump in 2018 is one hell of a reduction. The question is will our European friends be ready for it or will they be in for a world of hurt?

Thanks for reading and I hope that I was able to answer your question,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Hello ladies and gentlemen! I hope everyone is ready for the new year. I myself am sick of this cold and ready for summer to start cooking again. We’re getting down to -12 here in Kansas City New Year’s Eve! I’m envious of all of you guys down there in the south…

The other day I was researching for an article that was unrelated to the European Union but upon reading a few articles I got down a rabbit hole and stumbled upon the upcoming 2018 HFC production/import reduction for the European Union. While most of us already know that the EU has been moving away from HFC refrigerants such as 134a, 404A, and 410A I bet most of you didn’t know that the reduction that 2018 brings to the EU is huge.  So large in fact that we may feel the ripples here in the United States. But before I get too into these numbers let me explain where this reduction comes from and the history behind it.

The F-Gas Regulation

All of this commotion about HFC refrigerants in Europe can be traced all the way back to a 2006 legislation called the ‘F-Gas Regulation.’  The initial goal of this legislation was to stabilize levels of the European Union’s F-Gas emissions to that of 2010 levels. (In other words, they did not want future years’ emissions to go above the 2010 baseline level.) The EU had no reason to be squeamish about these types of phase outs as they had finished years ahead of other countries when it came to CFC and HCFC phase outs. They knew what they were doing.

This initial 2006 regulation was met with success just like before with the others. Then in 2014 a new F-Gas regulation was adopted that posed much stricter rules and restrictions. This part two of the F-Gas regulation went into effect on January 1st, 2015. This law accomplished three main things:

  1. It limited the total amount of F-Gases that could be sold in the EU from 2015 and onwards. The goal here was to slowly phase out the quantity and imports of HFCs into the EU. Death by attrition.
  2. Banning the use of F-gases in many new types of equipment. The same way how R-22 is banned from use in new machines today here in the States. Again, death by attrition. If they wait out the old machines they will eventually fail and be replaced.
  3. Preventing emissions of current and existing machines by requiring routine checks, proper servicing, and recovery of refrigerants using the proper methods and techniques.

One way to look at this law from our perspective is that it is similar to the Clean Air Act here but instead of applying towards CFCs and HCFCs it is towards HFC refrigerants that we use everyday. I hate to say it but for whatever reason the EU always seems to be ahead of the US when it comes to things like this. Just look at R-134a. No new vehicles can use it over there. Here we’re still chugging along. But don’t get too comfortable folks because something similar will be coming here to the States as well. Some would argue that it already has with the SNAP Rule 20 from the EPA.

If you look at the table below you can see the schedule of the planned HFC refrigerant reductions in the European Union. While these numbers can mean a lot at first glance to fully understand them you need to understand the baseline. (It’s a percentage, but a percentage of what?) In this case the EU used the average quantity of CO2 placed on the market in the EU between the years of 2009 through 2012. This baseline number ended up being 183 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. (Remember folks that the Global Warming Potential uses CO2 as their baseline as well.) Now with an established baseline we can begin to see the impact of these reduction schedules showing in the table below.

2015 2016-17 2018-20 2021-23 2024-26 2027-29 2030
100% 93% 63% 45% 31% 24% 21%

While the F-Gas regulation went into effect in 2015 the European countries really haven’t begun to feel the pinch until just this year. Most of you will remember the prices going like crazy on certain refrigerants in early 2017. Imagine what the EU went through. I’ve seen stories of over one-thousand percent increases from last summer. Here’s the scary part. That was at the 2017 reduction levels. Can you imagine another thirty percent reduction at the drop of a hat come January 1st, 2018? This next jump in 2018 is one hell of a reduction. The question is will our European friends be ready for it or will they be in for a world of hurt?

How Will The US Be Affected?

How will this drastic decrease in production and imports affect the US? If this was a perfect world the reduction in demand from the EU will be planned by manufacturers like Chemours and Honeywell and it would end up being a perfect balance of inventory management and forecasting. But honestly folks, how often does that happen?

