The 2020 F-GAS regulations have brought in even tighter restrictions on the use of fluorinated gases, with the dual purposes of reducing emissions of atmospheric pollutants and combatting the greenhouse effect. This legislation was first introduced in 2014 with the aim of reducing hydrocarbon emissions by 80% by the year 2030.
In order to achieve that important target, F-Gas regulations are revised at pre-defined regular intervals, by gradually adjusting the permitted GWP values (global warming potential) of the materials involved. In 2020, the GWP of gases destined for use in refrigeration systems must be below 2500.
The key changes in F-GAS 2020
Legislation governing the emission of pollutant gases affects a wide range of sectors, from construction to domestic air-conditioning. Concerning refrigeration and air-conditioning systems (which make heavy use of HFC hydrocarbons), F-GAS 2020 sets out the following restrictions:
- It will no longer be possible to supply freezers or refrigerators (hermetically sealed and destined for commercial use), which use HFCs with a GWP value below 2500;
- In addition, the sale of fixed systems which use HFCs with a GWP above 2500, will not be permitted (except those designed for use in the cooling of products at temperatures below -50° C);
- Maintenance and support work on refrigeration systems which use HFCs with over 40 tonnes of CO2 (that is with approximately 10 KG of a gas such as R404A/R507A), may be carried out only if virgin HFCs with a GWP above 2500 are used (also in this case, systems with temperatures below -50°C are excluded).
As an additional incentive to change the type of refrigerant gas for an alternative with a reduced environmental impact, there is a significant increase in the prices of the most polluting gas compounds (especially the two most commonly used: R404A and R507A). The idea is to discourage their use so as to meet the targets set for 2030.
The reduction values planned for January 2022 have already been announced. For refrigerators, commercial freezers and centralised refrigeration systems (with a nominal capacity equal to or exceeding 40kW), the GWP of the gases used must be below 150.
In circuits with a primary cascade refrigerant, the gases must maintain a value below 1500, while the current limits of 2500 will remain in place for systems with a capacity below 40 kW. Through F-GAS 2020, the aim is to make all high GWP gases disappear from the HVAC marketplace.
How to regulate the maintenance of systems which use R404A/R507A
Closer analysis is required regarding the maintenance of systems which currently use gases such as R404A and R507A. The F-Gas regulations, in fact, set out two separate guidelines according to system capacity.
In the case of low power systems (that is with a refrigerant load below 40 tonnes of CO2), maintenance work can continue as before (although increases in prices must be taken into account).
If, however, the system exceeds the capacity level mentioned above, then there are three maintenance options:
- Complete replacement of the system with equipment which conforms with the legislation introduced in F-GAS 2020;
- Modification or adjustment (if possible) of the equipment, so that it will use a refrigerant gas with a GWP of less than 2500;
- Exclusive use of a regenerated refrigerant (click here for more information) for the maintenance of systems which use HFCs with a GWP of more than 2500.
Translated by Joanne Beckwith