Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Products Helpful in Recovery, Reclamation

April 8, 2013
Fluke Corp.'s CNX Wire System wirelessly connects multiple measurement modules and sends simultaneous readings to a master device up to 20 meters away, allowing users to troubleshoot problems.
While the reclamation process may not be meeting industry expectations, numerous manufacturers are offering equipment and devices that make the process easier than ever before. Listed below are a few of the industry’s newest products and technologies benefiting recovery and reclamation.

Atlantic Chemical & Equipment Co.’s (www.atlanticchemical.com) ACESeal AC/R and HVAC/R leak solutions seals small (up to 300 microns) leaks in condensers, evaporators, and refrigerant lines. The AC/R can handle up to 1.5 tons while the HVAC/R can handle up to 5 tons. The AceSeal is not a polymer-based sealant, so no drying agent is required. In addition, it does not require evacuation of refrigerant to input sealant, and the sealant blends with oil/refrigerant mix to travel to the leak. The oil and refrigerant escape through the lead while larger molecules in the sealant bond together to seal.

Fieldpiece Instruments’ (www.fieldpiece.com) SMAN4 is a four-port, wireless digital manifold that has a 3/8-inch port for evacuations and recovery. The four ports allow technicians to evacuate a system, pull a vacuum, add refrigerant, and dial in the charge at one time without having to hook or unhook any hoses.

Fluke Corp.’s (www.fluke.com) CNX Wire System wirelessly connects multiple measurement modules and sends simultaneous readings to a master device up to 20 meters away, allowing users to troubleshoot problems. The customizable tool set allows users to choose various measurement modules based on their specific troubleshooting scenario to read the measurements outside the arc flash zone.

General Tools & Instruments’ (www.generaltools.com) digital refrigerant leak detector (RLD400), which features a semiconductor sensor lifespan of more than 300 hours of operation or 10 years normal use. Three sensitivity levels let users choose the right level for specific environments.

Hilmor’s (www.hilmor.com) electronic gauge with vacuum sensor is a hybrid gauge with both analog and digital readouts with lights color coordinated to the selected refrigerant. It also features a micron gauge, self calibration, and is accurate to within 1 percent. The company also recently introduced a dual readout thermometer with thermocouple clamps that can be attached to any manifold using the hook provided. The tool features two digital temperature readouts so calculating superheat and subcool no longer requires multiple tools. An aluminum manifold has a forged aluminum body with rubberized handles, protective gauge boots, replaceable stainless steel valve stems, and a pressure indicator ring that allows users to mark a spot with a marker.

Polar Technology (www.refrigerantauthority.com) recently introduced TrakRef®, a proprietary and comprehensive refrigerant management program. As explained by the company, the product is designed to provide comprehensive and transparent tracking and management of refrigerants throughout their entire lifecycles. This includes from the time of purchase to deployment throughout maintenance cycles, through recovery and reclamation, to their final destruction at the end of the lifecycle. When the program is incorporated among the participating points in the supply chain, more of the original refrigerant is kept within the supply chain, ownership of the refrigerant can be accounted for, and regulatory compliance is inherently managed. It is available in three customized versions for contractors, distributors, and system owners.

Refco Mfg. Ltd.’s (www.refco.ch) Enviro is a one-knob operation refrigerant-recovery machine. It allows for recovery of all popular CFC, HCFC, and HFC refrigerants using an oil-less, air-cooled compressor. The Enviro is equipped with a self-purging mode as well as a built-in filter.

RefTec Intl. Systems LLC‘s (www.reftec.com) BullDog recovery/recycle/reclaim unit is available in three sizes, the unit processes R-22, R-134a, R-410A, R-11, R-123, and other common refrigerants with the same unit. It processes gas at speeds of 600 pounds per hour. Features include zero cross contamination of compressor oil to gas, portable design so it fits through standard 36-inch doorways, and single power source for unit and controls. The 80 percent tank-full float switch and 12-foot float cable ensure cylinders are not being overfilled.

