One of the sessions of the 2014 ATMOsphere America conference held on 18-19 June 2014 in San Francisco focused on regulatory updates relevant for the wider adoption of natural refrigerant solutions in North America, Europe and Japan. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) brought to attention the possible measures to limit the use of high-GWP refrigerants currently under consideration in the state of California.Moderated by Keilly Witman, shecco America’s VP for Business Development, the regulatory session held on the second day of ATMOsphere America 2014 provided an overview of planned and recently adopted legislative changes that have a direct impact on the use of natural refrigerants in various applications in North America and other regions, especially Europe and Japan.
California to reduce HFCs by a minimum of 80% by 2050
The state of California, a the leader when it comes to the implementation of environmental legislation in North America, has committed to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050. As pointed out by Glenn Gallagher, Air Pollution Specialist at the California Air Resources Board (CARB), actions to reduce short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), such as HFCs by at least 80% will be necessary in order to help accomplish the goal. To this end, CARB is currently considering a number of measures outlined in the recently published Scoping Plan that would limit the use of high-GWP refrigerants, such as an HFC phase-down, low-GWP requirements (high-GWP bans), a high-GWP fee and ODS destruction offset programmes.
Whilst the new f-gas legislation considered in California will not initially have an impact in other US states, Gallagher noted that “most regulations that the Air Resources Board passes for clean air eventually tend to become national regulations.”
Industry to be consulted on new California legislation
The CARB is currently working on a SLCP Draft Reduction Plan, which will outline details of the proposed measures that will eventually be adopted. The draft plan, to be published by 2015, will be prepared in close collaboration with the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and the European Union. Gallagher stressed that once publicly available, CARB will welcome industry comments and recommendations on the proposed measures.
Ed Cheng, Associate Professor at the San Francisco State University highlighted another opportunity for industry to provide input on the availability of low-GWP refrigerants and possible models to evaluate their benefits. The University has been selected by the CARB to conduct a cost benefit and feasibility analysis of low-GWP refrigerants in the sector of commercial refrigeration, which will be initiated in August 2014. Some of the major modeling challenges highlighted by Cheng include the difficulties in addressing impacts of varying climates on refrigeration system operation and the need for accurate input data or calculation methodology for refrigerant leak rates.
New EPA rulemakings to open up opportunities for natural refrigerants in the US
Tom Land who leads the EPA’s Greenchill Partnership updated the ATMOsphere America participants on actions that the EPA is taking domestically and internationally to reduce emissions from HFC use. In addition to the recently published venting exemption of hydrocarbons in specific uses, the EPA is planning to issue two separate rulemaking proposals this summer, which would allow the use of certain low-GWP refrigerants (including hydrocarbons) in certain new applications and prohibit the use of certain high-GWP HFCs in specific end uses. More concretely, in the sector of commercial refrigeration, the EPA is contemplating the prohibition of the use of R134a and HFC blends with higher GWPs in vending machines and stand-alone reach-in coolers, as well as the use of R507A, R404A and other high GWP HFC blends in multiplex supermarket systems.
“At present it appears that industry is moving towards the use of carbon dioxide as a refrigerant or as a circulating fluid within larger equipment, especially commercial refrigeration equipment. As a result several UL standards have been revised and now include requirements applicable to equipment using CO2,” noted Barry Karnes of the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) who presented about UL’s work relating to the safe use of natural refrigerants.
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