A joint proposal by Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden to ban low global warming potential HFOs such as R1234yf along with around 4700 other chemicals including HFCs that are already being phased down, has been opposed by Dutch HVACR industry association NVKL.
Citing existing European Union F-gas rules as “the correct European legislation” to regulate synthetic refrigerants, NVKL warns that the proposed ban would have “major consequences” for the industry it represents.
In a statement, NVKL pointed out that “HFCs and HFOs disintegrate relatively quickly into substances (trifluoroacetic acid) that also occur in nature”.
“They are therefore much less persistent than many other PFAS substances, which is another reason not to include these substances on the European list of banned chemicals.”
Under European Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation, the proposed ban would apply to manufacturing, marketing and usage of polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), overriding existing F-gas controls.
Despite the HVACR industry’s concern that the REACH proposal would hamper the HFC phase-down by banning lower-GWP alternatives such as R32, R125, R134a, R143a, R152a, R1234yf, R1234ze(E), R1336mzz(E), R1336mzz(Z), R1233zd(E) and R1224yd, the member states behind the proposal harbour concerns that these, and HFOs in particular, can break down into harmful trifluoroacetic acid (TFA).
Worries about TFA’s persistence and potential to harm the environment, marine life and humans have not been taken into account in the F-gas regulation that focuses on climate change, according to some environmentalists.
This is not a new concern, and refrigerant manufacturers have insisted for some time that TFA naturally occurs in the oceans and soil.
Assessments by the Scientific Assessment Panel of the Montreal Protocol (SAP) also determined that the impact of TFA caused by R1234yf in the atmosphere will be “negligible” in the coming decades.
The SAP assessment did, however, recommend further investigations at an international level into the long-term effects of TFA as a breakdown product of synthetic refrigerants.
If TFA from HFOs does become a genuine cause for concern and the REACH proposal is accepted, it could be back to the drawing board for the entire global HVACR sector and its many regulators.