What is in this article?:
- EPA Still Debating 2012 Refrigerant Limits
- Many Alternatives
The step-wise phaseout is designed to increase recycling of the refrigerant, promote better refrigerant management and support the transition to new refrigerants.
PHOENIX — The Environmental Protection Agency has not yet made a final determination on the amount of R-22 refrigerant that manufacturers can produce and import for 2012 through 2014, an EPA representative said.
R-22, which is being phased out by the EPA, still constitutes a significant percentage of the refrigerant used by retailers in their stores, though many are working on replacing it with acceptable alternatives. Restrictions on the availability of R-22 have driven up its cost in the past year.
The EPA is considering a 55 million- to 90 million-pound limit for production and import of R-22 in 2012, said Keilly Witman (right), manager of the EPA’s GreenChill Partnership, during a presentation last month at the Food Marketing Institute’s Energy & Store Development Conference here. The current 2012 limit is 55 million pounds until the final amount is set. She could not say when the agency will reveal its final R-22 plans for 2012.
When it leaks from refrigeration equipment into the atmosphere, R-22, an HCFC gas, is known to deplete the ozone layer that shields the earth from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. The reduction of HCFC and CFC gases in refrigeration systems has led to the beginning of a recovery of the ozone layer as previously released gases in the atmosphere are “starting to disappear,” Witman said.
The EPA has also not taken any action yet on proposed amendments to Section 608 of the Clean Air Act, which would lower the refrigerant leak repair “trigger rate” from 35% to 20%.
The EPA, following the international Montreal Protocol treaty, began stepping down the amount of R-22 refrigerant that can be made or imported in 2010, with a deadline of terminating all production and imports by 2020. In addition, any new or imported R-22 is only allowed for servicing of existing refrigeration systems and can’t be used in new systems.
Read more: 2012 FMI Energy Conference Coverage
The EPA has established that production of all HCFC gases can’t exceed 10% of the baseline amount in 2015. The agency “decided to stagger the reduction [in 2012 to 2014] so everyone will be prepared for much lower levels in 2015,” Witman said.
The step-wise phaseout is designed to increase recycling of the refrigerant, promote better refrigerant management and support the transition to new refrigerants, Witman said.
The 2020 phaseout deadline “sounds like it’s far away,” in terms of planning cycles and retrofit schedules, she noted. “But it’s certainly not too early to start thinking about what you’re going to do in 2020.”
While fresh R-22 can’t be used in new refrigeration equipment, retailers have raised questions about whether it can be used in remodel scenarios. The EPA has created a fact sheet addressing those situations (available at http://1.usa.gov/OET3Sj) and Witman welcomes retailers, whether or not they are in the GreenChill program, to contact her with questions.