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With the phase-down of HFCs looming, a new generation of refrigerant blends are emerging to provide a stepping stone in the industry’s preparation for the adoption of HFOs.

From January 2018, a gradual reduction in the maximum amount of bulk hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) permitted to be imported into Australia will begin to impact the HVAC&R industry.

Referred to as the “HFC phase-down”, reductions will be applied to Australia’s annual import limit at the start of each two-yearly quota period until the end of 2035.

The HFC phase-down has been designed to allow the market time to adjust and move to suitable replacements.  In time, those replacements are likely include hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), according to A-Gas Australia commercial manager, Graeme Dewerson.

Similar in structure to HFCs, Dewerson said HFOs feature a carbon-to-carbon double bond that causes the molecule to be less stable in the atmosphere while remaining stable in a HVAC system.

“This reduction in stability allows it to break down very quickly in the atmosphere, such that it has virtually no global warming potential (GWP). But this instability also makes the molecules flammable,” he said.

“We are moving to a future where refrigerants will have more challenges associated with them.

“As HFOs have very slight flammability, systems will need to be designed accordingly. This will create some challenges for the HVAC&R industry in terms of upskilling the existing workforce to ensure safety and best practice in their use.”

In the interim, however, Dewerson said a new generation of refrigerant blends have hit the market to provide an ideal stepping stone as the industry adjusts to the HFC phase-down and potential impacts.

Import restrictions on volume may lead to shortages (especially of higher GWP products), which is likely to see price increase as demand outstrips supply.

Fourth generation blends

A range of low GWP replacements – known as fourth generation blends – have been designed to replace many of the most popular outgoing HFCs.

And A-Gas Australia has worked to be at the forefront of their introduction into Australia.

“From our point of view, we have invested in stocking these products with a view to supporting the industry as it manages the phase-down of HFCs,” Dewerson said.

Carrying the Opteon brand name, they include XP10 (R-513A), XP40 (R-449A) and XP44 (R-452A). Importantly, all are safe, non-toxic and fall under ASHRAE A1 classification in that they are non-flammable.

This makes them ideal for retrofits (drop-ins) without the need for major system works.

Opteon XP10 (R-513A)

Opteon XP10 is a safe, non-flammable low-GWP refrigerant developed to replace R-134a in positive displacement, direct expansion (DX), medium-temperature commercial and industrial chillers, including centrifugal chillers.

A blend of R-134a and HFO-1234yf, Dewerson said XP10 is an excellent capacity and efficiency match for new systems as well as for retrofit of existing R-134a systems.

It provides a balance of properties to achieve high energy efficiency with a GWP of 573 (as per the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report AR5), which is less than half that of R-134a (GWP 1300).

“XP10 is a good, intermediate product that not only gives you less than half the GWP, but is also A1 rated so you don’t have to make any changes to your equipment,” Dewerson said.

Opteon XP40 (R-449A)

Opteon XP40 is another safe, non-flammable low-GWP refrigerant ideal for new systems and retrofit due to its A1 classification.

Featuring a blend of R-32, R-125, HFO-1234yf and R-134a, it is designed to replace R-404A/R-507 or R-407F in positive displacement, DX, low and medium-temperature commercial and industrial applications.

Featuring a GWP of 1282, it provides a 65% GWP reduction compared to R-404A/R-507 while delivering eight to 12% lower energy consumption, making it ideal for refrigeration systems in supermarkets, food service and cold storage.

While XP40 has slightly lower pressure than R-404A, it also has slightly lower volumetric capacity.

“At standard temperatures in Australia, this will result in slightly less capacity and therefore slightly longer run times,” Dewerson said.

“But because of the lower pressures of XP40, the pressure ratio across the compressor is lower resulting in less power being used and the two counteract to provide better energy efficiency.

“In areas where higher ambient temperatures occur, XP40 has, in fact, proven to be a better performer than R404A,” he said.

“At a condensing temperature around 55 or 60°C, R404A volumetric capacity sharply declines. For that reason, XP40 is really well aligned for Australian temperature conditions.”

As well as being a replacement for R-404A/R-507 and R-407F, XP40 has proven to be a successful replacement for R-22 in refrigeration applications.

“Instead of moving to HFC interims like HFC-407F (GWP 1824), supermarkets still operating R-22 equipment can now leapfrog to XP40 and take advantage of the lower GWP,” Dewerson said.

Already, XP40 has been used successfully in supermarkets around the world, and is currently being trialled by a major supermarket here in Australia.

“XP40 is a product that we believe has tremendous scope and appeal across a wide range of applications,” Dewerson added.

Opteon XP44 (R-452A)

Opteon XP44 is another safe, non-flammable low-GWP refrigerant designed specifically to replace R-404A and R-507 in positive displacement, DX, low and medium temperature applications.

It features a blend of R-32, R-125 and HFO-1234yf to deliver a 45% GWP reduction compared to R-404A and R-507 and is particularly suitable for transport refrigeration applications including refrigerated trucks, vans and reefer containers.

XP44 matches the discharge temperature of R-404A and R507 (critical in transport applications) as well as the mass flow rate, meaning no thermostatic expansion valves (TXV) adjustments are necessary.

“Opteon XP44 provides a quick, easy and low cost retrofit from R-404A and R-507 – and it is A1 classified so is compatible with existing equipment design and lubricants,” Dewerson said.

“Many of the European refrigerated transport manufacturers are already offering equipment with XP44 as an alternative to R404A.”

Ahead of the curve

A-Gas Australia is helping its customers prepare for the HFC phase-down by promoting the options and advantages offered by the Opteon range of refrigerants through its distribution partners. And it recommends contractors become familiar with the products sooner rather than later.

“If you’re a contractor and your client is worried about the price and availability of R-404A going up, then you need to have the right answer for them,” Dewerson said.

“That’s why we have stock of Opteon XP10, XP40 and XP44 on the ground, ready for any contractor looking to get ahead of the curve and trial these products.”

Dewerson said market confidence is always important. “This is why A-Gas is currently working with customers and distributors to encourage trials of these new refrigerants,” he said.

“Move an R-404A system to XP40 as a trial so you can learn to optimise it and understand its nuances to best leverage its energy efficiency potential.

“The HFC phase-out is coming so have the answers for when your clients ask the question.”

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