I can see two outcomes with this. We are going to have a shortage of HFCs across the globe because manufacturers cut their forecast by too much for 2018, OR we are going to see a surplus of inventory here in the United States as the EU won’t be taking in as much. If you were to ask me I would think it’s going to be the latter. At least, I hope it is. An extra supply of inventory never hurt anyone but a scarcity scenario is never good, unless you are the supplier.

Depending on how this plays out in 2018 this could either be a bonus or a crisis for 2018. What do you guys think? Feel free to leave some comments on this post in our new community forums.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Well folks, I’m already striking out on my prediction for R-134a pricing for next year. I wrote an article towards the beginning of this month stating that the price of R-134a would remain rather stable over the winter and into the summer of 2018. Lo and behold, two major refrigerant distributors announced significant increases in R-134a  pricing at about the same time I was writing my article. Hey, they call it a prediction for a reason!

Now, I won’t get into what companies that made these announcements as it doesn’t matter and I don’t want to get on anyone’s bad side here. I will just say that these two companies that made these announcements are major refrigerant distributors that most of you know of. I was made aware of these price change announcements by two of my readers and for that I am very thankful. I’ll take the time now to say if you or anyone else know of any price changes coming down please feel free to reach out to me  with the information. I will do my best to spread the knowledge all the while keeping the source close to my chest.

The Price Increase

Alright folks so let’s get onto the changes. The first notification I received was from December 1st, 2017. It stated that this company would be raising prices on R-134a product by $00.75 per pound effective immediately. The reason here wasn’t quite what I expected. It wasn’t due to lack of inventory. There is plenty of inventory at this point in time. No, it actually was due to a shortage of raw materials that are used to manufacture more R-134a. So, this price increase is in anticipation of their inventory being depleted and having to replenish. This was the first notification that I received and I took it with a grain of salt as it may have been just one company that decided to raise pricing.

Today I was notified by another reader of a price increase on R-134a from a different distributor. This distributor was going as far as raising their price by $1.00 per pound. This price change was effective immediately and was explicitly stated that no pre-buys would be allowed. So, if you had some cash to burn before the increase hit you were out of luck. In this letter there was no explanation as to why the increase came but I can only assume that it is blamed on raw materials again. This second notification definitely got my attention and alerted me that something was going on.

First, let’s take a look at that increase. For argument’s sake let’s call the price of a thirty pound cylinder before this price increase at $100.00. We now have an increase of $1.00 per pound. We’re looking at a price of $130.00 or an increase of thirty percent in one day. That is HUGE. Imagine if you go through pallets of this refrigerant per year. There are forty cylinders on a pallet and say a medium dealership will go through a couple pallets per year. With eighty cylinders this price increase alone will cost that dealership another $2,400 in cost. I hope you have some leftover product…

The Why?

The real question here is why did this increase occur? Everyone is stating that this increase is from a shortage of raw materials. I searched around the internet today looking for any recent articles discussing this sudden price change but I couldn’t find a thing. That’s rare but this change could be too recent for any major stories to be written yet.

I did some further research trying to find out what R-134a is actually made of. It consists of hydrogen fluoride, which is made from flurospar, and trichloroethylene or perchloroethylene. The big thing here is flurospar. Flurospar is what happened to refrigerant pricing towards the beginning of 2017. There was a shortage in China which caused a snowball effect across the world. For some reason, China provides fifty percent of the world’s flurospar. Talk about market control.

Now the cause of the shortage in China isn’t exactly known. I haven’t found concrete information on it except that China has introduced new environmental regulations on mining of flurospar. That could mean a whole host of things that I am not going to speculate on it. The big thing here is to know that we are dependent on the flurospar mining in China. With no flurospar we have no hydrogen fluoride and with no fluroide we have no refrigerant.

During my research I found an article from Thehill.com stating that America isn’t even mining ANY flurospar. Yes, that’s right folks… none. Like so many other things nowadays we are dependent on other countries for our supplies and when those other governments decide to throw a wrench into things we just sit back and take it. Maybe this will change in the future, but for now we are at their mercy.

