F-Gas: What’s going on with R404A?
The new F-Gas Regulations which come into force on 1st January 2015 place restrictions on the use of certain HFC refrigerants in certain applications. R404A has a GWP of 3922 and is therefore in the group of refrigerants with a GWP >2500 which will be most affected by the new regulations.
The key parts of the regulation that will have a major impact on the use of R404A are;
- From 1st January 2015 Leak Detection requirements have changed from 3kg, 30kg and 300kg thresholds to 5T, 50T and 500T CO2Eq. From 1st January 2015 a R404A system with a charge of 127kg or more will also need automatic fixed leak detection.
- From 2018 there will be a significant phase down in the amount of HFCs placed on the market.
This reduces the supply of HFCs from the 100% level of 2015, to just 21% of that total in 2030, with a major cut of 37% in 2018.
- From 2020 there will be a ban on the use of refrigerants with a GWP of 2500 or more in new refrigeration equipment, except that intended for application designed to cool products to temperatures below – 50 °C.
- From 2020 there will be a ban on the use of refrigerants with a GWP of 2500 or more for service and maintenance of refrigeration equipment where the charge size is greater than 40 tonnes CO2 equivalent (approximately 10kg of R404A). There are exemptions for military applications and/or systems intended to cool below 50°C product temperature.
- Until 2030 the use of reclaimed and recycled R404A for service and maintenance is allowed.
The future of R404A
The refrigerant mostly widely used until very recently in Thermo King refrigeration units is R404A, and whilst MFS has typically stocked and used this refrigerant across their customer base, the changes to the F-Gas regulations in 2015 sited above, have brought about the need for MFS and TK to change their refrigerant usage policy.
For Thermo King this has seen:
- The development of R452A refrigerant which in–line with the regulations carries a GWP of 2140, somewhat below the GWP requirement of 2500 in the new regulations.
- Furthermore all new TK fridge units that are built now are designed to run on, or contain, R452A.
For MFS this has seen:
- The stocking levels and availability of R404A from distributors drop, due to the phase down of the amount of HFC refrigerants with a GWP greater than 2500 allowed on to the market.
- This availability shortfall will only continue to drop further in the coming years.
- The increase in price of R404A is, for obvious reasons, becoming prohibited for continued use, with further price increases anticipated very soon.
The R404A alternative
With the development of R452A refrigerant in new TK units, with its lower GWP, it is the MFS intention, where possible, to offer this as a replacement (drop-in/conversion) on existing customer TK fridge units. For the most part this is a relatively straightforward conversion to the fridge unit, supported by Thermo King technologies/procedures and our experienced engineers; this could be carried out in conjunction with your next schedule service and/or refrigerant leak check.
With 2020 fast approaching and the increasing likelihood of heavily increased purchase costs of R404A, notwithstanding its decreasing availability, if you are operating vehicles with TK refrigeration units currently running on R404A, please feel free to speak to any of our trained staff for further information on R452A conversions.