Robinair (www.robinair.com) introduced the RG3000 Cube, a compact and lightweight refrigerant recovery machine from Promax. It is designed for liquid and vapor recovery of commonly used CFC, HFC, and HCFC refrigerants including R-410A. Equipped with a high-pressure shift-off switch, the machine automatically shuts off if pressure rises above 550 psi, helping to prevent pressure building in a tank or machine. The high-efficiency, cross-flow airflow design allows for more efficient refrigerant recovery leading to shorter cycle times, the company said. The company also displayed a refrigerant recovery, recycle, evacuate, and recharge machine. It can be used for multiple refrigerants. The portable machine’s microprocessor-controlled functions prompt the user through programming and signal preventive maintenance. The float chamber auto adjusts from liquid to vapor. The lockout panel prevents mixing of refrigerants. The heavy-duty filter drier removes moisture and acid from the refrigerant; it can handle 300 pounds between changeovers. The Promax® Cube™ refrigerant-recovery machine is capable of recovering both liquid and vapor refrigerant. The machine has a 1/3-hp, single-cylinder oil-less compressor.

Spectronics Corp.’s (www.spectroline.com) Optimax 400 leak-detection flashlight features power comparable to high-intensity, 150-W lamps, and an inspection range of up to 25 feet.

SuperCool’s (www.supercoolsliderule.com) Slide Rule is an R-22 and R-410A charging and duct calculator that performs superheat, subcooling, and duct calculations in one tool. Fixed meter-device charging is provided for R-22 and R-410A. TXV charging is also provided for R-22 and R-410A.

Superior Signal Co. LLC (www.superiorsignal.com) introduced the AccuTrak® VPE-GN ultrasonic leak detector with a 9 ½-inch gooseneck. The unit is sensitive to the ultrasonic sound of a turbulent gas leak. Using a technology called heterodyning, it translates the sound to a lower frequency which human ears can interpret, said the manufacturer. The device maintains the original sound characteristics, making it possible to distinguish leaks from other background sounds. The leak detector is designed to pinpoint leaks in air conditioning and refrigeration systems, acknowledging present air, vacuum, refrigerant, or gas leaks.

Testo AG’s (www.testo.com) testo 316-3 is a refrigerant-leak detector that includes a sensor head, transport case, calibration certificate, batteries, and a filter. It has one-button operation and the high/low sensitivity adjustment allows users to pinpoint the leak source. The company also offers the testo 310 and testo 320. The 310 is a residential combustion analyzer with a built-in condensate trap. The 320 is a high-definition combustion analyzer for both residential and commercial applications. There are many features with the 320, including its full-color, high-definition screen.

Universal Enterprises Inc. (www.ueitest.com) introduced the DRS220 digital refrigerant scale, which measures weight in both metric and English units, is programmable, and has a built-in alarm to indicate a programmed threshold has been exceeded.

Publication date: 4/8/2013
Peter Powell is Refrigeration Editor. E-mail him at peterpowell@achrnews.com.

Reclamation Looking for Jumpstart

April 8, 2013
A fractional distillation tower in Ohio.
(Photo courtesy of A-Gas RemTec.)

Reclamation is in a rut. Shortly after the arrival of the Montreal Protocol, 25 years ago, came the 3 R’s: Recover, Recycle, and Reclaim. Service technicians would recover refrigerant to avoid fines for illegal venting. They’d then run the gas through an on-site recycling machine to clean it up a bit. But if they were not sure how pure the stuff they were planning to put back into the system was, they would put a virgin version of the same refrigerant into the system and send the old stuff to off-site reclamation facilities, to be brought back to the certified highest level of purity — ARI 700. The reality is that in 2012, and thus far in 2013, few technicians and contractors are bringing R-22 back for reclamation despite an abundance of capacity at many reclamation facilities. “Based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report, the amount of R-22 reclaimed year over year has remained relatively flat for the past five to six years, hovering around 5 or 6 percent of HCFC-22 demand,” said Debra D. Goodge, refrigerant reclaim programs manager for DuPont. “Beginning in 2010 with the issuance of the Final Rule (regarding phase out of R-22), there was an expectation that reclaim would be needed to fill a projected R-22 supply-demand imbalance — somewhere in the neighborhood of 27.5 million pounds each year. For the past two years, there has not been an uptick in the amount of reclaimed R-22 going through reclaimers. It’s remained steady around 8 million pounds.” Christopher Foutz, marketing manager, Honeywell Refrigerants, said, “The amount of R-22 reclaimed in 2011 was similar to the amount of R-22 that was reclaimed in 2006.”

