The new F-Gas and the Recovery Plan: the Italian perspective

search 05 Feb 2021

Francesco Mastrapasqua

F-Gas and the Recovery Plan

The current regulation on fluorinated gases EU 517/2014, in force since 1st January 2015, has introduced far-reaching changes in the cold sector.

In particular:

• since 2015, it limits the total quantity of the most important fluorinated gases which can be sold in the EU and continues to reduce them gradually with a target of a fifth of sales of 2014 from 2030.

• it forbids the use of fluorinated gases with high greenhouse potential in many new types of equipment where less harmful alternatives are widely available;

• it prevents uncontrolled emissions of fluorinated gases from existing equipment therefore requiring that they have appropriate assistance and gas recovery at the end of their lifecycle.

As required by the Regulation, a review by the Commission is currently underway. This review will assess its effectiveness, relevance, efficiency, consistency and the added value to the EU.

The review also analyses the political options to improve the regulation in future, in view of:

• European Green Deal and the European climate law

• The recent international obligations on hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) under the Montreal Protocol

• The progress made and lessons learned.

The use of refrigerants with a very low-impact greenhouse effect and the reduction of energy consumption of equipment and of the refrigeration systems are essential. Fluorinated gases, or HFC, now account for 4.4% of total greenhouse emissions in Italy, therefore regulating their choice and use is urgent and essential. Therefore, we hope that the new F-Gas will be more ambitious than its predecessor and aligned with the objectives of the European Green Deal to meet the challenge of climate change and become the first climate neutral continent in the world.

The alternatives to the old high GWP HFC refrigerants, such as carbon dioxide (R744, CO2) and propane (R290), which do not cause any direct greenhouse effect, are today widely used and widely available on the market. The modern CO2 systems with the best transcritical energy options such as ETE and FTE by Epta and the most modern propane equipment have reached and exceeded the efficiency achievable with standard systems and consequently have the minimum indirect greenhouse effect obtainable.

We must bear in mind that the turnover of HFC refrigerants in the market has very high research and development costs for industry, and of adaptation or replacement for large-scale distribution. We expect new, more challenging long-term objectives and that the new scenario is the final one and not just an intermediate step to change again, within a short time.

To obtain a significant reduction in HFC consumption it is not enough to just regulate only new systems. It is necessary to reduce the consumption of HFC with very high greenhouse potential (more than 2500 tons/year) tied to the maintenance of old supermarkets and existing hypermarkets which still use highly climate-impacting refrigerants and which, on average, disperse 15% per year in the environment due to operating losses.

It is necessary to intervene immediately on the reconversion of older commercial refrigeration systems by replacing them with modern natural refrigerant systems and low consumption, technologies in which the Italian companies retain absolute leadership at world level.

Finally, it is also necessary to better regulate the use of HFC in maintenance, making leakage controls more effective, strengthening the fight against illegal trade of HFC and investing more in specialised training on new technologies.

We are therefore confident that the review of the European F-Gas Regulation currently being studied by the European Commission and which will see the light presumably during 2022 will allow the market to evolve in a positive direction of greater respect for the environment and the fight against climate change.