In January, the EU began to introduce new regulations on the use of fluorinated greenhouse gases (F Gases), as they have significant global warming potential and could accelerate climate change.
This impacted some commercial refrigeration manufacturers, as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) such as R404A are commonly used in refrigeration systems.
The legislation limits the total amount of the most important F Gases that can be sold in the EU, phasing them down in steps to one-fifth of 2014 sales in 2030. It also bans the use of F Gases in many new types of equipment where less harmful alternatives are widely available, and prevents emissions of F Gases from existing equipment by requiring checks, proper servicing and recovery of the gases at the end of the equipment’s life.
Some manufacturers are ahead of the game when it comes to meeting the regulations, however. Glenn Roberts, MD of Gram UK, commented: “There will undoubtedly be huge changes in the way the current manufacturing system works, and in turn, the products on the market. The restriction and reduction of the highest global warming potential refrigerants will lead to the increase in use of hydrocarbons and the testing of new refrigerants such as perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) which will take time to emerge on the market and will all require handling certification.
“Gram is in a fortunate position as for the last 13 years all of our refrigeration units have been hydrocarbon based. So the new legislation that requires the phasing out of F Gases does not have an initial impact on the way in which Gram manufactures its products.
“Long since an advocator of sustainability, Gram’s brand ethos has always been to supply the foodservice industry with the most energy efficient refrigeration units available and to reduce the industry’s negative impact on the environment. Removing gases that significantly contribute to global warming such as F Gases was an obvious first step to make.”
However, he believes the initial impact on the industry will be great, with several manufacturers having to reassess their whole production cycle. “Despite these initial struggles, the new regulations should be viewed as an overall positive step towards retaining the longevity of the industry,” he said.
“The use of hydrocarbons also raises some issues as both R290 and R600 require handling certificates and hydrocarbon specific tools and parts, for example compressors and thermostats, which manufacturers, suppliers and buyers will need to consider carefully before making a decision on next steps.” [[page-break]]
The industry has 15 years to put in place measures that adhere to the new legislation, so Roberts explained that the first steps towards this will include managing and scheduling the phasing out process, the reinvention of the manufacturing process and even the retraining of manufacturing and service teams, both in-house and externally.
Meanwhile, Electrolux Professional has worked closely with its European head office to adjust the components of its refrigeration product range in order to comply with the legislation changes. “Prior to its introduction, we already have certain products which use the ‘green gas’ R290 (hydrocarbon) which means that it is not a very complex task for us to roll this out across our entire refrigeration range,” reported Sneha Mashru, regional category manager for refrigeration at Electrolux Professional.
“Overall, we welcome the change and see the elimination of the less environmentally friendly gases as a huge positive for the foodservice industry. Our distributors can be assured that Electrolux is ready for the new requirements and we are on hand with aiding them with advice to their customers.”
The manufacturer’s entire refrigeration range was completely ready for the strictest phases of the restriction before the first stage had come into force, so it will not need to revise its product lines from now on. “Our products are already environmentally friendly, and listed on the Energy Technology List, as well as being CECED certified and compliant with the EUP energy labelling system,” added Mashru.
“As with any product adaptations, investments are required to evolve our manufacturing processes and ensure our factory remains the safest possible working environment. As a business, we always strive for environmental excellence.”
For any of the refrigeration appliances which may have become obsolete due to the regulations, all Electrolux spare parts are kept for 10 years. “So our distributors and their customers can be assured that they will be supported both during the transition and thereafter. We also have product specialists on hand to advise our distribution network throughout this period of change, who can assist with the handling of a variety of queries from customers,” Mashru detailed.
Over at Foster, the firm ensured that all its engineers practicing refrigeration servicing were fully qualified to C&G 2078/9 ahead of the initial 2008 implementation of the F Gas restrictions and the new 2014 guidelines. Chris Playford, market and development director said: “Our service division is able to offer full customer support to ensure our customers’ equipment is maintained and fully F Gas compliant.”
The manufacturer does have a small number of products yet to be converted to hydrocarbons which are currently being redeveloped for non-HFC refrigerants, as part of their lifecycle plan. With respect to larger products which cannot be developed in line with the requirements of the maximum practical charge weight of hydrocarbons, Foster is reviewing long-term alternative refrigerants. [[page-break]]
According to Playford: “We see no benefit in considering transitional refrigerants in these cases, as these would place additional complications at the feet of the service industry and do not support our environment policies with respect to carbon reduction.”
The challenge Foster faces is similar to other organisations in the professional refrigeration foodservice market, in that there are no readily available alternatives for larger systems which exceed the maximum practical charge weight beyond 2022. “We continue to work closely with our supply chain to evaluate new alternatives and come up with a solution to this dilemma. Only once new refrigerants have been fully evaluated in a range of end user operating conditions, would they be offered to our customers,” said Playford.
The broad availability of hydrocarbons means that many products Foster sells today are not subject to F Gas restrictions. For those products where its customers choose HFC refrigerants, the manufacturer will ensure either virgin refrigerants or transitional refrigerants will be available for the practical life of the equipment, via its service network.
Elsewhere, Hoshizaki started the move to hydrocarbon (R290) refrigerant some 4 years ago and was one of the first companies to come up with an ice machine that complied with the maximum 150grams of hydrocarbon. Because hydrocarbon R290 technology has moved forward during the last 4 years, Hoshizaki has updated some of its earliest hydrocarbon products.
Additional ice machines with hydrocarbon refrigerant are being introduced to the manufacturer’s range, providing dealers and customers with two refrigerant options (HC and HFC) per model.
Mike Simmons, national sales manager, Hoshizaki UK, commented: “There will always be challenges in a technologically developing world and Hoshizaki has long maintained a position at the forefront of changes and improvements. The company has a large, Japanese based, R&D department which is constantly looking at better solutions that may even involve new refrigerants in the future. However, currently, the focus is on compliance with existing regulations and HC refrigerant.”
Currently all older Hoshizaki machines will be supported as normal until such time the ban is fully enforced.