Major regulatory changes under EU and UK legislation have come into effect, impacting every food service and hospitality operator.
The F-Gas Regulation aims to reduce Global Warming emissions caused by F gases (the refrigerants typically found in heating and cooling applications, including commercial refrigeration equipment), and is part of the European climate change agenda as set out in the EU Low Carbon Roadmap.
The mechanism ensures emission reduction through a schedule of gradual phase-down’s and outright bans over an agreed time period, to reduce the consumption of, and change the way in which the industry can use, these environmentally unfriendly gasses.
In effect since 2015, the eventual goal is a reduction in the use of HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) of 79% by 2030, encouraging manufacturers, services companies and operators to adopt technologies operating on refrigerants with significantly lower Global Warming Potential.
Big changes came into effect on January 1, 2020, impacting operators in areas such as service and maintenance of existing refrigeration equipment, and availability of like-for-like replacements.
True is producing a campaign intended to educate operators on the legislation, as well as the impact of refrigeration on businesses as relates to sustainability and the environment. We all have a responsibility in the fight against global warming.
Are you ready?
Increasingly strict for refrigerants
The 2030 target of Europe’s F-gas Regulation is clear: Refrigerant-related greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by a factor of five. Under F-gas, high-GWP (Global Warming Potential)* refrigerants will be phased down. The amount of HFCs** made available on the market will be progressively reduced according to their GWP, which will drop from about 2,000 to 400 over 15 years.
What does all this mean for me?
Chances are, if you own integral freezer cabinets or larger coolers, then you have equipment which operates on R404A gas.
The 2020 ban also includes service restrictions, but on larger systems which contain a large amount of the gas, now being limited to using reclaimed rather than new supplies. Technicians will still be allowed to use new/virgin gas to recharge integral units (until 2030), however the reduced availability overall is resulting in rising gas costs which could have a big impact on the cost of service.
If equipment is out of warranty, operators should expect to see the cost of service increase, perhaps drastically, due to skyrocketing gas prices.
As the owner of equipment containing F-gas, the regulation also places a number of legal responsibilities on the operator with regard to limiting harmful gas leakage. Violation of these obligations can lead to fines, penalties and criminal offence charges, depending on the severity of the breach and the EU region where the operator is based.
It is important to note.
When responsibly used and properly contained, F-gases are safe. Containment is the key issue, with their environmental impact relating solely to their global warming properties when leaked/released into the atmosphere.
GHG: Refrigerants are considered to be greenhouse gases.
tCO2e (metric ton of CO2 equivalent):
Unit of measurement for refrigerant emissions. Metric ton of CO2 equivalent
for a gas = amount of gas x Global Warming Potential of the gas.
*GWP (Global Warming Power): Indicator of a refrigerant’s radiative properties.
**HFC (hydrofluorocarbons): Halogen compound gases used to replace substances that deplete the ozone layer (CFCs), but that contribute to the greenhouse effect.
The risk of leaks.
Refrigerators rely on the form-changing property of refrigerants (from liquid to gas and vice versa). Compressed gas makes its way through the coils inside the refrigerator where it cools down and absorbs energy, lowering the temperature of the food inside.
Although refrigerant circuits are designed to be “leakproof”, even the tiniest of leaks can release gas into the air. CFCs in use until 1987 were banned once it was discovered that they were extremely harmful for the ozone layer. But it was later discovered that there is also a major problem with the HFCs that replaced them: Their greenhouse effect is much, much higher than CO2, as much as 13,000 times higher!
The regulations make all operators of equipment containing F-gas legally responsible for taking all feasible steps to prevent gas leakage from their equipment
This includes regular and routine leakage checks conducted on all systems (with intervals ranging from quarterly to annually according to the quantity of refrigerant in the system), having any detected leak repaired as soon as possible, and having repairs checked after one month to ensure that they have been successful.
Any added costs of this additional service work must be covered by the operator.
Operators should only engage the services of qualified personnel in carrying out tasks in relation to F-gas equipment. The regulation requires anyone maintaining or servicing equipment containing HFC refrigerants to have suitable F-Gas Certification.
What all this means for operators, is that the clock is running down on the viability of these older refrigerants typically used in commercial refrigeration applications. Fortunately, these new regulations are also influencing equipment manufacturers, encouraging new advances in technology which not only use environmentally friendly “natural refrigerant” gasses, but also present a number of other benefits.
The rise of natural refrigerants for commercial applications.
What is hydrocarbon refrigerant?
Hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants are natural, non-toxic gasses that have no ozone depleting properties and low global warming potential. For this reason they have been selected as the environmentally friendly successor to hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants for commercial refrigeration, after being used widely for many years in domestic refrigeration.
R290 specifically, a highly refined propane, is the primary HC refrigerant gas now used in both commercial refrigerator and freezer equipment, and presents a number of opportunities
“HC is the next step, not only in terms of environmental responsibility, but also better, more efficient, commercial refrigeration equipment.”
Today, operators in the know are choosing HC refrigeration for their businesses, as part of their corporate sustainability objectives, to increase environmental responsibility, and prioritise waste energy reduction.
What is your HFC exit plan?
The regulations are in the place. The phase-out deadlines are upon us. Now is the time to assess your refrigeration assets and determine the impact on your operation.
Regardless of F-Gas, undertaking regular audits and keeping an up to date record of the refrigeration equipment assets in your estate is just good practice. With accurate data, you can effectively determine the point at which equipment replacement makes sense.
To avoid the added costs and legal obligations of F-Gas, and receive the benefits of HC refrigeration technology, any existing assets operating on HFC gases which are out of warranty, in poor condition and/or 5+ years old should be considered for replacement.
Once assets have been identified and information compiled, it is possible to compare the energy usage of equipment, old-for-new, based on product labeling published on manufacturer and distributor websites.
For existing older products, labelling (introduced 2016) may not exist, so it may be necessary to contact the manufacturer directly for information. In the case of discontinued products, it is safe to assume that a HC equivalent product available today will be at least 30% more energy efficient, but could be several hundred times more efficient. Recent technological advances have been that significant.
For operators with large estates, using the most energy efficient products available can have a huge impact on utility costs. Consider not just the acquisition cost of the equipment, but the operating costs over the lifetime of the product, which can equate to several times the capital cost of the product purchase.
- Manufacturer, model name, serial and asset numbers
- Refrigerant gas used
- Age of the equipment
- Warranty coverage status
- Condition of the equipment (at last PPM)
- Quantity and costs of service calls to date
The rise of natural refrigerants for commercial applications.
Regulations separate from F-Gas (but with similar intentions) were introduced July 2016 requiring some commercial refrigeration products to carry energy labels, similar to those found on many consumer electronic products.
Equipment manufacturers are required to publish these labels so that operators can benchmark and compare running costs of similar products as a factor in their purchasing decision.
With information on current assets and label data for available HC replacements, the operator can determine the running costs of equipment by multiplying the kWh/annum number stated on the label by the price they pay per KWh for electricity.
Another factor which should be considered to determine the real lifetime operating cost of the product is the length and scope of the warranty coverage provided as standard.
Labels are currently applicable to most solid door commercial refrigerator or freezer products but Prep tables and glass door products are not currently applicable.