SNAP ruling opens US market to hydrocarbons: the industry reacts-part 1

SNAP ruling opens US market to hydrocarbons: the industry reacts-part 1

Industry players react to the US EPA approval of hydrocarbons in certain applications, describing it as “a step in the right direction” that could eventually have a global impact, as more companies start further investigating hydrocarbon refrigerants and discover their high energy efficiency. The industry players also point out some of the rule’s limitations, namely the unnecessarily restrictive refrigerant charge limits.

This week, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has approved three hydrocarbon refrigerants as acceptable substitutes in household and small commercial stand-alone refrigerators and freezers. Read on to find out what some industry players from the US and other regions have to say about the impact of this long awaited decision.

HC approval: a “long road” that has led to “a step in the right direction”

“It’s been a long road but it’s just the beginning for widespread use of hydrocarbon refrigeration. There’s a lot of work still to be done to produce and employ environmentally safe refrigerants that display ever-improving energy efficiency. This EPA approval certainly increases the visibility and hopefully the acceptance of hydrocarbons across the entire market chain, from industry to consumers”, says A.S. Trust & Holdings’ Richard Maruya, the inventor of refrigerant blend R441A (also known as HCR188C) and one of the three approved refrigerants.

“HyChill is pleased about this development because it is a step in the right direction”, according to John W Clark, Technical Advisor, HyChill Australia Pty Ltd. “The impact will be positive and significant”. However, Mr Clark also points out that “as currently designed, the US EPA program demonstrably hinders and delays the implementation of zero-ODP low-GWP refrigerant applications. It is quite obvious that if the US EPA SNAP programme was not acting as gatekeeper for hydrocarbons, manufacturers of fridges and commercial refrigeration equipment would have commercialised hydrocarbon-based systems years ago”.

“Finally after 17 years (Europe began using HCs in fridges in 1994), and the production of hundreds of millions of hydrocarbon refrigerators worldwide, the announcement that hydrocarbons are to be permitted for use in the USA is a welcome step in the right direction”, notes Mr Brent Hoare, Executive Director of the Green Cooling Association, the Australian based organisation for environmentally responsible refrigeration and air-conditioning practitioners. “In time, the replacement of HFCs by hydrocarbon refrigerants will also have an (small) impact on reducing HFC emissions from end-of-life disposal of refrigeration appliances, if US manufacturers and suppliers take up the hydrocarbon solution swiftly” he adds.

Impact beyond the US: more companies expected to investigate HC refrigerants

“The U.S. EPA approval of hydrocarbon refrigerants is a game changer, not only in the US but also around the world”, explains Steven P. Mella, Chief Executive Officer at ComStar International Inc, that together with its Chinese joint venture company will begin offering safety certified compressors in the US and overseas markets using hydrocarbon blend refrigerant R441A. “You have to understand, most countries follow the U.S. lead in technical developments. Because of the U.S. EPA approval major appliance, HVACR and automotive companies from all over the world will actively begin investigating hydrocarbon refrigerants in their respective applications. These companies already know that hydrocarbon refrigerants are near zero global warming products but what they will discover as they conduct tests is how small of a refrigerant charge is necessary to get superior cooling and most important, the tremendous energy savings that can be achieved. In the end, this is a win-win for everyone because the world will be effected in a good way by the change to hydrocarbon refrigerants”.

But also, “the business impact will be foreign appliance manufacturers importing hydrocarbon appliances into the US as soon as they dot all the required i’s and cross all the t’s”, adds Mr Mella. ComStar International Inc. has been working with Richard Maruya of A.S. Trust & Holding Co., the inventor of the EPA approved R441A hydrocarbon refrigerant, and has the production and distribution rights to R441A. The company currently manufactures R441a at its US plant and is now making preparations to supply Asian customers from its China plant.

Moreover, “this ruling will help the US play a greater role in this globally significant arena”, according to Mr Maruya.

Regarding potential impact on policymaking, “the decision should hasten the phase out of HFCs in domestic and commercial refrigeration appliances in all markets worldwide”, according to Mr Hoare.

Charge size limitations

“The 57gram charge limits for domestic fridges and freezers is technically conservative in the extreme”, says Mr Clark. “Why the USEPA would select this limit when much larger charges in these types of applications have been proven safe via widespread commercial use in other countries is something we are still struggling to reconcile”.

“The associated new UL standards on hydrocarbons are definitely moving in the proper direction, but the “baby steps” could be much bigger”, adds Mr Clark. “UL and the US EPA can move forward faster and with sufficient confidence if they embrace well established developments in hydrocarbon refrigeration in regions like Europe, Japan and Australia”.

Whether hydrocarbons will in the future be approved in additional applications will also “depend on whether the charge size limitations can be increased”, highlights Nicholas Cox, Managing Director of UK based Earthcare Products Limited. “57grams for domestic products and 150 grams for commercial products gives very little scope for other applications”.

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