The refrigeration and air conditioning industry is working hard to overcome the damaging impact that organised crime has had on business in the European Union (EU).
Arkema executive and chair of the European Fluorocarbon Technical Committee (EFCTC), Nick Campbell, said industry has set up a whistle-blower line and employed a contractor to investigate illegally imported HFCs.
In a CCN Live video presentation on how F-Gas regulations are working in the EU, Campbell said the illegal market for refrigerants is as high as 20%.
“Official EU figures do not show there is a problem because smugglers don't usually report their sales,” he said. “But customers are becoming more vigilant and some countries are reviewing penalties.”
Campbell said that overall the F-Gas regulations are working and industry is making the move to lower GWP alternatives.
But there has been problems with cheap imports from China and refrigerant price hikes including a 10-fold price increase for R404A in early 2018.
In the small refrigeration sector, Campbell said companies have adopted hydrocarbons and Co2 while split systems are using alternatives such as R32.
He said there are plenty of new options for chillers including R718 and R513A.
“Industry is responding with the aim of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050; this is the direction we need to go and we have a vital role to play.”
Refrigerant Australia executive director, Greg Picker, said Australia's HFC phasedown experience hasn't been as eventful as it has in the EU because industry here has taken a very different approach.
“Every two years we tighten the tap 8 to 10% so its gradual steps,” he said.
In a panel discussion on refrigerants, RRA executive Michael Bennett, said the illegal trade in Europe has actually changed the shape of the market.
“There was a black market for refrigerants in Australia during the carbon tax period but it is much harder to do it here because we don't have disposable cylinders,” he said.
“We got rid of disposable cylinders in 2004 and it has made Australia more secure.”
Moving forward, Bennett said Australian technicians will be routinely working with flammable refrigerants which is why A2L training is so critical.
Discussing the biggest challenges ahead for Australian industry, panellists raised concerns about the storage and handling issues that accompany flammable refrigerants, as well as training.
Bennett said training the Australian workforce is a massive step and there is still a long way to go.
“Close to 75% of the installed bank will be mildly flammable in 10 years time,” he said.
There was no shortage of questions and comments from audience members who talked about design challenges and selecting refrigerants for old systems.
Picker said that right now the focus should be on the current workforce.
“We have 70,000 people right now that haven't been trained, we need to be more pro-active,” he said.