hydrocarbons21.com has talked to industry representatives from the US, Europe and Australia about their expectations in 2012 regarding natural refrigerants and hydrocarbons in particular. Read on for their insights regarding opportunities, threats and policy developments that could impact the market update of hydrocarbons in North America’s HVAC&R sector, Europe’s automotive sector, and China’s AC sector.
hydrocarbons21.com: In which markets and applications do you see the greatest opportunities for natural refrigerants in 2012?
Brent Hoare, Green Cooling Association (Australia)
: “As there are so many established and emerging applications in so many different markets around the world it is very difficult to foretell where the greatest opportunities lie – one thing is certain, and it is that there is tremendous room for expansion everywhere, both building on the base of well established experience, and by taking the initiative and developing innovative solutions.
“While in Australia there is a palpable sense of anticipation about the significance of the impact of imposing carbon pricing on HFCs from July, driving new demand for training opportunities, there are obviously much larger gains to be made in opening up the North American commercial refrigeration market to CO2 and hydrocarbons, or encouraging China’s air conditioning manufacturing industry to ramp up production of hydrocarbon split systems. I’ve thought for a long time it is only a matter of time before the European car manufacturing industry recognises hydrocarbons as the obvious solution to the HFC problem, and hopefully with the introduction of the “Thermal Event Suppression System” by Obrist Engineering at Atmosphere 2011, this year will be the year measurable progress is finally made?”
Steven P. Mella, ComStar International Inc (US): “By the US EPA opening the door to the U.S. market for hydrocarbon refrigerants in select applications, namely residential refrigerators, window air conditioners and small commercial refrigerator freezers, we believe those OEMs serving these markets will actively begin developing plans for market entry by the end of 2012. In fact, I can tell you that there are a number of international companies already working with our R441A HC refrigerant for these applications as well as other soon to be approved applications”.
Nicholas Cox, Earthcare Products Limited (UK): “MACs and supermarket refrigeration will remain the greatest opportunities, but we will see growth in air conditioning and heat pumps at long last!”
hydrocarbons21.com: Where do you see potential threats to the natural refrigerant business in the next 12 months?
Hoare: “Aside from the economic threat of further recessionary developments around the world, at a policy level it would be a very big setback if the Parties to the Montreal Protocol are unable to reach agreement on the 25th anniversary of the treaty on the need to expand their work to include measures to control and reduce the use and emissions of HFCs. Failing to reach agreement on the HFC amendment proposals this year would certainly be a massive missed opportunity to protect the climate by accelerating the uptake of natural refrigerants.”
Richard Maruya, A.S. Trust & Holdings’ (US): “There are large influential companies who have vested interest in other refrigerants besides hydrocarbons. This will be the potential problem in holding back clearances through government agencies for hydrocarbon use in America”.
Cox: “EU recession is the greatest threat – with budgets being slashed and minimum first cost regardless of real cost becomes acceptable once again. The other threat comes from unsaturated HFCs, the so called HFOs – assuming they can be produced at a marketable price”.
hydrocarbons21.com: What do you think will be the policy development (in terms of legislation/regulation/government action plan) impacting the most on your business over the next 12 months?
Hoare: “Without doubt the introduction of carbon pricing on HFCs in Australia and in New Zealand this year will begin a process of great change in the industries here, and although it is highly likely to take several years for the impacts to become fully apparent, I’m optimistic that we will rise to the challenges and create an example that other countries, regulators and markets will be convinced is worth following.”
Cox: “The review of the EU F-Gas Regulation must produce something tangible this year, I’ve attached my New Year wish list but wouldn’t expect more than half of my suggestions to be adopted”.
Maruya: What could hold back the use of hydrocarbons in the US could be “the opposing others placing legislation to restrict hydrocarbons in America. The current example is the (limited allowable) charge amount, which does not affect R441A but it does affect other hydrocarbon refrigerants”.
Mella: “I don’t see much by the way of a US Government action plan that will affect hydrocarbon refrigerants in the next few years. However, if the US EPA approves HCs for other applications we believe the market, the consumers, would want safe HC products with proven energy reduction resulting in lower energy bills while at the same time benefiting the environment. If the EPA opens the door and the market takes notice, then industry will fill the need and demand”.
About the respondents
Mr Brent Hoare is the Executive Director of the Green Cooling Association, the Australian based organisation for environmentally responsible refrigeration and air-conditioning practitioners.
Mr Steven P. Mella is Chief Executive Officer at ComStar International Inc has the production and distribution rights to R441A. ComStar manufactures R441A at its US plant and is now making preparations to supply Asian customers from its China plant. Moreover, together with its Chinese joint venture company it will begin offering safety certified compressors in the US and overseas markets using hydrocarbon blend refrigerant R441A.
Mr Nicholas Cox is the Managing Director of UK based Earthcare Products Limited, which provides sustainable cooling products, from small refrigerators to large custom-built building services plants.
Mr Richard Maruya of A.S. Trust & Holdings’ is the inventor of hydrocarbon refrigerant blend R441A and one of the three recently approved refrigerants for use in the US.