 

Conclusion

I can only hope folks that with the lower demand from the European Union and the fact that we are still in the dead of winter here in the United States that this new price will have time to taper off and slowly go back down to normal before the spring and summer HVAC season kicks up again. Who knows though? This shortage of materials may just be a hiccup in the supply chain and it will work itself out before it causes to much impact. If it doesn’t then we could very easily be looking at a summer with 134a prices well above $200.00 a cylinder.

The thing everyone in the industry should be worried about is that if this is due to Flurospar shortage then get ready to see all of your refrigerant pricing go up. R-410A. R-404A. It’s going to be early 2017 all over again. Very few refrigerants are exempt from this. Heck, even the new 1234yf could be affected. Here’s hoping that things calm down before the heat cranks up!

Thanks for reading and as always if you come across any tips or leads feel free to reach out to me.

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

 

Sources

Let me preface this article by saying that this information is as of today, December 14th, 2017. This information may change in the future as it usually does but the facts that I present here are what is known today. In the summer of 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency added a new rule to their Significant New Alternatives Policy. (SNAP) This new rule, labeled Rule 20, was designed and targeted towards phasing out Hydroflurocarbon refrigerants. HFC refrigerants include some of the most popular refrigerants used today such as R-404A, R-410A, and R-134a.

The basis of these new phase outs are different from previous CFC and HCFC refrigerants. The HCFC/CFC’s were banned due to the Chlorine that they contained. The Chlorine actively damaged the Ozone layer when released into the atmosphere. While HFCs do not contain Chlorine they do have an extremely high Global Warming Potential, or GWP. GWP is basically a measurement of how much greenhouse gas a certain chemical traps in the atmosphere. Every scale has to have a ‘zero’ measurement point and for GWP we use Carbon Dioxide, or CO2. CO2’s GWP is set at 1. That is our base line. Some HFC refrigerants on the market today have a GWP number of nearly 4,000. Think about that for a moment. If the refrigerant is released into the atmosphere it has 4,000 times the effect of Carbon Dioxide. You can easily see how governments and scientists began to grow concerned.

Like with most scheduled phase outs by the EPA the approach was staggered over different refrigerants and different applications. The thinking here is to allow businesses, contractors, and consumers to have time to adapt to the changes. If they were to flip a figurative light switch from on to off then chaos would ensue. Business owners would protest due to the cost. Contractors would protest due to the lack of training and available resources on the new refrigerants. End user consumers would complain. It would be an all around catastrophe and the EPA would lose all backing when it comes to scheduled refrigerant phase outs.

The staggered approach allows people to adapt and it also allows these same people the benefit of foreseeing and planning for the future. Typically, when a phase out is scheduled it is years in advance. So, if a phase out was announced today on XYZ refrigerant the actual phase out most likely wouldn’t begin until 2020, at the earliest. This was the case for the HCFC refrigerant R-22 and it is the same case for HFC refrigerants under the SNAP Rule 20.

R-410A’s Phase Out Date

Well folks, as I explained above there is no cut and dry date when it comes to R-410A being phased out. Each type of application has a different set of rules and years that are associated to it. The EPA has provided an official fact sheet on their Rule 20 and the phase outs associated to it. It can be found by clicking here. This is a large document consisting over six pages with a lot of text, so to make things a little easier I’m going to break it down for you below in the next section. If you prefer to read through the document though by all means go for it! Below are the various phase out dates of R-410A. (Please note that this is strictly for the United States. Other countries will have differing dates.)

  • Unacceptable as of January 1st, 2019 for stand-alone medium-temperature retail refrigeration units with a compressor capacity below 2,200 Btu/hour and not containing a flooded evaporator (New).
  • Unacceptable as of January 1st, 2020 for stand-alone medium-temperature retail refrigeration units with a compressor capacity equal to or greater than 2,200 Btu/hour and Stand-Alone Medium-Temperature Units containing a flooded evaporator (New).
  • Unacceptable as of January 1st, 2020 for stand-alone low temperature retail refrigeration units (New).
  • Unacceptable as of January 1st, 2019 for new vending machines.

