Jean Clarke writes that the F Gas Regulations aim to lessen the impact of these gases, which contribute to global warming, and include extended containment provisions along with a service and maintenance ban on using high-GWP refrigerants
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Author: Jean Clarke, Environment Inspectorate, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government

Regulation 842 of 2006 – or, as it is commonly known, the F Gas Regulation – was published in 2006, although the majority of its provisions did not come into force until 2007. The objective of the Regulation was to contain, prevent and thereby reduce emissions of the fluorinated greenhouse gases (F gases) covered by the Kyoto Protocol.

F gases are defined in the Regulation to mean hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), as listed in Annex 1 of the Regulations. The most commonly used of these gases are HFCs, which have largely replaced ozone-depleting substances (ODS) as they are used in similar applications (primarily in refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps) but have no ozone-depleting potential.

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Unfortunately, however, many F gases have high global warming potential, which is a problem that now needs to be addressed. The other gases are used in more specialist applications, e.g. PFCs in semiconductor manufacturing and aluminium manufacture and also SF6, which is mainly used for the insulation of electrical switchgear.

The existing Regulation has focused on the containment of emissions from equipment, as opposed to large-scale bans or ‘phase down’ of gases, although there were a small number of bans provided for under Article 9 and Annex II. It introduced mandatory leak-checking of equipment within certain thresholds and also established a certification regime to ensure that leak checking, recovery and destruction of F gases is carried out by appropriately qualified personnel and certified companies.

Fig 1: A typical F gas-using appliance

It should also be noted that the onus is on the end user or the operator to comply with the Regulations that have been implemented in Ireland under the Fluorinated Greenhouse Gas Regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency is the competent authority for the implementation of these Regulations.

Article 10 of the Regulation required that a review be carried out on the progress of implementing the Regulation and that the Commission would publish a report on its findings. The Commission engaged consultants headed by OKO Recherché to carry out a preparatory background study and, based on the findings, the Commission published its report on the application, effects and adequacy of the Regulation (Com (2011) final, 26.9.2011).

The report concluded that full implementation of the Regulation and the MAC Directive (which controls the use of F gases in mobile air conditioning systems and introduces prohibitions from certain dates) would at best stabilise F gas emissions. This is not enough to achieve the EU objective to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 per cent by 2050, as required by the Low Carbon Roadmap.

Further action is needed in the context of the above objectives and the growing availability of low or zero global-warming alternative substances. There are also proposals to try to achieve a global phase down of HFCs under the regime of the Montreal Protocol (the global agreement on phase out of ODS).

COMMISSION PROPOSAL

The Commission published its proposal for a revised F gas regulation in November 2012 along with an impact assessment. The negotiations on the dossier commenced during the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2013.

As a co-decision Regulation, the proposal is also being discussed in the European Parliament. The Commission proposal aims to build on the existing Regulation and has a strong emphasis on the climate impact of F gases. The proposal contains 24 articles and eight annexes, compared to 15 articles and two annexes in the existing Regulation. Some key new provisions of the proposal include:

  • Extended containment provisions – refrigeration units of trucks and trailers now included;
  • Service and maintenance ban on using high-GWP refrigerants – this relates to Article 11 and is designed to encourage a switch to lower GWP gases, as it will prohibit the use of F gases or mixtures of such gases with a GWP of 2500 or more in the service or maintenance of refrigeration equipment with a charge size of five tonnes of CO2 or more from 1 January 2020.

It is likely from the current discussions that recycled and reclaimed gases will be allowed for the service and maintenance of such equipment and the charge size threshold will be increased.

  • Ban on pre-charging equipment before its first installation – relates to Article 12, whereby non-hermetically-sealed refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pump equipment shall not be charged with HFCs before being placed on the market or before being made available to the end user for the first installation.

The equipment must be charged where it is intended to be used by certified personnel. The reason for this is firstly to ensure that equipment is installed correctly by certified personnel, and secondly to ensure the integrity of the phase down mechanism which is based on bulk HFCs placed on the market (hence a mechanism is needed to ensure that HFCs in equipment are subject to the phase down), by requiring equipment to be charged on the site where it is intended to be used.

  • Phase down of HFCs – this is one of the key provisions of the proposal and relates to bulk HFC placed on the EU market. The phase-down mechanism involves a gradually declining cap on the total placement of bulk HFCs (in tonnes of CO2 equivalent) on the market in the EU with a freeze in 2015, followed by a first reduction in 2016 and reaching 21 per cent of the levels sold in 2008-11 by 2030.

