By Jitendra Bhambure, Executive VP – R&D and Technology, Blue Star, Thane
A Workshop on Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) Management was convened on July 11-12, in Paris France, in response to discussions held at the twenty-fifth Meeting of the Parties (MOP 25) to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The sessions addressed four topics related to HFC management, namely: technical aspects; legal aspects; finance and technology transfer; and policies and measures. Over 300 participants from more than 100 countries representing governments, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, academia and industry attended the workshop. I represented the Indian industry, on behalf of RAMA, as a panellist in the 4th session. The Workshop ended with conclusion and identification of further discussion points.
Phasing out of CFCs and HCFCs
The Montreal Protocol was signed to reduce Ozone Depleting Substances, which affect ozone in the upper most layer of the atmosphere and act as a natural filter for solar UV radiations. Through the Montreal Protocol, the countries were classified as developed and developing countries, and different time-lines were decided for the phase-out. Within the phase-out, different time-lines were adopted for use in new equipment and for servicing the installed equipment. Depending upon the number of chlorine atoms, phase-out priority was chalked out. CFCs and HCFCs were replaced by HFCs. The developed countries started phase out of HCFCs in the last decade of 20th century, and the US stopped using HCFC from January 1, 2010. With the success of phase-out of CFCs, an accelerated programme for phase-out of HCFC was adopted in 2007 for the developing countries. As per this programme, the base line for each country was considered as an average of 2009 and 2010. From January 1, 2013, the consumption was frozen at the base line level, under the Phase-1 Programme. By January 1, 2015, the reduction to be achieved is 10%, followed by 32.5% by 2020. Complete phase-out in new equipment will be in 2030, and in 2040 for the service sector.
Issues with Adoption of HFCs
In the process of phasing out of CFCs & HCFCs, HFCs were adopted with ‘0’ ODP; however, these refrigerants have high Global Warming Potential (GWP). The GWP number for R-22 is 1850, against which R-404a used in refrigeration application has a GWP of 4000, R-410A has 2100 and R-134a has 1450. Research has shown that approximately 6% of the refrigerant leaks out of the equipment within the life span and due to poor end-of-life management. Projections indicate that with rapid development, usage of air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment in the developed countries will increase the demand for HFCs. A study paper suggests that by 2050, the emission due to refrigerants will contribute to 25% of Global Warming. This will wipe out all the progress achieved so far in combating climate change, and will have a severe impact on containing the temperature rise of the earth to 2°C. Developed countries are proposing to formulate a phase down policy under Montreal Protocol.
Alternative to HFCs: Challenges
To achieve a low GWP, the best choice is natural refrigerants: Ammonia, Carbon Dioxide and Hydro-carbons. The sessions were built to discuss the issues and challenges of adopting low GWP refrigerants. The issues are flammability of Hydro-carbons and associated safety. Companies like DuPont and Honeywell are in the process of developing new blends. Daikin is promoting R-32, which has GWP of 675, and is classified as mildly flammable. ASHRAE is testing all the new refrigerants and blends. The most important issue of safety can be addressed by developing Safety Standards around which technologies can be adopted to build safe systems. However, Safety Standards are adopted at a country level, and there is an urgent need for harmonization, which is not easy. Various countries have taken initiatives, with the lead taken by Europe, and F-Gas Regulation will be adopted. US is in the process of preparing its own policy. The approach to\ resolve the adoption of non-HFC refrigerant is by sector and by country/ group of the countries. Various individual experts shared their experiences. Germany has taken a lead in funding pilot projects in various countries. Godrej, funded by Germany, has introduced split air-conditioners using R-290 (Hydro-carbon). Discussions took place on expansion and scaling up of these projects, but conclusion could not be reached. R-290 can be adopted only up to 1TR, and with specific choice of Heat Exchangers in 1.5TR. India will have technology challenges due to high ambient conditions as well. There is a concern about patents. As most of the low GWP refrigerants are flammable, the challenges are huge in the servicing of equipment. The concerns of India were endorsed and backed by China, Middle-East and African countries. The challenges of Middle-East and Africa are higher than ours, as they are net technology importers. China and India have the capabilities to adopt and develop technologies. As far as developed countries are concerned, Japan will be adopting R-32 in Room AC and Commercial Sector. Europe, where refrigeration is the largest industry, will fi nd its own solutions and restrict the use of refrigerants above 750 GWP in the Air-Conditioning Sector after 2025. R-32 is likely to become the refrigerant of choice. US indicated that they will permit the use of R-32 in sealed systems, and allow the use of refrigerant below 1500 GWP up to 2025. R-134a can be used in chillers. The adoption strategy of China, which produces 80 million Room ACs, is not known. Indian industry made its point that it will not agree to any mandatory programme of phase-down, unless technically proven, economically feasible, matured and safe refrigerants, are available. We will voluntarily experiment with alternatives.