Notice something from this list? It’s a big one and it wasn’t included in the SNAP Rule 20. Yes, that’s right residential air conditioners are not included in this phase out of R-410A. What that means is that we are good to go to keep using 410A for your home or office air conditioner, at least for a while. I imagine the EPA held off on this part of the 410A application mainly because the industry just switched away from R-22 in 2010. It would seem rather crazy to make a completely new change again just ten years later. If you were to ask my opinion I would predict we begin to see 410A phasing out from new home air conditioners by the year 2025.

Conclusion

Remember at the beginning of this article that I said that all of this could change? Well, there was some drama over the summer of 2017. In August a federal court ruled that the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 overstepped the EPA’s authority. The ruling in essence overturned the EPA’s Rule 20 and removed the planned phase outs of HFC refrigerants. In the SNAP Rule 20 the EPA used Section 612 of the Clean Air Act for their justification. This section of the Clean Air Act strictly specifics on products that contain Chlorine or that cause damage to the Ozone layer. HFC refrigerants do not contain Chlorine nor do they cause ANY damaged to the Ozone. The courts looked at this and ruled in favor of the filing companies, Mexichem and Arkema, and against the EPA. I wrote more in-depth on this ruling in a previous article that can be found by clicking here.

At the time of the ruling and shortly there after no one knew what was going to happen. Everything was up in the air. It was about a month later that an appeal was filed to the court’s ruling. On September 22nd, 2017 Honeywell and Chemours officially filed an appeal to the ruling. I wrote an article about this as well which can be found by clicking here. A few days later it was announced that the court’s August ruling would be overturned until a decision was made on the appeal. (Click here for more info.) So, we are back to square one and it’s like nothing even happened in August.

The question is what will happen next? What will 2018 bring? Will the phase outs continue? Or, will the court rule against Honeywell, Chemours, and the EPA? Personally, I hope that the court’s ruling stands and that we go through Congress to phase out HFC refrigerants. It’s the right thing to do instead of having a goverment bureaucracy force the rules upon everyone all the while using an outdated section of the Clean Air Act.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Let me preface this article by saying that this information is as of today, December 14th, 2017. This information may change in the future as it usually does but the facts that I present here are what is known today. In the summer of 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency added a new rule to their Significant New Alternatives Policy. (SNAP) This new rule, labeled Rule 20, was designed and targeted towards phasing out Hydroflurocarbon refrigerants. HFC refrigerants include some of the most popular refrigerants used today such as R-404A, R-410A, and R-134a.

The basis of these new phase outs are different from previous CFC and HCFC refrigerants. The HCFC/CFC’s were banned due to the Chlorine that they contained. The Chlorine actively damaged the Ozone layer when released into the atmosphere. While HFCs do not contain Chlorine they do have an extremely high Global Warming Potential, or GWP. GWP is basically a measurement of how much greenhouse gas a certain chemical traps in the atmosphere. Every scale has to have a ‘zero’ measurement point and for GWP we use Carbon Dioxide, or CO2. CO2’s GWP is set at 1. That is our base line. Some HFC refrigerants on the market today have a GWP number of nearly 4,000. Think about that for a moment. If the refrigerant is released into the atmosphere it has 4,000 times the effect of Carbon Dioxide. You can easily see how governments and scientists began to grow concerned.

Like with most scheduled phase outs by the EPA the approach was staggered over different refrigerants and different applications. The thinking here is to allow businesses, contractors, and consumers to have time to adapt to the changes. If they were to flip a figurative light switch from on to off then chaos would ensue. Business owners would protest due to the cost. Contractors would protest due to the lack of training and available resources on the new refrigerants. End user consumers would complain. It would be an all around catastrophe and the EPA would lose all backing when it comes to scheduled refrigerant phase outs.

The staggered approach allows people to adapt and it also allows these same people the benefit of foreseeing and planning for the future. Typically, when a phase out is scheduled it is years in advance. So, if a phase out was announced today on XYZ refrigerant the actual phase out most likely wouldn’t begin until 2020, at the earliest. This was the case for the HCFC refrigerant R-22 and it is the same case for HFC refrigerants under the SNAP Rule 20.