It is based on the assumption that producers of products and equipment who face a restricted supply of F gases will switch to alternative technologies where feasible. This provision relates to Article 13 and the phase down steps are contained in Annex V.

  • Placing on the market bans – this refers to Article 9 and Annex III, whereby the use of HFCs is banned in certain household and commercial equipment where alternatives are available (Table 1).

Table 1: Placing on the Market Restrictions

Products and Equipment Date of Prohibition
Use of HFC-23 in fire protection systems and fire extinguishers 1 January 2015
Domestic refrigerators and freezers with HFCs with GWP of 150 or more 1 January 2015
Refrigerators and freezers for commercial (retail and food service) use (hermetically sealed systems) 1 January 2017 for HFCs with GWP of 2500 or more1 January 2020 for HFCs with GWP of 150 or more
Movable room air-conditioning appliances(Hermetically sealed) with HFCs with GWP of 150 or more 1 January 2020

Source: European Commission

WHO WILL BE AFFECTED?

All users of F gases are potentially affected by the Regulation. New equipment will be affected by the bans, so end users will need to start considering alternatives (Article 9). While the intention of the proposal is to keep existing equipment in service as long as possible, there will be a service ban under Article 11 that aims to encourage moves to lower GWP alternatives by banning the service and maintenance of equipment with refrigerants with a GWP higher than 2500.

The pre-charge ban would mean that new equipment would have to be filled on site and not at the production facility. There may be some extended record keeping requirements and, while it is hoped that the current certification requirements will retain the status quo, it is likely that there will be a need to obtain knowledge in the alternatives to F gases.

Good progress has been made to date and one of the biggest remaining issues relates to the pre-charge ban in Article 12. In this context alternative proposals are still under discussion. Further work will also be needed in relation to the scope of Annex III and the profile (pace) of the F gas phase down in Annex VI.

CURRENT STATE OF PLAY

On 19 June 2013, the Environment Committee of the European Parliament voted on its amendment proposals and agreed with a broad majority (49/16) on a negotiation mandate for opening negotiations with a view to reaching an accelerated agreement with Council and Commission.

Seven compromise/consolidated amendments were adopted, concerning:

  1. Additional placing on the market bans, proposing rather broad bans on technical (non-medical) aerosols, foams, mobile and stationary refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment with the possibility to grant derogations through delegated acts after consultation with stakeholders in a special ‘Consultation Forum’. In addition to the placing on the market ban, exports of those goods would be prohibited;
  1. Ban on servicing of equipment with high GWP HFCs, narrowing the scope of this ban to larger refrigeration equipment but applying it 3 years earlier (2017);
  1. Allocation fee for HFC quotas of up to €10 per tonne CO2eq, the amount to be determined by the Commission. The revenues should be used partly to finance end of life treatment, training, market-surveillance, support for the market uptake of alternatives, also addressing regional differences especially targeted in countries with higher temperatures, and partly to facilitate and implement an international agreement on HFCs;
  1. HFC phase-down schedule with steeper reduction steps in the initial and final phase down steps (2016-17: 90 per cent instead of 93 per cent; 2030: 16 per cent instead of 21 per cent);
  1. Training and certification, maintaining the status quo of the currently applicable training and certification schemes, but requesting proof that holders of newly issued certificates update their knowledge and skills at least every five years, and have undertaken an evaluation with regard to alternative technologies to those using F gases;
  1. Record keeping and reporting, limiting the scope of record keeping requirements to larger installations and requesting the mandatory establishment of electronic databases by Member States;
  1. Pre-charging of equipment, maintaining the Commission proposal unchanged, despite several proposals to delete or replace this requirement.

Other amendments that were approved propose rather minor adjustments to the proposal, but also a requirement for Member States to establish producer responsibility schemes for the recovery, reclamation or destruction of F gases at the end of life of products and equipment containing such substances.

The Lithuanian Presidency hopes to secure a common position on the proposal in Council this month, with the intention of going into trialogues with the Parliament and the Commission in October with the aim of achieving a first reading agreement.

http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Eargth-1024x1024.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Eargth-300x300.jpgDavid O'RiordanChemclimate change,Environmental Protection Agency
  Author: Jean Clarke, Environment Inspectorate, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government Regulation 842 of 2006 – or, as it is commonly known, the F Gas Regulation – was published in 2006, although the majority of its provisions did not come into force until 2007. The objective of the Regulation was...