What’s Next, and How Will It Affect Your Business?
Dr. Rajan Rajendran, V.P. of System Innovation Center and Sustainability at Emerson Climate Technologies, Inc. recently presented an E360 Webinar that addressed the details of the EPA’s final refrigerant delisting ruling. With more than 500 industry participants in attendance, the 14th Webinar in Emerson’s E360 Webinar series explored the final rule’s short- and long-term impacts on the commercial refrigeration industry. As a nationally recognized expert in refrigerants, Rajan began by demonstrating the global trend toward lower global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants — particularly noting the European Union’s target of phasing down to sub-150 GWP refrigerants in commercial refrigeration applications by 2022.
In the U.S., the EPA recently acted under the authority of the Clean Air Act and published its final rule on the delisting of commonly used refrigerants in commercial applications. Rajan compared the EPA’s original delisting proposal with its final rule, noting that even though the final version takes a slightly more moderate stance, it still presents an aggressive phase-down timeline and many inherent challenges.
R-404A, R-507A, R-410A, R-407A/F and HFC-134a are among the most common refrigerants identified for delisting in the final rule; each is addressed individually per specific end use. Retail food refrigeration applications impacted include:
- Stand-alone refrigerators, walk-in freezers and reach-in coolers (open or with door). These units are fully charged with refrigerant at the factory and typically require only power to begin operation.
- Remote condensing units consisting of one or two compressors, one condenser and one receiver comprised in a single unit.
- Supermarket systems, defined as multiplex, centralized, direct or indirect systems that typically require more than two compressors.
Rajan discussed the intricacies of the final rule, including the EPA’s definitions of “new” and “retrofit” applications. He also pointed out an important clause of the rule regarding service of existing systems, as stated in the rule: “… existing systems may continue to be serviced and maintained for the useful life of that equipment using the original refrigerant.”
To help make sense of the rapidly changing refrigerant options, Rajan presented a detailed refrigerant landscape that includes likely alternatives and future, yet-to-be-approved options. Among these alternatives that were also recently EPA-approved under its significant new alternatives policy (SNAP) include:
- R-448A and R-449A — new medium-pressure blends that may replace many R-404A applications
- R-450A and R-513A — new lower-pressure blends with similar properties to HFC-134a
- R-290, R-744 and R-717 (propane, CO2 and ammonia) — natural refrigerant alternatives that have proven effective in specific applications
Adding to the complexity of the refrigerant ruling is the timing of the DOE’s new energy reduction ruling on walk-ins (remote condensing units) and stand-alone equipment applications. As an example, Rajan demonstrated the confluence of DOE and EPA rulings in medium-temperature, stand-alone applications — while the EPA has scheduled R-404A for phase-out in 2019, the DOE’s energy guidelines take effect in 2017. To minimize development costs, Rajan stressed the importance of addressing compliance with both rulings into one design cycle, not separate efforts that would approach each ruling individually.
Rajan opened the floor for an extensive Q&A session at the conclusion of the Webinar, at which time he addressed most of the attendee questions. In one of his final answers, Rajan summarized by saying that the future landscape of refrigeration will likely be made up of multiple refrigerants designed for specific applications. The days of a one-size-fits-all approach to refrigerants are quickly coming to a close.
To view this Webinar in its entirety and hear more of Rajan’s insights on the EPA’s final ruling, please visit our website.