What’s the Problem?

“One of the major contributors to the flat or declining recovery rate is that many R-22 users have adopted a practice of reusing their recovered refrigerant,” said Gordon McKinney, vice president and COO, ICOR Intl. “Even though some might be making an attempt to recycle (filter out particulates and/or separate out oils), without properly analyzing the recovered gas to determine composition and quality, the user and equipment owner are rolling the dice.”

Walt Baker, vice president of sales and marketing, Polar Technology, said, “A lot of this can be attributed to the commodity nature of refrigerant gases. Supplies are plentiful and prices reflect the availability of supplies. Therefore, the role of reclaim has been relegated to philosophies regarding environmental stewardship.”
Then there is the economics of reclamation for the contractor, said Ken Beringer, senior vice president of Airgas Refrigerants Inc. “The industry has not seen a significant increase in returned R-22 because, in my opinion, the majority of the product is harvested in small batches which do not have a great deal of value. Until January 2012, the returned gas had very little value and, in many cases, there was a disposal charge when the product was returned.”

Patti Conlan, who manages the reclaim program for Arkema, said, “In the past, the volume of reclaim has been low due to monetary gains not being passed down to the contractor level as an incentive to reclaim, as well as the possible legal and illegal reuse of R-22.”

Yet awareness is growing, said James Sweetman, president, Consolidated Refrigerant Solutions. “We have seen heightened awareness among contractors regarding the need to become involved in a viable reclaim program.”

Arkema’s Conlan is also predicting an uptick. “As the EPA has anticipated, we have just recently started to see an increase in reclaim coming back with the increasing price of R-22.” Said Beringer, “With the phaseout of HCFCs, the amount returned should increase as the price of used gas continues to rise. The very rapid appreciation in new product pricing may have led to the illegal practice of filtering used product and introducing it into the system of a different owner.” Ken Logan, president of A-Gas U.S. Holdings Inc., agrees, stating that “Currently the decreasing availability of virgin product is starting to make a difference. Over time the gap will widen further and the two will become inversely proportional.”

The HFC Factor

Also entering the equation is the industry’s focus on the use of HFC refrigerants as retrofits into systems originally designed for R-22. Owners of large amounts of equipment can move recovered R-22 around to not-yet-retrofitted systems and may or may not look at the reclamation option.

Honeywell’s Foutz said, “Retrofit HFC refrigerants have been available for several years. To date, the availability of the retrofit HFC refrigerants has not stimulated significant growth in R-22 reclamation. As R-22 supplies tighten, the economic incentive should stimulate retrofits to HFC refrigerants and stimulate R-22 reclamation growth.”

ICOR’s McKinney looks at the HFC retrofit from a historical perspective. “If given the opportunity, equipment owners will squeeze the most life out of their systems as possible. It was R-12-alternative HCFC refrigerants that played the most significant role in closing the supply/demand gap during the CFC phase out. Based upon the tremendous market shift in the last few months to HFC alternatives, history is set to repeat itself.”

He noted, “In the near future the R-22 supply — virgin and reclaimed — will be set aside for critical applications where alternative refrigerants are not suitable, such as flooded chillers and systems that have highly sophisticated refrigerant-specific controls.”

