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EU ban on HCFCs starts to bite

London, UK:  Reclaimed and recycled HCFCs may be used up until the next stage of the EU ban that comes into force on 1 January 2015. After that HCFCs will be phased out altogether and it will be illegal to use all forms of HCFC to service refrigeration and air conditioning equipment.

It is a timely reminded to opperators to be aware of the cost implications of the changeover, says Gemma Staples at law firm Eversheds.  Since the late nineties there has been an increasing international focus upon placing bans on the use of harmful, ozone-depleting substances such as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), she says. “HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) were temporarily allowed to remain, although a duty has been placed upon all member states to gradually phase-out the use of all HCFCs.”

“The most common HCFC is R22, and is used across Europe in the use of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment (RAC equipment).  HCFCs such as R22 have been banned in their transitional forms since 2001, but since 1 January 2010 it is now illegal to use virgin (pure) forms of HCFCs in the servicing and maintenance of RAC equipment.

“This includes the use of any stockpiled virgin HCFCs purchased before the ban date.  Reclaimed and recycled HFCCs may be used up until the next stage of the ban comes into force on 1 January 2015 – after which HCFCs will be phased out altogether and it will be illegal to use all forms of HCFC to service RAC equipment,” Staples says.

“R22 remains one of the most widely-used HCFC gases by businesses in the UK, across a number of sectors including food and drink; retail; health; hospitality and leisure; petro-chemicals and pharmaceuticals – or any other industry which uses refrigeration or cooling techniques.

“The ban therefore has important – and costly – implications for those businesses that face a wholesale replacement or conversion of their RAC equipment, as well as for facilities and building managers; engineers; and landlords and tenants – both in terms of maintenance and lease-end obligations.

The terms of the phase-out have therefore been clarified:

  • No utilisation of HCFCs in any form in the production or maintenance (including refilling) of products or equipment post-1 January 2015
  • Specifically, there must be no maintenance or servicing that involves breaking into the refrigeration circuits of the equipment. The majority of RAC systems have a propensity to leak, and therefore should be removed from operation altogether to avoid the need to carry out maintenance and servicing.
  • If replaced, new systems should comply with the EC F Gas Regulations, or use “natural” refrigerants such as ammonia or carbon dioxide.
  • If existing systems are to be converted (via “retro-fill” or “drop-in” insertion of EC compliant gas alternatives), this should be done by specialist contractors in order to minimise the risks of further refrigerant leakage. Conversion is only recommended for equipment that is less than 10 years old, and where conversion has not already taken place.