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Low GWP HFC refrigerants vital to EU cleaner cooling aims, says Carrier

January 11, 2022

Company’s European product manager for chillers argues that lower GWP HFC products will have a vital role to play alongside new blends and natural refrigerants to support F-Gas targets.

Carrier sees a continued role for lower GWP refrigerants such as HFCs in the medium-term future of the cooling sector despite recent high-profile calls in Europe to phase-out their use entirely.

The manufacturer, which is currently introducing a range of technologies such as air-cooled chillers, screw chillers and heat pumps that run on lower GWP products, said it was confident that a mixture of HFOs, HFCS and natural products will all be needed to meet major environmental targets.

‘Phase-out’ concerns

William Doll, Carrier’s European market product manager for chiller systems, said there was some industry concern at a motion from the European Parliament made at November’s COP26 International Climate Change Conference about refrigerant policy.

This statement called on European authorities to include a commitment within upcoming revisions to the F-Gas regulation that would lead to the “phasing out” of HFCs, Mr Doll noted.

Bodies representing the cooling sector such as the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE) have been critical of the plans. They argue that backing a phase-out over a ‘phase-down’ of HFCs would undermine current progress and investment in moving to new systems and products.

EPEE previously stated, “This may seem a small quibble over language, but the difference is important. A phase-out would lead to a full ban on using HFCs, while a phase-down process is a flexible and market-orientated approach, recognising that not all HFC applications are replaceable.”

Mr Doll argued that the phase-out call would be controversial to many in the cooling sector considering that the F-Gas regulations were already in place to control and ensure a move to lower GWP products that can support EU and UK carbon reduction efforts.

William Doll Carrier’s European market product manager for chiller systems

“The mainstream industry view is that the new generation of lower and very low GWP refrigerants, such as HFOs, low-GWP HFCs, new blends and natural refrigerants, will help achieve the 2030 EU goals.”

HFO switch

HFOs were now widely being used across Europe despite initially slow take up, according to Mr Doll. He said there has been an acceleration in growth for HFO products in 2021.

Mr Doll cited statistics from trade association Eurovent that found that 38 per cent of screw chillers sold in Europe last year used R1234ze, a HFO product. The same statistics said that 62 per cent of the same systems sold in France in 2021 made use of the refrigerant.

He said, “HFO R1234ze will continue to replace R134a over the coming years. Refrigerant blends like R-515B (GWP 299) will also continue to offer an alternative for customers wanting an efficient lower-GWP A1 refrigerant.”

Mr Doll said that Carrier did see a role for natural refrigerants, with CO2 already being widely in use for commercial refrigeration as well as in condensing units for supermarkets and warehouses. He claimed that there were challenges and vital technical considerations in how natural refrigerant products such as CO2 is used in certain systems.

He said, “It is not suitable for air conditioning applications because of its lower efficiency at this temperature range. However, it may find application in high- temperature heat pumps for producing domestic hot water.”

Hydrocarbons were another very low GWP product that Carrier said also had high flammability that would create some challenges for adoption outside of small air-cooled systems, while propane was also described by the company as “very promising” for use in air-source heat pumps.

Carrier preference

From Carrier’s own operations, Mr Doll said the company believed sustainability refrigerant needed to be considered in terms of both a low GWP rating and a high level of energy efficiency. This would be important to reduce both the direct carbon emissions linked to the refrigerant itself, as well as the indirect emissions from the energy required to operate cooling equipment.

Carrier said it has opted for R32 as its chosen refrigerant for scroll chillers and heat pumps that could deliver up to 77 per cent reductio in direct carbon emissions over R140A equipment.

Over the coming year, the company is planning to launch total heat recovery and free-cooling options that are intended to meet demand from data centre and healthcare operators. It will also be expanding its R32 AquaSnap range of heat pumps to include models with larger capacities of 800kW and more.

In the longer-term, HFO refrigerants such as R1234ze and R1233zd would be important refrigerants for Carrier’s screw, centrifugal chillers, as well as heat pump products, according to Mr Doll.

He said, “To date, there are more than 1,000 Carrier HFO chillers installed in various climates in multiple applications, including commercial cooling, industrial process projects and district heating.”

“R-515B is the long-term refrigerant for water-cooled screw chillers and heat pumps in indoor applications where an A1 safety classification and lower GWP is required.”

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