For A-Gas’s Logan, this can be iffy. “Keep in mind, retrofitting a system to a refrigerant it wasn’t initially designed for normally involves compromises and not everything is capable of retrofit. The industry itself will decide what can and cannot be retrofitted successfully. Retrofit activity will help conserve supplies of reclaimed R-22 overall.”

Jump Start

What will jump start the sector?

DuPont’s Goodge said, “It is a matter of supply-demand dynamics. If R-22 supply is limited, or the price increases dramatically, there is added incentive to manage the R-22 asset. A major element of a refrigerant management plan is extracting value from the installed R-22. Options include using recovered R-22 to do one or more of the following: gain access to lower-cost R-22 to continue to service equipment that remains on R-22, lowering the cost to retrofit existing equipment to an alternative HFC refrigerant, and/or reducing equipment replacement costs by extending the life of R-22 equipment by using either reclaimed R-22 or an HFC alternative.”

Airgas’s Beringer said it is a matter of economics, “People do not waste what is valuable. If the EPA had more enforcement, and made people accountable for their used product, then the culture would change. Higher pricing should help.”

As will awareness, said Consolidated’s Sweetman. “We believe that there is sufficient interest within the cooling and refrigeration industry to support increased reclamation. Companies that, for years, have been ‘kicking the can down the road’ or ‘dragging their butts’ are really starting to get on the ball. These contractors that have been conducting business as usual are finally reaching out to us for a more viable reclaim option.”

Publication date: 4/8/2013
Peter Powell is Refrigeration Editor. E-mail him at peterpowell@achrnews.com.

The Future of HFCs in Montreal Protocol

My Peter Powell

April 8, 2013
The Montreal Protocol is having a positive effect on reducing the size of the hole in the ozone layer.
It’s easy to argue that no single development has impacted the HVACR industry as much as the Montreal Protocol. The international treaty, which was signed 25 years ago, ultimately phased out CFC and HCFC production; introduced refrigerant recovery, recycling, and reclamation; and, essentially, enveloped the HVACR industry under the power of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which now dictates certifications and penalties related to the use and handling of refrigerants.

More than two decades later, the worldwide contract is still strongly impacting many sectors of the HVACR industry, including the decisions of contractors and service technicians. Ongoing discussions are currently underway, examining ways to incorporate HFCs into the protocol in order to phase down their use due to relatively high global warming potential (GWP). And while no changes are expected in the foreseeable future, these continuing conversations, and the potential developments pending, have surely caught the attention of those across the industry.

Good News

But first, the good news: The protocol was designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of substances found to be responsible for ozone depletion, those having ozone depleting potential (ODP).
And, it appears to be working.

“The Montreal Protocol is widely recognized for being very effective in reducing ozone depleting substances including CFCs and HCFCs,” said Robert Wilkins, vice president of public affairs, Danfoss. “Although we do not expect atmospheric chlorine to return to pre-1980 levels until about 2050, it has peaked and has been trending downward for several years.”

The Emergence of HFCs

With the HVACR industry forced to turn away from CFCs and HCFCs, it has moved on to HFCs, which include no ODP. However, many HFCs carried a high GWP due to their abilities to trap infrared radiations in the atmosphere, which does contribute to the greenhouse effect.

The latest efforts to revise the Montreal Protocol include rating gases based on GWP, as well as ODP.
Rajan Rajendran, vice president of engineering services and sustainability for Emerson Climate Technologies, noted, “The U.S., Canada, and Mexico have proposed an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to address global warming with a phase down of HFCs. This effort has been in place for a few years now. While there are 107 other countries supporting it, there are other, more developing countries like India, China, and Brazil who oppose. One barrier that is often mentioned is that the Montreal Protocol has historically had a very clear mission of addressing ozone depletion, but climate change is outside of its charter.”

