Days of R404A are numbered
Higher-GWP refrigerants could quickly be in short supply and growing in price tag as stockpiles dwindle, global pressures strike our shores, and the HFC stage-down quotas commence to chunk. And in accordance to professionals at AIRAH’s Refrigeration 2022 convention this week, that signifies it’s time for contractors to urgently swap away from R404A.
When the HFC stage-down began in January 2018, concerns ended up voiced about the risk of prices spiking – as they had carried out in Europe less than the F-Gas regulation. Individuals fears, on the other hand, proved mainly unfounded in Australia the earlier 4 years have been comparatively clean in conditions of refrigerant price ranges.
Whilst that has meant stability, business observers say that it has also produced complacency. At the “cold face”, expertise about the phase-down and the have to have to changeover to reduce-GWP refrigerants remains lower. In individual, R404A remains a common preference for small- and medium-temperature refrigeration purposes, these types of as commercial refrigeration, grocery store show instances, cold rooms, transportation refrigeration and course of action cooling.
But as the speakers at Refrigeration 2022 warned, that will before long have to improve.
Source shock coming
Sythree Director John McCormack opened proceedings with a presentation on the modifying landscape of refrigerants and the forces driving the change. He noted that the recent cost of refrigerants is decrease than really should be predicted because of to inventory stockpiled before the HFC stage-down commenced. This inventory has successfully “masked” the very first two reductions in Australia’s refrigerant import quota.
But that stockpile is shrinking. Dependent on the information in Chilly Hard Facts 2021, McCormack estimates that in 2023, Australia could be struggling with a shortfall of as a lot as 500 tonnes of refrigerant.
“Importers have a fixed quota,” he states, “and as the quota methods down they have significantly less CO2e to promote. So they will elevate the value for better GWP items to replicate the quota they take in.”
Accordingly, McCormack expects speedy boosts for large-GWP items these kinds of as R404A and R410A. He also predicts shortages.
“When the stock is absent in the to start with fifty percent of following 12 months, importers and wholesalers will have to glimpse at what they provide. There is not more than enough quota to import ample HFCs to meet up with the demand, irrespective of the price tag. They will have to pick which shoppers they aid with their limited supply.”
Some of this stress will be eased by transferring to conveniently obtainable HFO blends that can be utilized in existing tools, these types of as replacing R404A with R449A, and changing R134a with R513A.
“This would no cost up enough quota to deal with the step downs for 2022, 2024 and 2026,” suggests McCormack, “which would give the marketplace the time to upskill for these new technologies. Of training course, this will not materialize. All the supermarkets and coldrooms simply cannot move straightaway, and neither can all the cars and trucks and other R134a products.
“We will see a supply shock. That’s when the market place will consider that this section-down is serious.”
In the meantime, other components will also put upward force on selling prices. Thanks to raw material charge boosts and international freight, virgin HFC prices have greater by about 17 for each cent. The value of distribution close to Australia has also greater sharply with rising gas rates. These costs will be handed on in the close to long term.
Shock or shift?
On day two of the meeting, Graeme Dewerson from the Pro Group presented Chilly Tricky Specifics 2021. The latest in the collection of reviews well prepared for the Office of Agriculture, Drinking water and the Atmosphere analyses info from 2020 to recognize essential developments and tendencies in the refrigeration and air conditioning marketplace.
Cold Tricky Points 2021 involves info on full refrigerant utilization in Australia compared to bulk imports. In 2017, the yr prior to the HFC phase-down began, there was a spike in imports. But in 2019 and 2020, utilization outstripped imports. Dewerson pointed out that this trend is very likely to continue until current market pre-quota stockpiles are depleted. But at that position, he explained that refrigerant recycling is possible to phase up to fill any gap between imports and usage.
In truth, some have recommended that the move away from R404A may possibly not be so a lot a shock as a change. It is imagined that recycling could create 100–200 tonnes of recycled HFCs in the event of a shortfall. Others have flagged that recycling the HFC blends is not as simple as recycling refrigerants this kind of as R22.
As observed higher than, lower GWP alternatives exist for R404A. Solutions these kinds of as R448A and R449A are immediate replacements, offering close to a 65 per cent CO2e reduction on R404A. This means that the massive volume of R404A imported in 2020 represents a “carbon sponge” that can be transformed to other merchandise. But again, this will rely on market transitioning promptly.
Government thinking of options
Pat McInerney from the Division of Agriculture, Drinking water and the Natural environment also introduced at Refrigeration 2022, with an update on the HFC stage-down.
As well as providing some background on the Montreal Protocol and the Kigali Modification that has established targets for the stage-down of HFCs globally, McInerney highlighted places where Australia may well want to consider much more action than basically restricting bulk imports.
One particular these kinds of area worries R404A. According to Cold Tricky Info 2021, 822 tonnes of R404A were being imported in 2020, in comparison to 838 tonnes in 2019 – a really slight decrease. McInerney indicated that the government has recognised the challenge, and is now wanting at means to deal with it. A single solution is a ban on selected machines styles employing R404A, although these types of bans might be difficult to carry out. In short, this piece of operate is ongoing.
Time to move
Though future govt coverage is still not apparent, the message for contractors is: the days of R404A are numbered. Professionals highlighted the will need to have conversations with buyers about this refrigerant and how soaring charges will affect their company. They also observed that the imperative is now even increased to avoid installing new devices on R404A and make investments the more dollars to move to a a lot more potential-evidence solution.
Also, there is a have to have to make awareness among practitioners about replacement merchandise, retrofit procedures, and how to optimise programs on those people products and solutions.