R-134a’s Phase Out Date

Well folks, as I explained above there is no cut and dry date when it comes to R-134a being phased out. Each type of application has a different set of rules and years that are associated to it. The EPA has provided an official fact sheet on their Rule 20 and the phase outs associated to it. It can be found by clicking here. This is a large document consisting over six pages with a lot of text, so to make things a little easier I’m going to break it down for you below in the next section. If you prefer to read through the document though by all means go for it! Below are the various phase out dates of R-134a. (Please note that this is strictly for the United States. Other countries will have differing dates.)

  • Unacceptable as of Model Year (MY) 2021, except where allowed under a narrowed use limit through MY 2025.
  • Acceptable, subject to narrowed use limits, for vehicles exported to countries with insufficient servicing infrastructure to support other alternatives, for MY 2021 through MY 2025.
  • Unacceptable for all newly manufactured vehicles as of MY 2026.
  • Unacceptable as of January 1st, 2019 for stand-alone medium-temperature retail refrigeration units with a compressor capacity below 2,200 Btu/hour and not containing a flooded evaporator (New).
  • Unacceptable as of January 1st, 2020 for stand-alone medium-temperature retail refrigeration units with a compressor capacity equal to or greater than 2,200 Btu/hour and Stand-Alone Medium-Temperature Units containing a flooded evaporator (New).
  • Unacceptable as of January 1st, 2020 for stand-alone low-temperature retail refrigeration units (New).
  • Unacceptable as of January 1st, 2019 for new vending machines.

Obviously the big change here folks is the first few bullet points that state that R-134a will be unacceptable for use on new 2021 vehicle model years. That means that we only have a couple years left before the R-134a market starts to aggressively shrink and be replaced either with 1234yf, R-744, or another alternative mobile refrigerant.

Conclusion

Remember at the beginning of this article that I said that all of this could change? Well, there was some drama over the summer of 2017. In August a federal court ruled that the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 overstepped the EPA’s authority. The ruling in essence overturned the EPA’s Rule 20 and removed the planned phase outs of HFC refrigerants. In the SNAP Rule 20 the EPA used Section 612 of the Clean Air Act for their justification. This section of the Clean Air Act strictly specifics on products that contain Chlorine or that cause damage to the Ozone layer. HFC refrigerants do not contain Chlorine nor do they cause ANY damaged to the Ozone. The courts looked at this and ruled in favor of the filing companies, Mexichem and Arkema, and against the EPA. I wrote more in-depth on this ruling in a previous article that can be found by clicking here.

At the time of the ruling and shortly there after no one knew what was going to happen. Everything was up in the air. It was about a month later that an appeal was filed to the court’s ruling. On September 22nd, 2017 Honeywell and Chemours officially filed an appeal to the ruling. I wrote an article about this as well which can be found by clicking here. A few days later it was announced that the court’s August ruling would be overturned until a decision was made on the appeal. (Click here for more info.) So, we are back to square one and it’s like nothing even happened in August.

The question is what will happen next? What will 2018 bring? Will the phase outs continue? Or, will the court rule against Honeywell, Chemours, and the EPA? Personally, I hope that the court’s ruling stands and that we go through Congress to phase out HFC refrigerants. It’s the right thing to do instead of having a goverment bureaucracy force the rules upon everyone all the while using an outdated section of the Clean Air Act.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Let me preface this article by saying that this information is as of today, December 14th, 2017. This information may change in the future as it usually does but the facts that I present here are what is known today. In the summer of 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency added a new rule to their Significant New Alternatives Policy. (SNAP) This new rule, labeled Rule 20, was designed and targeted towards phasing out Hydroflurocarbon refrigerants. HFC refrigerants include some of the most popular refrigerants used today such as R-404A, R-410A, and R-134a.

The basis of these new phase outs are different from previous CFC and HCFC refrigerants. The HCFC/CFC’s were banned due to the Chlorine that they contained. The Chlorine actively damaged the Ozone layer when released into the atmosphere. While HFCs do not contain Chlorine they do have an extremely high Global Warming Potential, or GWP. GWP is basically a measurement of how much greenhouse gas a certain chemical traps in the atmosphere. Every scale has to have a ‘zero’ measurement point and for GWP we use Carbon Dioxide, or CO2. CO2’s GWP is set at 1. That is our base line. Some HFC refrigerants on the market today have a GWP number of nearly 4,000. Think about that for a moment. If the refrigerant is released into the atmosphere it has 4,000 times the effect of Carbon Dioxide. You can easily see how governments and scientists began to grow concerned.

