Mr Renz, the GWP of refrigerants has kept the world’s refrigeration and air conditioning industry in suspense for years. Will the topic become less important in the years to come?
The European Union has specified the road map for development inside Europe with the F-gas Regulation. The second, intensified version took effect in 2015 and will accompany us up to 2030 and beyond. By then, industry and trade will need to have reduced consumption of the F-gases in use by 79%, expressed in CO2 equivalents, compared to the average of the years 2009 to 2012. Taking into account systems pre-charged with refrigerants which are imported from countries outside the EU, the actual required reduction is closer to 81%. The topic of the GWP of refrigerants will therefore remain very high on the agenda in the years to come.
But there are other challenges as well, including the fact that many low-GWP refrigerants are flammable and safety requirements and system technology need to be adapted accordingly. Furthermore, training courses with a new orientation on this issue are required on a wide scale. There’s still much to be done in all areas, as these tasks require a lot of time and tie up many capacities. What makes the situation more difficult is the fact that EU Ecodesign Directives and comparable national and international programmes stipulate very ambitious efficiency requirements for different product groups. These often necessitate new developments which require extensive effort because the refrigerant has to be switched at the same time.
How do you think refrigeration and air conditioning companies and system operators should respond?
It’s definitely a good idea to remain calm and explore alternative refrigerants and system technologies early on. Many of our customers and even end users began doing that years ago. HFO refrigerants and HFO/HFC blends, for example, can be used for longer-term solutions. But natural refrigerants such as CO2, ammonia and hydrocarbons are especially sustainable and future-proof – and even water or air for certain applications.
BITZER also offers customer support when it comes to using low-GWP refrigerants and optimised system solutions, including as part of the B-READY service package. Experts analyse customers’ systems and provide them with comprehensive advice. For example, R404A and R507A can often be replaced with R448A or R449A even in existing systems with reasonable effort and in some cases also with R513A. Because these alternatives have a third or less of the GWP of R404A and R507A and are not flammable, they can be classified as a suitable transitional refrigerant. Our customers therefore gain valuable time with comparably little effort.
So system operators simply have to replace R404A/R507A with R448A or R449A?
System operators must only commission certified specialist air conditioning companies with the conversion, which are then responsible for selecting the suitable alternative refrigerant. BITZER experts may also be involved to ensure the compressor manufacturer’s specific requirements are also taken into account. For this reason, we also offer special training courses at the SCHAUFLER Academy and provide extensive technical documentation and software with corresponding information and guidelines.
Replacing R404A/R507A with R448A or R449A as mentioned above offers a short-term option for conversion that is suitable for commercial refrigeration systems in particular. This also applies to systems with R134a, which can be converted to R450A or R513A with relative ease. Other applications often require more thorough analysis when it comes to selecting a suitable refrigerant for the specific application and determining any changes to the system that may be necessary.
So how is BITZER preparing for the longer-term requirements of the F-gas Regulation?
We’ve been developing and manufacturing compressors for CO2 applications, for example, for more than 20 years. CO2 has a GWP of 1, making it virtually climate-neutral. We profit from these many years of experience and are able to provide our customers with a wide range of products and technical advice. We also offer special CO2 training courses in theory and practice at the SCHAUFLER Academy. Our CO2 compressors and system solutions, including expander technology, are sustainable and future-proof. We also offer environmentally friendly products for propane, propylene and ammonia applications, as well as for HFO refrigerants and HFO/HFC blends. Be it a reciprocating, screw or scroll compressor, condensing unit, pressure vessel or heat exchanger, BITZER already has a highly efficient, environmentally friendly and future-proof solution for any application.