Latest news on the regulation of flammable refrigerants

Because many alternative low-GWP refrigerants are flammable, the evolution of the regulation governing these refrigerants is an issue that gives rise to many debates and initiatives.
Safety standards for flammable low-GWP refrigerants was a hot topic of the 31st Meeting of the Parties (MOP31) to the Montreal Protocol, which took place in Roma, Italy in November 2019 (see the November 2019 issue of the IIR Newsletter).

During a side-event dedicated to safety standards, Fabio Polonara (member of TEAP, co-chair of RTOC and IIR delegate of Italy) made a presentation on the “latest developments on refrigeration standards at international and European level”. In conclusion of his presentation, he stressed that “acknowledging the fact that available alternatives are limited and most often flammable, most of all, safety standards have to be adequately updated and improved in order to take into account technology innovation and extended applications.” (1)

In his presentation “Evolution of safety standards for A3 refrigerants in RACHP systems”, Daniel Colbourne – author of the IIR Informatory Note on Flammable Refrigerants (2) – highlighted the “numerous barriers to overcome” in order to “implement favourable requirements in safety standards for A3 (highly flammable) refrigerants”, and especially “commercial opposition”. From a technical point of view, leak-hole size (which determines the leak mass flow) and refrigerant distribution in a space were the most challenging issues. (1)

Matthias Meyer summarized the progress of the work achieved by CEN and CENELEC European committees following the M/555 European Commission request to develop a European standardisation deliverable on the use of flammable refrigerants, in particular those classified as A3, in refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment. (1)

Furthermore, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Ozone Secretariat introduced its online tool for safety standards for flammable low-GWP refrigerants. This interactive tool presents a non-exhaustive list of international, regional and national safety standards for refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pump equipment developed by relevant Standards Organizations. (3)

On the same issue of risks linked to flammable refrigerants, within the LIFEFRONT project, “Europe’s largest leakage size database” was recently published. It includes the refrigerant leak size database and the concentration database. The refrigerant leak size database provides a directory for leak-hole sizes and corresponding mass-flow rates in refrigeration, heat pump, and air-conditioning equipment, helping to inform configuration testing to determine safe operating limits for flammable refrigerants;  the concentration database looks at identifying gas concentrations arising from refrigerant leaks in different parts of refrigeration, heat pump and air-conditioning systems. (4)

(1)    MOP31 website  

(2)    36th Informatory Note on Refrigeration Technologies