Danfoss’ Wilkins added, “The EPA and the Department of State jointly held a stakeholders meeting in Washington on Feb. 5 with American industry leaders and others to discuss possible steps forward. With industry representatives expressing support for a well-planned orderly global HFC phase down on a GWP-weighted basis, it is likely the North American proposal will be resubmitted in 2013 for consideration at this year’s annual meeting.”

But what happens after that is uncertain, although many expect minimal action for a few subsequent years.
Mack McFarland, environmental fellow, DuPont Chemicals & Fluoroproducts, said, “The proposed amendment to the Montreal Protocol has not yet been endorsed by all of the developing countries. Amendments are adopted by consensus. Discussions continue with more and more countries voicing their support each year. I think the industry views the predictable process under the Montreal Protocol as preferable to country-by-country command and control regimes.”

Rajendran agreed. “While there are efforts to make some changes in the protocol, I don’t believe we’ll see any changes in the next few years.”

Europe and the US

European leaders are conversationally discussing HFC regulations based on GWP.

According to the website R-744.com, “The debate did advance, with countries discussing HFC amendment proposals in an informal setting, as well as requesting more information on the availability of environmentally sound alternatives to ozone depleting substances.”

R-744.com noted that this debate has spanned four years, without resolution. In his second inaugural address President Barack Obama said, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” He did not specify any specific proposals during this speech.

A Feb. 12 report from the White House, titled, “The President’s Plan for a Strong Middle Class and a Strong America,” revived calls for more reliance on solar and wind energy generation. The only reference to climate change was the statement, “The president has directed his cabinet to identify executive actions from across the administration to help reduce pollution, prepare our cities and nation for the worsening effects of climate change, and accelerate the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”

But most do not see this as an omen for unilateral action. For one, a divided Congress seems unlikely to act on potentially costly initiatives. And many in the industry see the EPA wanting to work in the framework of a global consensus.

At the same time, Rajendran did suggest, “The HVACR industry in the U.S. should be watching the emerging U.S. state government regulations out of the West and Northeast as well as potential U.S. government actions and regulations on greenhouse gasses.”

DuPont’s McFarland said, “There are a broad range of global activities under way to address greenhouse gas emissions, such as the U.S. CAFE standard for lightweight motor vehicles, renewable fuels, electricity programs in various countries, and cap-and-trade pilots in China. We anticipate that absent of a global agreement such as the Montreal Protocol, the U.S. government will seek ways to reduce HFC emissions under its current authority.”

But, in the context of a global perspective, Wilkins said progress may occur slowly. “Any changes to the Montreal Protocol would take a few years to enact. If India and China could be persuaded to support an HFC phase down, leading to a global consensus, the Montreal Protocol would then undergo negotiations to finalize the amendment and provide specific targets and timetables for phasing down HFCs globally. The amendment would then need to be ratified country by country. In the U.S., that would likely require action by the Senate. Once approved, each country could begin its own process for phasing down HFCs — similar to the phase down of CFCs and HCFCs.”

SIDEBAR: A No-Go for Kyoto

If changes to the Montreal Protocol are slow starters in regards to any additional impact on HVACR contractors, the Kyoto Protocol is a non-starter. Kyoto was to be the document to obligate countries, starting in 2005, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Many countries signed and ratified it. The U.S. signed it, but failed to ratify it and Canada withdrew from it in 2011.

Even then, many ratifiers had problems reducing GHG emissions to promised levels. However, more than 100 nations have pledged support behind the regulation of GHG emissions through the Montreal Protocol, and a growing number of countries are ready to join on, if a draft is ever presented.

Mack McFarland, environmental fellow, DuPont Chemicals & Fluoroproducts, said, “While there are no discussions under the Kyoto Protocol specific to the HVACR industry, there are active discussions under the Montreal Protocol.”

Robert Wilkins, vice president of public affairs, Danfoss, acknowledged that climate change is emerging as an important issue for the Obama administration. “Since the U.S. never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and nothing has developed regarding refrigerants, there isn’t likely to be any impact on the HVACR industry.”
Rajan Rajendran, vice president of engineering services and sustainability for Emerson Climate Technologies, said climate-change regulations could still surface in the U.S.

