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The cooling industry is feeling the pressure, caused by global warming, to make changes that help to reduce harmful GHG emissions. Traditional, high-GWP refrigerants are gradually being replaced by new, more environmentally friendly substances.
New, low-GWP (global warming potential) refrigerants are being developed all the time, but finding safer substances with the same technical qualities as old refrigerants is challenging. A safe substance means that it is non-flammable and nontoxic. The refrigerant must be permanent, but not too permanent to become part of natural cycles and vaporise at the right temperature.
Natural gases as drivers of development
Extensive R&D is underway to increase the use of so-called natural gases as refrigerants. Because they are environmentally friendly and affordable, the aim is to shift to natural gases in all possible applications as soon as the related safety, energy efficiency and technological problems have been solved. The key types of natural gases used as refrigerants – ammonia (R717), carbon dioxide (R744) and hydrocarbons (such as propane, R290, and isobutene, R600a) – were established in certain applications before the current legislation came to be.
The easiest steps towards using natural gases have already been taken. Ammonia is an excellent refrigerant, but its toxicity and violent reaction with certain materials are major hindrances to its wider use. Due to their high flammability, hydrocarbons can only be used in small appliances with a maximum charge of 150g of flammable refrigerant. However, external AC water chillers with higher charges are already on the market. The challenges presented by carbon dioxide lie in high pressure formation and thermodynamic properties that are different to other common refrigerants. However, carbon dioxide has proven competitive in locations such as stores, where its heat-recovery capacity has been widely used.
Risks of complex mixtures
The wider range of refrigerants may prove challenging in the future. Harmonisation is needed with regard to new HFO substances, i.e. F-gases, in particular. It does not make sense for producers to market refrigerant mixtures with slightly different compositions for use in the same applications. This is sure to present problems for maintenance companies, whose vehicles need room for more than just refrigerant cylinders.
Darment offers a wide range of natural refrigerants, and HFC and HFO refrigerants. We are continuously developing our product selection. We would be delighted to answer any questions you may have about our products.
Kylmäaineiden valmistus, maahantuonti, myynti ja varastointi (Manufacture, import, sales and storage of refrigerants):
Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency Tukes. 11 September 2019.
Kylmäaineiden kiristyvät ympäristövaatimukset ja tulevaisuuden ratkaisut (Environmental Regulations on Refrigerant Industry and Future Solutions): Tuomas Collin. Thesis, Tampere University of Applied Sciences. 2019
Nyt tarvitaan malttia ja suunnitelmallisuutta, kylmäaineiden hinnat nousseet vauhdilla (Patience and planning is needed, refrigerant prices are rising fast): Finnish Refrigeration Enterprises Association (FREA). Press release, 10 September 2018.