Fluorinated gases (F gases) are regulated by the EU due to their negative impacts on climate. The main uses of fluorinated greenhouse gases are in stationary and mobile refrigeration and air-conditioning systems, fire protection, high voltage switch gear, semiconductor production as well as in foams, aerosols and metered dose inhalers. In many cases, the most commonly used fluorinated greenhouse gases (HFCs) have been used to replace ozone depleting substances such as CFCs and HCFCs in refrigeration and air conditioning systems and halons in fire protection systems
F Gases EU requirements and national rules
EU Regulation (EU) 517/2014 came into force on 1st January 2015. The new EU Regulation is ambitious and aims to gradually over time phase down high global warming potential (GWP) fluorinated greenhouse (F-gases) and replace them with more
environmentally friendly alternatives.
Some key provisions include:
- Extended containment provisions including recording leak checks
- Service and maintenance ban using high GWP refrigerants
- Extended placing on the market bans (Annex III)
- Phasing down the amount of F-gases that can be placed on the market through gradually reducing quotas given to F-gas producers and importers
There is a suite of EU implementing covering issues such as labelling, certification of personnel and companies, leak checking and reporting. Further information on the EU regulation, its implementing regulations and guidance can be obtained from the European Commission website. Ireland has put in place certain implementing measures to give full effect to the Regulation. These measures designate a national competent authority (the Environmental Protection Agency), introduce mandatory training and certification, as well as penalties for non-compliance.
Phase down of Hydrofluorocarbons
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump applications are the most widely used of the fluorinated greenhouse gases and are being phased down under the EU regulation. This HFC phase down is expected to have significant climate benefit by reducing the EU emissions by two thirds compared to 2014 levels.
The phasedown is gradual and based on the annual average of the total quantity of HFCs placed on the European market between 2009 and 2012. The phase down steps began in 2015 and by 2030 will result in a reduction of some 89%. This means that end users looking at new equipment containing HFCs should be considering alternative equipment using low Global Warming Potential alternatives as the availability of HFCs on the market become more costly and scarce.
An important consideration since the 1st January 2017 is that any refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment charged with HFCs cannot be placed on the EU market unless the HFCs within the equipment are accounted for within the EU HFC quota system. Guidance on this can be found on the EU Commission website.
Global Action on HFCs
Action by the EU has shown that phase down of HFCs is possible and in October 2016 the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol was achieved to add HFCs to the list of controlled substances covered by the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer. The use of HFCs, while not ozone depleting, has increased substantially as replacements to ozone depleting substances The Kigali amendment is a historic agreement which is expected to avoid up to 0.5 degree Celsius of global temperature rise by 2100, while continuing to protect the ozone layer.