HFOs part of new EPA refrigerant rules

The agency’s extension of Section 608 to HFCs also applies to HFOs.

In addition to extending its refrigerant management requirements under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act to HFCs in a late September ruling, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also extended them to HFOs, the new breed of synthetic refrigerants.

For more than two decades, Section 608 has prohibited the deliberate release of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) during the maintenance or disposal of air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment. It also requires proper refrigerant management practices by owners and operators of refrigeration and air-conditioning systems, technicians, and others.

On 26 September, the EPA announced that these rules would be applied to “[ODS] substitutes such as HFCs”.

The agency made clear that the regulations do not extend to substitutes that have been exempted from the venting prohibition, such as ammonia, CO2 and propane.

Asked whether HFOs would be included in the new rule or exempted, an EPA spokeswoman said, “this rule did not analyse HFOs for exemption; therefore, all HFOs are subject to the venting prohibition and the recent regulations”. HFOs have not been singled out in news reports as part of the new regulations.

The leak repair regulations under Section 608 apply to industrial process refrigeration (IPR), commercial refrigeration, and comfort cooling appliances containing 50 pounds or more of ODS or substitute refrigerant.

Among the regulations, owners/operators must identify and repair leaks that exceed 30% on an annual basis for IPR (down from 35%), 20% for commercial refrigeration (down from 35%), and 10% for comfort cooling (down from 15%) within 30 days of when the ODS or substitute refrigerant is added. Leaks must be repaired such that the leak rate is brought below the applicable leak rate.

The new requirements will take effect on 1 January 2019.