F-Gas R134a statements from gas and equipment supplier trade bodies
If you haven’t restocked your refrigerant gases recently, you may be surprised to find that the cost has increased significantly. The IGA has been in contact with manufacturers, suppliers and trade bodies to try and find the root cause, but we still don’t have a clear picture or primary reason for the increase beyond the simple facts of supply and demand economics. The reduction in quota since the start of this year has made this more obvious.
The Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF), which represents the gas suppliers, has sent us the following statement:
The revised F-Gas regulation, which came into force in January 2015 is now beginning to have an impact on the UK marketplace. The 2014 Regulation replaces the 2006 F-Gas Regulation, strengthening all of the pre-existing requirements and introducing a number of important new measures. The 2006 MAC Directive, defining further controls related to cars and other small road vehicles, remains in force.
The aim of the regulation is to reduce F-Gas emissions by two thirds and to encourage the use of viable and more climate-friendly alternatives. As a result, the regulation introduced a quota system to limit and control the amount of HFCs that can be placed on the market in all applications. For the aftermarket, this particularly impacts the supply of 134a gas, used as the refrigerant in mobile air conditioning units (MACs) on cars, LVs and CVs. From 1 January 2018, this phase down represents 63% of 2015 levels and will decrease down to 45% in 2021.
At the same time, use of 134a gas in new vehicles was banned from 2017 and replaced with 1234yf which has a significantly lower global warming potential. This new gas is not subject to the F-Gas regulation.
Full details of the legislation can be found on the website of IAAF member Harp International. www.harpintl.com
The Garage Equipment Association (GEA), which represents automotive equipment suppliers, stated:
Regulation (EU) No 517/2014 includes a phase-down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), such as air conditioning refrigerants, with R134a being one of them. So since 1 January 2015 a quota system has been introduced which limits the amount of refrigerant that producers and importers can distribute. Therefore R134a is in short supply and just like everything in life, if it’s in short supply the price increases and at the moment is being sold for around £400 per 12 kg bottle.
Manufacturers of Mobile Air Conditioning Service Equipment are having the same problems as garages, this is because they also purchase refrigerant for demonstration and training reasons.
As the price of R134a continues to increase it will lead to the introduction of low HFC replacement refrigerants such as R1234yf, which is today used in newly type-approved vehicles.
So many people in the aftermarket are beginning to think about filling R134a systems with R1234yf. This may be possible, but will require modification to the vehicle’s system, such as replacing the receiver-dryer. You would also need to refill the vehicle using R1234yf service equipment fitted with adapters to change the size/design of the service ports. However always check with the vehicle manufacturer that no other modification is required and talk to your service equipment provider because they are also looking for replacement R134a solutions.
Cooling Post, a news website covering air conditioning and refrigeration news, have also stated online:
Prices and availability of refrigerants is also high on the agenda. The Commission says it is monitoring, on a quarterly basis, price developments in the sector. It accepts that prices for bulk gas were relatively stable until mid-2015 but increased substantially during the course of last year.
In briefing note to the meeting, it says it recognises that the price increases are clearly related to the GWP of the refrigerant and therefore reflects expectations that successive quota reductions would increasingly favour the use of low GWP HFCs and natural alternatives.
DG Clima observes that refrigerant prices have reached levels of €20/tCO2e, a price which, it says, is “fully within the range that was considered to be a proportionate contribution by this sector to the 2050 roadmap”.
It sees the existing price as “a good incentive for stakeholders to switch to low GWP technologies wherever and whenever possible, to prevent leakage and to reclaim gases”.
However, the Commission claims that this year’s reduction to 63% of the baseline may actually be less steep than feared by some stakeholders. It observes that in preparation for the inclusion of pre-charged equipment in 2017, equipment importers stocked up on authorisations to such an extent that there are currently enough unused authorisations available for over 18 months of equipment imports. The 63%, it argues, will therefore be mostly available for the import and EU production of bulk gases.
We will bring you more information as we have it, and in the meantime you can call the Member Helpline on 0845 305 4230 with any queries.