Like with most scheduled phase outs by the EPA the approach was staggered over different refrigerants and different applications. The thinking here is to allow businesses, contractors, and consumers to have time to adapt to the changes. If they were to flip a figurative light switch from on to off then chaos would ensue. Business owners would protest due to the cost. Contractors would protest due to the lack of training and available resources on the new refrigerants. End user consumers would complain. It would be an all around catastrophe and the EPA would lose all backing when it comes to scheduled refrigerant phase outs.

The staggered approach allows people to adapt and it also allows these same people the benefit of foreseeing and planning for the future. Typically, when a phase out is scheduled it is years in advance. So, if a phase out was announced today on XYZ refrigerant the actual phase out most likely wouldn’t begin until 2020, at the earliest. This was the case for the HCFC refrigerant R-22 and it is the same case for HFC refrigerants under the SNAP Rule 20.

R-404A’s Phase Out Date

Well folks, as I explained above there is no cut and dry date when it comes to R-404A being phased out. Each type of application has a different set of rules and years that are associated to it. The EPA has provided an official fact sheet on their Rule 20 and the phase outs associated to it. It can be found by clicking here. This is a large document consisting over six pages with a lot of text, so to make things a little easier I’m going to break it down for you below in the next section. If you prefer to read through the document though by all means go for it! Below are the various phase out dates of R-404A. (Please note that this is strictly for the United States. Other countries will have differing dates.)

  • Retrofitted supermarket systems as of July 20, 2016;
  • New supermarket systems as of Jan. 1, 2017;
  • Retrofitted remote condensing units as of July 20, 2016;
  • New remote condensing units as of Jan. 1, 2018;
  • Retrofitted vending machines as of July 20, 2016;
  • New vending machines as of Jan. 1, 2019;
  • Retrofitted stand-alone retail food refrigeration equipment as of July 20, 2016;
  • New stand-alone medium-temperature units with a compressor capacity below 2,200 Btuh and not containing a flooded evaporator as of Jan. 1, 2019;
  • New stand-alone medium-temperature units with a compressor capacity equal to or greater than 2,200 Btuh and stand-alone medium-temperature units containing a flooded evaporator as of Jan. 1, 2020; and
  • New stand-alone low-temperature units as of Jan. 1, 2020.

Conclusion

Remember at the beginning of this article that I said that all of this could change? Well, there was some drama over the summer of 2017. In August a federal court ruled that the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 overstepped the EPA’s authority. The ruling in essence overturned the EPA’s Rule 20 and removed the planned phase outs of HFC refrigerants. In the SNAP Rule 20 the EPA used Section 612 of the Clean Air Act for their justification. This section of the Clean Air Act strictly specifics on products that contain Chlorine or that cause damage to the Ozone layer. HFC refrigerants do not contain Chlorine nor do they cause ANY damaged to the Ozone. The courts looked at this and ruled in favor of the filing companies, Mexichem and Arkema, and against the EPA. I wrote more in-depth on this ruling in a previous article that can be found by clicking here.

At the time of the ruling and shortly there after no one knew what was going to happen. Everything was up in the air. It was about a month later that an appeal was filed to the court’s ruling. On September 22nd, 2017 Honeywell and Chemours officially filed an appeal to the ruling. I wrote an article about this as well which can be found by clicking here. A few days later it was announced that the court’s August ruling would be overturned until a decision was made on the appeal. (Click here for more info.) So, we are back to square one and it’s like nothing even happened in August.

The question is what will happen next? What will 2018 bring? Will the phase outs continue? Or, will the court rule against Honeywell, Chemours, and the EPA? Personally, I hope that the court’s ruling stands and that we go through Congress to phase out HFC refrigerants. It’s the right thing to do instead of having a goverment bureaucracy force the rules upon everyone all the while using an outdated section of the Clean Air Act.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