Canadian Consulting Engineer

News

Canada agrees to HFC phase-down that will transform HVAC equipment

The news is not a surprise to the HVAC&R industry in North America, but it means a major re-jigging of equipment in the coming years to new "climate friendly" alternatives.


(Article last updated at 12.30 p.m., October 19, 2016)

The federal government was one of 170 countries to sign an agreement in Kigali, Rwanda, last weekend agreeing to phase down HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons), the chemical upon which most air-conditioning and refrigeration systems currently depend.

The news is not a surprise to the HVAC&R industry in North America which has been planning for the phase down of HFCs for several years. The Kigali agreement, which is an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, does mean however that there is now a firm commitment by the international community. It will lead to a major re-jigging of equipment in the coming years to new “climate friendly” alternative coolants.

Warren Heeley, president of the Heating Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI), says that the industry generally supports the agreement. “We knew it was coming, and I think both the manufacturers and the end users need to to get some clear signals about the dates, so that they can continue preparing. We’ve been in sort of limbo until this decision was made. So I think in general we find the amendment to be a good step because now we know what the parameters will be going forward.”

The Montreal Protocol dealt with substances that are ozone depleting, whereas the problem with HFCs is their high global warming potential (GWP). HFCs are hundreds to thousands times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

The government statement of October 15 says that switching from HFCs will avoid half a degree of global warming by the end of the century and that “climate-friendly” alternatives can reduce energy costs.  However, it does not say what alternatives it will support.

The statement says the government  intends to prohibit the manufacture and import into Canada of certain products containing HFCs. It will also establish measures to increase the recovery, recycling and destruction of the chemical.  Besides being used in HVAC&R equipment, HFCs are used extensively in foam products.

A report in Climate Home provides  the specifics of the Kigali agreement . It says: “While developed countries have frozen their HFCs consumption last year and are now aiming at reducing HFCs by 10% by 2019, most developing countries will be freezing their consumption in 2024, and achieve a 10% reduction in 2029.”

The Climate Home report also points out that significant concessions had to be made to some developing countries, comprising India, the Gulf States, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan, which will start phasing down its HFCs in 2028. Also there were specific exemptions for countries that report a consistently hot climate and are in greater need of well established cooling technologies.

Countries that don’t keep to their promises could have trade sanctions imposed.

Heeley says that the federal government is now in a position to  move forward in the next few months with proposed HFC regulations that were introduced in 2014. Environment and Climate Change Canada is in charge of the folio.

“The regulatory issue in Canada is being debated among the various industries, particularly among refrigerant manufacturers,” Heeley says. “There are a number of different products that they are bringing to the table to reach the lower global warming potential targets.”

Environment and Climate Change Canada will decide on the GWP levels, but the manufacturers will have to find the products that meet them.

Emissions from HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) are said to be currently equivalent to the emissions from 300 coal-fired power plants, or 200 million passenger vehicles, per year.  But with increasing use of air-conditioning in developing countries at southern latitudes, HFCs are the fastest growing greenhouse gases in the world and demand is expected to grow five times that by 2050 unless action is taken.

To read the Government of Canada release of October 15, click here.

To read the report in Climate Home of October 15, click here.

To read a report in the Globe and Mail, click here.