R22, commonly known as Freon, was introduced to the industrial refrigeration market in the 1950s. For decades, it was used as the standard refrigerant within the heating and cooling industry.
Chlorodifluoromethane, the technical name for R22, is a compound of hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) and used widely as a refrigerant in all chilling applications up until recently. Although refrigeration systems that rely on R22 have been banned from manufacture since 2010, Canada and the US will discontinue its use by January 1, 2020. In Europe, these bans have already been in effect and successfully phased out while developing countries aim to phase out R22 by 2030.
Why Is R22 Being Phased Out In Canada?
Despite its previous wide use and application, R22 is being phased out in Canada due to its environmental impact. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, an update to the Vienna Convention, is an international treaty that aims to protect the ozone layer by phasing out substances that contribute to its depletion. The phase-out of R22 is due to a combination of a high (0.055) Ozone Depletion Potential, and a high (1,810) Global Warming Potential.
The Ozone Depletion Potential measures the direct harm a compound can cause to the earth’s ozone layer. These compounds contain chemicals that are unable to break down in Earth’s lower atmosphere, and thus will migrate to the stratosphere where they remain for an excess of 120 years. Once they reach the stratosphere, the elements within them are broken up by UV radiation and speed up the natural decay of the ozone to a point where it cannot replenish itself.
The Global Warming Potential has been developed to demonstrate and compare the impacts of harmful gases. Greenhouse gasses (GHGs) warm the earth by absorbing energy and slowing down the rate at which that same energy is released back into the atmosphere. In other words, these harmful gases act like a blanket, trapping heat in the earth.
3 Things You Can Do To Prepare For The R22 Phase Out:
1. Don’t panic!
If you’re currently running a refrigeration system that relies on Freon, now is the time to develop a plan. We can help you create a plan for your business so you’ll be prepared when the ban comes into effect. Contact Berg Chilling Systems to explore your options.
2. Familiarize yourself with the changes to refrigerant regulations
Since R22 is part of the Freon group, which includes hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol states that all HFCs must be phased out and replaced by low Global Warming Potential substitutes.
There is some confusion around the changes to refrigeration regulations that are worth clearing up: First, Freon is the umbrella term or Trade-name used by the Chemours Company that includes a group of refrigerants that are widely used within the industry.
Second, unlike HCFCs, HFCs have no potential to deplete the ozone. They are, however, powerful greenhouse gases with high Global Warming Potential values. So, in the Freon group of refrigerants, HCFCs are being completely phased out while HFCs are being phased down.
Thirdly, although R22 is being phased out it doesn’t mean it will suddenly vanish from existence. Instead, over time stockpiles of R22 that remain after the ban will be more expensive and difficult to obtain. Unfortunately, it’s hard to say how quickly reserves will be used or how high the price will be when this occurs.
What is known is that after the January 1st, 2020 deadline, operating and maintaining a refrigeration system that is dependent on R22 will be much more expensive. Operators should think ahead by looking for ways to move away from this type of refrigerant now so they can easily make the transition when the change occurs.
HCHC phase-out timeline for Canada and the United States
2017: 75% reduction from past production baseline
2018: 85% reduction from past production baseline
2019: 90% reduction from past production baseline
2020: 95% reduction from past production baseline
3. Know your options
Prepare yourself now for the R22 phase-out by practicing this formula:
You may choose to continue running your R22-dependent system and keep it running if it’s older and close to the end of its life, in good working condition, or is inexpensive to operate and low capacity.
If you choose to continue operating your R22 industrial refrigeration equipment, you may wish to stockpile R22 now to continue its use after the phase-out. You should also be aware that the environmental risk is high and the cost to operate will go up.
Retrofit your system
Upgrading your current refrigeration system with a 0 OPD, low GWP hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) alternative is a good idea if your system is young – 10 years old or less, in excellent working condition, cheap to operate and a medium to large capacity.
This will reduce the environmental risk of continuing to run an R22 system, avoid having to stockpile R22 and offer a cost-effective solution long term.
If your industrial refrigeration equipment is nearing the end of its life, is in poor working condition, expensive to operate and requires a medium to high capacity of refrigerant, replacement is a good idea.
Although this is an expensive short-term step to take, the long-term costs are relatively low since you won’t be reliant on outdated, expensive refrigerants. This also reduces the risk of operational disruption and downtime.
What Does It All Mean?
Based on the use of your industrial refrigeration system, some of these options may not be realistic. For instance, retrofitting may not be possible for all systems, and will require the inspection of an expert to determine the best course of action.
If you’re currently running a system that is leaking refrigerant, an expert would probably advise spending the money to retrofit the system. And, if you’re experiencing trouble with your system, the problems shouldn’t be ignored.
As it stands, you can continue to run your refrigeration equipment using R22, but once the ban comes into effect, the rising cost and decreasing availability of this refrigerant may force you to reevaluate your options.
One question to ask is whether it’s worthwhile to put the money into a system that will need to be replaced soon, or replace it now and avoid the hassle?
If you’re ready to talk about the life of your industrial refrigeration system and discuss your long-term options, talk to a BERG Sales Engineer today.