“From the Kyoto Protocol point of view, which is focused on climate change, the HVACR industry in the U.S. should be watching the emerging U.S. state government regulations on greenhouse gases.”

Publication date: 4/8/2013
Peter Powell is Refrigeration Editor. E-mail him at peterpowell@achrnews.com.

Monday, April 8, 2013

EPA Finalizes R-22 Allocations for 2012-2014

By Charlie McCrudden | April 4, 2013 | Leave a Comment

On April 3, the U.S. EPA published in the Federal Register the final rule adjusting the allocation of HCFCs (including R-22 refrigerants) for the years 2012-2014 (2013 Final Adjustment Rule).

According to the Final Adjustment Rule, R-22 allowances for 2013 will rise by about 13% relative to 2012, and decrease by 20% in 2014 relative to 2012. The allocations for the years 2015-2019 will be set in a subsequent rulemaking. These allocations became effective on April 3, 2013.
See the chart below (click to enlarge).

Contractors may want to contact their wholesalers or gas distributors to inquire about any changes in pricing or sales policies in light of the 2013 Final Adjustment Rule. Despite the unexpected increase in the allocations for 2013, the market remains volatile and prices for R-22 may not respond to the increased supply.

The U.S. EPA controls the production and use of HCFCs, including the refrigerant R-22, through a cap and trade program. The amount of virgin R-22 that can be produced in a given year is set by annual allocations. The production and use of HCFCs is slowly being phased out in the United States, because these chemicals are known to damage the ozone layer when released into the atmosphere.

In 2011 the EPA was ordered to reopen the 2009 Allocation Rule that set the allocations for the years 2010-2014. The order came from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in a lawsuit filed by two gas producers who charged that the EPA had failed to recognize their legally traded allocations.
In August 2011, the EPA proposed to adjust the R-22 allocations in the three remaining years of the 2009 Allocation Rule (2012-2014).

Based on consultation with industry stakeholders, the EPA determined there was an oversupply of virgin R-22 in the marketplace, evident with low demand, increased reuse of R-22, and low wholesale prices. In 2010, R-22 producers only utilized 86% of their allocations. A trade organization representing the manufacturers and importers of R-22 supported these claims, and advocated for a 20% reduction in allocations for 2012-2014.

Since 2012 refrigerant producers and importers have been operating with only temporary, 12 month authority through “No Action Assurance” letters from the EPA. Without a finalized Adjustment Rule, and without the No Action Assurance letters, virgin R-22 could not be legally produced or imported into the United States. The No Action Assurance letter from the EPA advised allocations would be less than the 2009 Allocation Rule.

The 2013 Final Adjustment Rule sets the allocations for the years 2012 (retroactively), 2013, and 2014.
In 2013, the total amount of R-22 allocated to all producers and importers is about 62.8 million pounds, compared with about 55.4 million pounds allocated for 2012. In 2014, the total allocation of R-22 will drop to 51 million pounds.

How to Choose the Right R-22 Retrofit Refrigerant

4/17/13 1:00 pm to 4/17/14 1:00 pm AKDT
Contact: Jacqlyn Ucinski

This webinar will provide a technical overview of the many different R-22 retrofits available today and how to choose the right retrofit solution. Also a brief discussion of R-22 market dynamics will be covered. A summary of what products are offered and for which specific application each one is best suited will be included along with selection criteria. The tradeoffs and compromises that occur when using retrofit refrigerants in a system specifically designed for R-22 will also be addressed. After attending this seminar, you will:

  • Understand the R-22 EPA activity and market response
  • Learn why some refrigerants may be better than others for your retrofit applications
  • Understand why there are no real “drop-in” retrofits but may still have hassle-free options
  • Become familiar with the most important criteria to consider when selecting a new R-22 alternative refrigerant