Refrigerant Regulatory Landscape
Environmental concerns about ozone depletion and global warming have led over time to the development of evolving global and regional regulations, which has had significant implications for refrigerants across applications. Those who design, purchase, install, and service equipment air conditioning and refrigeration equipment should consult their specific country's current regulations, codes, and standards to aid with refrigerant selection for each intended use.
Much of today's regulatory landscape for refrigerants traces its roots to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer¹ (aka the Montreal Protocol). Finalized in 1987, the Montreal Protocol is an international treaty, designed to protect the stratospheric ozone layer by phasing out the production of ozone-depleting substances. This protocol mandates the incremental phaseout of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).
Under the treaty, CFCs have been phased out globally. Ultimately, the treaty aims to reduce HCFC usage 99.5% below 1987 baseline levels by 2020, with a complete HCFC phaseout by 2030. Since the treaty's ratification, the Kigali Amendment2 and resulting regional regulations have expanded the Montreal Protocol's scope to include reduction and phase down schedules for hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
HCFC Phaseout Timelines and Implementations
Once HCFC refrigerant production ceases based on regulatory requirements, reclaimed product and available inventories may enable continued aftermarket use for some period of time. It is important to consult your country’s local regulations for phaseout schedules and laws governing the continued use, sale, and handling of HCFC refrigerants, as this varies by country.
Chemours offers a full portfolio of Freon™ refrigerants based on HFCs that are non-ozone depleting.
Expanded Focus on Greenhouse Gases
The timeline for implementing the Kigali Amendment to phase down the use of HFCs varies by country. Several countries have already ratified Kigali Amendment and others continue to do so. Australia, Japan, Mexico, and many European, Asia Pacific, and Latin American countries have ratified the amendment3 and are committed to its goals. As of June 2019, the United States, China, Russia, and India had not yet ratified the amendment. To address these longer-term regulations, Chemours developed a new generation of low GWP, hydrofluoroolefin- (HFO) based Opteon™ refrigerants.
Overview of Major Regional and Country-Based Efforts
European Union F-Gas Regulations
These European Union F-Gas Regulation 4 (EU 517/2014) aims to reduce emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) in an accelerated timeline compared to that outlined in the Kigali Amendment. The regulation includes a multi-faceted approach to ensuring an overall reduction in emissions by:
- Implementing a quota system to manage HFCs in the EU market from 2015 on, phasing down to one-fifth of 2015 levels by 2030.
- Banning the use of certain high GWP F-gases in specific applications where lower environmental impact alternatives are available.
- Reducing emission of F-gases from existing equipment by requiring improved service practices such as leak checks and gas recovery at the end of the equipment's life.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and State Regulations
Part of the Clean Air Act of 1990 established the EPA's Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program5 to identify and evaluate substitutes for ozone-depleting substances. The program includes some mandates that impact the use of different refrigerants and publishes lists of acceptable and unacceptable substitutes. These lists are continuously updated based on new findings.
While some SNAP rules were vacated in 2018 due to legal challenges, the EPA is rewriting and plans to publish those parts—specifically, rules 20 and 21—by end of 2019.
In addition to the EPA regulations, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has proposed state-wide regulations6 with specific deadlines banning the use of some higher GWP HFC refrigerants in specific refrigeration and air conditioning applications. Additional states including Washington and Vermont are looking to enact similar regulations.
Japanese Initiatives and Regulations
The Japan Ozone Layer Protection Act⁷ introduced policy measures that expanded the scope of previous F-gas measures. The act shifted focus from F-gas recovery and destruction to include the whole lifecycle: manufacturing, maintenance, and leak checking. A separate regulation—the Act on Rational Use and Proper Management of Fluorocarbons, is specific to the emissions of CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs. The Japanese laws also promote the use of low GWP refrigerants in designated products.
Canadian Government Regulations
The December 2016 revision to this regulation enables Canada to meet its ongoing obligations under the Montreal Protocol. The most recent revision puts in place the framework for the HFC phasedown schedule adopted by the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal protocol. Regulations stipulate a permit system and CO₂ equivalent allocations, among others. Environment and Climate Change Canada⁸ has published five fact sheets to assist regulated entities with compliance.