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eurammon tracks trends in EU as F-gas phase-out begins

Reports increased use of natural refrigerants

| | Mar 7, 2016 | 2:12 pm
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Frankfurt (Main), Germany: eurammon, in an official communique, has shared information on the immediate repercussions in the European Union (EU) after the phase-out of F-gases came into effect at the beginning of the year. The F-gases Regulation, said the communique, will further boost the use of natural refrigerants in industries and in air conditioning systems for buildings, with experts seeing high ecological and economic potential in using natural refrigerants for air conditioning systems.

 Giving details, eurammon said that the EU wants to bring about a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020, and that the revised F-gases Regulation will, by law, implement a 79% reduction in the quantity of F-gases used throughout Europe in six stages through to 2030. The first stage, with a seven per cent reduction, reportedly came into effect on January 1.

According to eurammon, implementing a controlled shortage of F-gases in this way, as part of the phase-out strategy, will make climate-damaging refrigerants successively more expensive, thus indirectly promoting the use of natural refrigerants.

Since the revision of the F-gases Regulation, eurammon pointed out, system operators also have to face up to extended operator obligations, including among others, verifying that their system is leakage-free. If the stipulated leakage limits are not verifiably met in the next few years, legislation could be expected to become even tighter, through to a progressive prohibition of certain refrigerants, eurammon said, and explained that as a result, planners and system engineers will give greater significance to hermetically sealed solutions when planning systems with synthetic refrigerants.

Triggered by the F-gases Regulation, eurammon observed, planners and operators are increasingly looking at where and how it makes sense to use refrigeration systems with natural refrigerants.

Additionally, eurammon has made the following observations and attendant claims about the efficacy of using natural refrigerants:

When looking at the contribution refrigeration systems make to global warming, it transpires that only 20% of the climate-damaging effect comes from leaks of synthetic refrigerants. The remaining 80% come from the amount of energy needed during refrigeration production. Here, too, systems with natural refrigerants offer benefits in both ecological and economic terms, due, among others, to the outstanding thermodynamic properties of natural refrigerants. NH3/CO2 cascade systems in particular generate energy savings of up to 35%, compared to similar systems with hydrofluorocarbons (HCFC systems).

In order to make optimum use of all the advantages of systems with natural refrigerants, one has to take into account the fact that energy consumption of a refrigeration system is influenced not just by choosing the right refrigerant but, above all, by the rating of the system. For example, the operation of a screw compressor with shutter slide control in the lower part-load area can result in higher pressure levels that exceed the optimum operating pressure, resulting in clearly reduced energy efficiency for the overall system. Comprehensive know-how lets planners and operators realise great potential savings in this respect.

Systems with natural refrigerants are currently finding increasing use in atypical applications. Ammonia is no longer used just in industrial refrigeration for capacities exceeding 500 kW. Meanwhile, it is also taking over areas that used to be the domain of synthetic refrigerants. For example, many large exhibition halls in Germany have been equipped with ammonia liquid chillers for air conditioning. Banks, insurance companies and office buildings also make increasing use of natural refrigerants for air conditioning. Furthermore, the trend is spreading to areas with high safety requirements: Risk analyses have shown that refrigeration systems with natural refrigerants are no greater potential hazard than systems with synthetic refrigerants, so that refrigeration systems operating with ammonia are also being used for air conditioning in airports. Examples here include the refurbished Düsseldorf Airport, the new Terminal 5 at London Heathrow or Zurich Airport.

The trend of using natural refrigerants for air conditioning in buildings also applies to systems operating with hydrocarbons, such as propane, butane and butene. Propane has very similar thermodynamic properties to the synthetic refrigerant R22. Some Asian countries have, therefore, replaced R22 with propane in central air conditioning systems and report cut-backs in energy consumption between 10 and 30% with only minimum modifications necessary to the systems.

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