Project of a regional center of excellence in safe handling of low-GWP refrigerants for technical and engineering personnel

A new project to be implemented by UNIDO as an executing agency provides for creation of a center of excellence in safe handling of low-GWP refrigerants for technical and engineering personnel. The center will train specialists from European and Central Asian countries covered by Article 5 of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation coordinates the project.

Tasks of the Center

Member states of the Montreal protocol are divided in 2 groups. Industrialized countries are under tight schedule to phase out ozone-depleting substances. So called A5 countries—developing and emerging economies—do it in a less harsh mode.

Fulfillment of the Montreal Protocol led to prevalence of refrigerants containing hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), fluorinated gases with greenhouse effect thousand times higher than that of carbon dioxide. In addition, such developed countries as USA, Japan, Australia, and EU countries, were the first to face the problem of increasing greenhouse gas emissions due to use of HFC-refrigerants, and by now have gained meaningful experience in solving it.

A first F-gas Regulation was adopted in 2006 and succeeded in stabilizing EU’s F-gas emissions at 2010 levels. A new Regulation, EC 517/2014, which applies from 1 January 2015, will cut the EU’s F-gas emissions by 79% compared with 2014 levels.

Developed countries took an effective measure of introducing professional training programs and mandatory certification for specialists and companies working with HFC-refrigerants.

With few exceptions, such measures are absent in A5 countries—including members of the Regional Ozone Network for A5 Countries in Europe and Central Asia (RON A5), which are Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey and Turkmenistan.

The project of the regional center covers development of a training and certification program for personnel and companies engaged in service, repair and production of equipment and items using or containing fluorinated gases or low-GWP refrigerants. The programs will use experience of developed countries and take account of requirements of Directive No. 2006/40/EC, Regulations (EU) No. 517/2014, 303/2008, 306/2208 and 307/2008. The center will also be a demonstration place and knowledge base for alternative (natural) refrigerants.

The primary goal of the project is to facilitate large-scale deployment of low-GWP refrigerants in RON A5 countries, improve service practice for refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, and reduce F-gas emissions. The project will allow technical and design personnel to familiarize with energy-efficient designs of domestic, commercial and industrial refrigeration and air-conditioning systems.

When working with new HFC- and HFO-refrigerants, hydrocarbons, ammonia and carbon dioxide, one should consider their flammability, toxicity and higher pressure. So, all specialists of the refrigeration and air-conditioning sector should be skilled in safe handling of new refrigerants: from designers to operating engineers, installation and service personnel. The regional center will offer specialists the possibility to visit demo projects and study technologies and principles of using low-GWP refrigerants.

In addition, the center may initiate and organize harmonization of the legal framework covering safety and energy efficiency of equipment. Replacement of numerous non-consensual documents with a common regional standard will stimulate exchange of experience and create conditions for the free market both inside and beyond the network. To design engineers, the center will offer consultations in appropriate use of standards and adaptation to new requirements.

Concept and structure of the Center

Foremost, the regional center will focus on training of specialists directly involved in transition to low-GWP refrigerants.

Engineers and service technicians working with systems using flammable, high pressure (CO2), and toxic (ammonia) refrigerants will find training and certification programs. Training programs will offer theory and practice.

Design engineers and developers may use a library of manuals and standards and undergo online training. In addition to consultations with the center’s specialists, they will be able to share experience with representatives of other institutions, organizations and companies.

Production and other engineers and operation technicians engaged in transition of existing production to alternatives will familiarize with a typical production line using alternative flammable refrigerants where they will find out what stages require special attention to such operations and processes as soldering, welding, leak detection or tests. Attendees may share experience with interested foreign partners and participate in workshops and conferences for regional producers of air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) engaged in design and installation of commercial refrigeration equipment may use a unit on selection of alternative refrigerants and stages of transition from aging technologies dangerous to climate.

Structure

Library
  • Manuals
  • Training materials
  • Trade magazines
  • E-learning modules
Classrooms
  • Presentation materials
  • Webinar tools (distance training)
Management offices
Meeting room
Meeting space for technical consultations and information exchange
Workshop
Evacuation station, charging station, recovery station, leak testing station, power station, brazing station
 
Study area
  • Computers with Internet access
  • E-learning materials
Production line model
Production line simulator
  • Charging area
  • Welding area
  • Testing area
SME section
  • Ammonia system simulator
  • CO2 system simulator
  • Commercial refrigeration system simulator

The center will have 4 key functions.

First, training, attestation and certification of technical specialists of the air-conditioning and refrigeration sectors. Second, free consultations and examinations regarding, particularly, modernization of air-conditioning and refrigeration systems and components to minimize their climate impact. Third, development of draft regulations for countries participating in the center’s activities (in English and Russian).

Fourth, implementation of demo air-conditioning and refrigeration projects based on low-GWP refrigerants.

By combining practical training and certification with gaining experience in development and operation of modern refrigeration and air-conditioning systems, the center will offer private and public organizations a perfect opportunity to demonstrate innovative technologies, advanced engineering solutions, promising components, control means and operation methods. So, the center will base its activity on the mutually profitable public-private partnership aimed at higher productivity and energy efficiency, and minimized climate impact, of refrigeration and air-conditioning systems.

The center’s key point is large-scale cooperation with governments, commercial suppliers and educational institutions at the international level, and with commercial and professional associations at the national level.

The center will create a mechanism of cooperation with suppliers of equipment, components, systems, control means and refrigerants on a world-wise basis. Potential partners will have the opportunity to participate in the center’s activities against organization of goods and service exhibitions and product and system testing and demonstration.

In addition to private partners, the center will attract international non-governmental organizations, associations and educational institutions engaged in development of training programs and standards for the refrigeration and air-conditioning sector.

Promising areas of activity

The center will offer training programs for technicians engaged in service of refrigeration equipment who undergo training in state institutions of higher and secondary education colleges or in private educational centers of industry associations.

The programs will be based on experience of countries where F-gas regulations are in force. As a base, both general-purpose programs fit for application in any country immediately after introduction, and programs requiring adaptation to the level of technical knowledge and situation in a respective region may be used.

It is assumed that, as in EU, the RON A5 countries‘ specialists working with fluorinated gases will have certain qualification.

Respective courses will be in accordance with EU’s standards and provides for issue of individual certificates confirming theoretical and practical knowledge of leak checking and prevention and refrigeration system fundamentals, including safe handling of toxic and flammable refrigerants.

The center will also offer distance modular training. At first, publicly available or licensed materials will be used. In the first year of operation, own training materials in English and Russian will be developed.

International accreditation of the center will allow training of trainers for partner countries to create, with time, national training and accreditation centers.

Special attention will be paid to development, adaptation and translation of certified training courses in cooperation with international organizations.

It is planned to develop a certification system for companies engaged in installation, service or repair of stationary refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pump equipment based on fluorinated refrigerants, and create and maintain a database containing information about specialists of required qualification.

In addition to training and certification, the center will be a knowledge center for partner countries. To this end, cooperation between technical and other educational institutions, commercial enterprises, practitioners and leaders will be organized.

The center will be a venue for air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment and refrigerant exhibitions. Here, new systems and refrigerants will be showed and tested in cooperation with suppliers. Respective results will be available to all partners online or via printed media.

Another activity is assistance in transition to low-GWP refrigerants and support to development of a national modernization strategy for the air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment service sector, including requirements to training, codes of practice and infrastructure.