The HCFC phase-out challenge (4)

The results of a recent study* sponsored by the refrigerants manufacturer DuPont show that 65% of refrigerating plants in 9 key European Union markets were still using HCFC refrigerants 18 months before the ban on use of virgin HCFCs in EU refrigerating plants as of January 1, 2010 in application of Regulation 2037/2000 on substances that deplete the ozone layer. Although awareness levels of the legislation are high - 90% of respondents claimed to be aware of the impeding ban - the large banks of HCFCs suggest that " it has not been coupled with a sense of urgency to ensure compliance". DuPont noted that the estimated 130 000 tonnes of HCFCs in use - primarily in the form of R-22 - would require tens of thousands of these installations to be serviced every week, creating a "significant strain on contractor services". Although recycled HCFCs are authorized until 2015, DuPont said given the high cost of the recycling process, stocks might meet only 15% of the capacity needed to service remaining plants using HCFCs. End-users have been warned to expect continued rise in the price of R-22; 10 to 15% increases in price are likely to become the norm every quarter until December 2009, according to industry sources. In order to help European end-users to cushion the upfront investment required to comply with legislation, companies such as UK-based Klima-Therm and Cool-Therm propose to replace R-22 chillers with modern equipment and to recondition and export the R-22 plant to developing countries including China and India where consumption of HCFCs is permitted under the Montreal Protocol until 2030. Even if this option enables European end-users to get high-efficiency replacement systems for a reduced cost and developing country end-users to get low cost reconditioned refrigerating plants, this practice is questionable: it simply shifts the consumption of ozone-depleting HCFCs from industrialized to developing countries and does not provide the latter with incentives to move to environmentally friendly refrigerants. *: Based on a cross-industry study in UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and Poland between April and June 2008