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The search continues

The onus is on key stakeholders to find a suitable alternative refrigerant that can meet more stringent environmental requirements.

| | Oct 16, 2013 | 9:37 am
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The onus is on key stakeholders to find a suitable alternative refrigerant that can meet more stringent environmental requirements.

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The background

The terms of the Montreal Protocol stipulate that hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), known to be ozone-depleting substances, must be globally phased out over the current and the following decades. In September 2007, the parties to the Montreal Protocol agreed to accelerate the phase-out schedule in developing countries through the introduction of several schemes, including maintaining the HCFC consumption levels for 2013 at the average usage between 2009 and 2010 and cutting on HCFC consumption from 2015 through 2030.

In light of the need for expediting the phase-out, the air conditioning industry in the Middle East expressed its concern about meeting the freeze and reduction targets, as long-term alternatives to HCFCs in small- and medium-sized air conditioning applications have not yet been cleared nor verified by local markets. There is also a growing uncertainty among governments and industry stakeholders on the future of alternative refrigerants in the air conditioning industry, as the hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) currently in use, as alternatives to HCFCs, are widely regarded to have high global warming potential (GWP), and, thus they are also being considered for a phase-down.

The Third Regional Symposium on Alternative Refrigerants for the Air Conditioning Industry in High-Ambient Temperature Countries (ARACIHAT), organised by the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water; Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA); Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI); United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the ASHRAE Falcon Chapter, and held on September 10 and 11 at the Intercontinental Dubai Festival City, provided a venue for regional and international industry stakeholders to discuss and address the emerging concern on producing and selecting viable refrigerant alternatives for high-ambient temperature countries. This year, ARACIHAT introduced a new dimension to the discussion on alternative refrigerants, as it included an entire plenary session on the current academic and research activities, aimed at finding suitable alternatives, particularly for high-ambient temperature countries.

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The report

The event was attended by personalities and representatives from regional standardisation and environment authorities; agencies of the United Nations working in relevant projects under the Montreal Protocol; regional research institutes; international and regional air conditioning equipment, refrigerant and compressor manufacturers; air conditioning systems suppliers and international, and regional experts and consultants.

The plenary sessions of this year’s symposium delved into a range of topics, including regional and international environmental policies, the status of the introduction and enforcement of regional Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) and their relation to the choice of refrigerants, case studies from different countries on conversion to low-GWP alternatives, updates from regional equipment manufacturers on attempts to build and test systems for low-GWP options, and the role of research centres in promoting low-GWP solutions.

The first session of the conference, moderated by Dr Radhey Agarwal, Senior Advisor and Coordinator for HCFC Phase-out, SPPU, India, concentrated on global environmental standards and policies that are seen to affect the future of refrigerants. The participants of the session, comprising Ayman Eltalouny, Programme Officer, UNEP-Regional Office for West Asia (ROWA); Ole Nielsen, Unit Chief, Refrigeration and Aerosols Unit, United National Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO); Didier Coulumb, Director, International Institute of Refrigeration (IIR); Stephen Yurek, CEO, AHRI; Andrea Voigt; Director General, The European Partnership for Energy and Environment (EPEE); and Shuji Tamura, Director for Chemical Management Policy, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) of Japan, made presentations on different issues surrounding the current search for the appropriate alternative refrigerant to HCFCs and HFCs. The topics discussed in the session included ways to reduce the environmental impact of refrigerants, the F-Gas Regulation and its revision and new policy measures for reducing F-Gas emissions in Japan. (For highlights, see “Where we stand”.)

The second plenary session gave a regional perspective on environmental standards and policies affecting the future of refrigerants. The speakers, including James Walters, Vice President for International Affairs, AHRI; Abdulla Al Muaini, Director of Conformity Affairs Department, ESMA; Eng Aisha Al Abdooli, Acting Undersecretary for the Environmental Affairs Sector, UAE Ministry of Environment and Water (MEW); and Eng Yaqoub Almatouq, Refrigeration Expert from the Kuwait National Ozone Committee, spoke on the development and effectiveness of MEPS, energy labelling programmes for air conditioning appliances in the UAE, the UAE perspective on the continuing and future challenges on ozone layer protection, and creating a unified set of policies in phasing out HCFCs in GCC countries. (For highlights, see “Where we stand”.)

The last session for the first day of the conference focused on relevant research programmes and initiatives for finding refrigerant alternatives. Dr Walid Chakroun, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Kuwait University, shared the fact that ASHRAE considered the continued use of ammonia as necessary for food preservation and air conditioning. In addition, Chakroun said that ASHRAE also believed that natural refrigerants offered potential to improve the environmental performance of refrigeration systems. In line with these considerations, said Chakroun, ASHRAE would continue research activities on ammonia (such as on handling, application, operation, control of emissions and new technology), and would support research and strategic growth in the use of natural refrigerants.

Bassam Elassaad, Consultant to UNEP for High Ambient Projects, spoke about PRAHA (Promoting low-GWP refrigerants for the air conditioning sectors in high-ambient temperature countries), saying that its key elements included assessment of available technologies, assessment of relevant energy efficiency standards and codes, economic comparison of alternative technologies, and the promotion of technology transfer.

James Walters, making a presentation on AHRI’s Alternative Refrigerants Evaluation Programme (AREP), highlighted that its aim was to evaluate refrigerant candidates and present their performance, instead of prioritising alternative refrigerants. He also shared the fact that 38 low-GWP refrigerant candidates were currently being evaluated by 21 domestic and international entities. As of the moment, added Walters, 22 test reports had been made available to the public, and all the results would be released on completion of the programme.

The other speakers who completed the panel included Dr Tiejun Zhang, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and Dr Abdul-Majeid Haddad, Regional Climate Change Coordinator, UNEP-ROWA. Dr Zhang discussed the status, challenges and opportunities in hydrocarbon refrigeration, while Dr Haddad presented on climate change-related research and technology transfer opportunities.

Day Two saw technical presentations from different international and regional associations, refrigerant and compressor manufacturers, academic institutions and consultants. Sessions on the second day of the conference covered a range of specialised topics, including hydrocarbons for air conditioning applications, HFC-32 for air conditioning applications, and refrigerants and compressors for the future. Speakers on Day Two of the event comprised representatives from GIZ Proklima, Chinese Household Electrical Appliances Association, Japan Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Industry, University of Illinois, Johnson Controls (Denmark), Daikin, DuPont, Honeywell, Emerson Climate Technologies and Danfoss.

At the closing plenary session of the conference, the new HVACR industry association, ARAMENA, was officially launched. The inauguration of the new association was attended by air conditioning system manufacturers and suppliers, key industry stakeholders, and representatives from the academe and the media (See related story).

Where we stand ... We bring you the highlights of the plenary sessions on environmental standards and policies affecting the future of refrigerants ...


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