Prepare for the F word!
New rules from the start of 2015 will replace current requirements covering fluorinated gases (F-gas). Neil Howe, senior legal author with online environment and safety specialists Cedrec, says the biggest impact will be felt on maintenance schedules and companies need to prepare.
The new Regulation (EU) 517/2014 revokes and replaces the existing F-gas Regulation (EC) 842/2006 with the main change amending the thresholds for maintenance frequency. Previously the criteria was based on the charge (in kg) of F-Gas in an item of equipment but going forward this will be based on the Global Warming Potential (GWP) CO2 weight equivalent of the F-gas.
This could see some equipment no longer requiring maintenance under certain circumstances, while others could require even more attention. The Regulation will see bans or restrictions of the use of F-gases in some refrigeration equipment, air conditioners, insulating forms, technical aerosols among other new equipment while there will be changes to conditions on marketing products and equipment containing or relying on F-Gases.
Other changes include cap and phase-down for the placing on the market of hydro fluorocarbons, future restrictions on the servicing and maintenance of equipment using HFCs and new rules regarding the containment, use, recovery and destruction of HFCs.
Preparation is the key to success for companies concerned about the changes and how they will impact on them. Ensuring that existing maintenance schedules are still correct to identify any equipment that was not previously covered but is now under Regulation 517/2014 is a good first step. Here, a fully up-to-date F-gas register will be necessary, listing all the equipment and systems containing F-gases that are required to be checked for leaks. (
The 3kg, 30kg, and 300kg leak check requirements have been replaced by different limits based on CO2 equivalent tonnes. The new requirements are for 5, 50 and 500 Co2 equivalent tonnes.
What next? The gas contents should be identified, and where it is confirmed as an ‘R’ code refrigerant, the actual chemical component needs to be noted (but bear in mind the gas could be a blended gas). Then, having identified all the gases, consult Annex 1 and 2 of the Regulation for the calculations necessary to determine the GWP of the gas.
Neil Howe commented: “The aim of the new Regulation is to reduce F-gas emissions by around 79% of today’s levels by 2030, through encouraging the use of viable and climate-friendly alternatives where they are available. This may sound quite ambitious, but it’s more than achievable when you consider such alternatives are already available for much of the equipment that currently uses F-Gases.
“The main problems companies are going to have is with the extension of the measures for regular leak checks. Now their frequency will be based on GWP in CO2 equivalents, rather than tonnes of F-gas. This will potentially bring more equipment into the leak checking regime, which is designed to encourage a switch to lower GWP alternatives.
“The nature of determining the GWP of an F-gas can be highly technical, something that becomes increasingly complex when you have to factor in gas composition and blends. So it’s crucial that companies start to get to grips with this early, before the new Regulation begins to come into force in the New Year.”