The debate about HFC consumption in Europe has reached fever pitch, especially after the worrying rise in their use recorded in 2020, despite the strict restrictions enforced to safeguard the climate of all EU member states.
One of the most concerning situations is in Denmark, which, according to the European Environmental Agency’s annual report, has increased its use of this type of gas by 7 percentage points compared to 2019.
Although F-Gas regulations have for some time imposed limits on fluorinated refrigerants which have become stricter each year (in an attempt to discourage their industrial and domestic use), the current scenario is not looking good.
Europe remains optimistic on HFC consumption
Despite the points mentioned above, the general European Commission remains relatively optimistic because, as well as confirming a tangible increase in high GWP refrigerants, the report also underlines that the year 2020 ended with levels of 4% below the maximum limit permitted by F-Gas regulations.
The EU’s encouraging words have not convinced everyone and, as outlined in a detailed report in Coolingpost (accessible via this link), the situation regarding hydrofluorocarbon consumption in Europe seems to suggest a rather different scenario.
The doubts in the minds of more sceptical observers stem from the fact that the AEA’s report does not consider the illegal HFCs available on the market. According to some, they amount to around 30% of the quantity of legal HFCs, but Europe, which continues to classify the numbers in question as ‘presumed’, does not take them into account in its official figures.
The European monitoring system attributes the increase in HFC consumption to the so-called admissible quota reserve, a special parameter which adds some flexibility to the limits for high GWP refrigerants, allowing companies to import refrigeration, air conditioning equipment and heat exchangers more easily.
Considering that since 2019 however, checks on requests for authorisation to exceed limits have become tougher and this route is now used much less frequently, (currently only 30% of the total), the European Environmental Agency’s statement regarding the increase in F-Gases is likely to have had only a minimal impact on the overall figures.
The report also includes specific data on trends regarding high GWP fluorinated gas consumption. Between 2019 and 2020, the most significant variations involved SF6 (which recorded an increase of 12%), NF3 (with +8%) and PFCs, which fell by 18%.
Positive figures for regenerated HFCs
One positive point in the AEA’s report involves figures for the consumption of regenerated HFCs. The quantity of regenerated fluorinated gases has increased by around 6% in volume compared to 2019, while it decreased by 9% in terms of GWP. This is mainly attributable to reduced interest in SF6 conversion (-42%).
On a more general note, the document emphasises how regenerated HFCs now make up 11% of EU production, as well as 3% of the total supply. As far as the total quantity of regenerated refrigerants is concerned, 97% consists of hydrofluorocarbons.
Another interesting statistic is the consumption of HFCs as raw materials in chemical production processes. According to the European analysis agency, this type of use has seen an increase of 11% compared to 2019.
Translated by Joanne Beckwith