In this article, we would like to share with readers from the industrial sector what is currently happening in refrigeration, a branch of technology that plays an important role, especially in food production. New conditions for the development of refrigeration, or rather its transformation, cannot escape the attention of decision-makers responsible for investments and maintenance of food production plants.

We live in times when changing legal regulations of the European Union significantly shape trends in the refrigeration and air conditioning industry. Two main regulations lead the way in this respect, namely the Eco Design Directive and the F-Gas Regulation. Both regulations are part of the EU's Fit for 55 program, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990. The EU has clearly focused on climate protection and is actively looking for solutions to accelerate the process of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and is working on tightening existing regulations. legal.

The Eco Design Directive is a resolution classifying all devices that consume electricity and setting appropriately high energy efficiency standards. The appropriate subcategories include air conditioning and refrigeration devices, which also have high efficiency requirements.

The F-gas regulation is an act aimed at limiting the impact of fluorinated greenhouse gases, the so-called F-gases, on the climate. F-gases are chemical substances with a high global warming potential (GWP) and containing fluorine in their molecules. They are commonly used as refrigerants in refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump technology.

A list of the most popular refrigerants used in refrigeration and their GWP coefficients

GWP coefficient – (Global Warming Potential), it is the potential to create the greenhouse effect, an indicator used to quantitatively assess the impact of a given substance on the greenhouse effect. GWP compares the amount of heat retained by a given mass of gas to the amount of heat retained by a similar mass of carbon dioxide. For example: releasing 1 kg of R410A into the atmosphere has an effect equivalent to releasing 2088 kg of CO₂

The EU amendment work began in 2022 and involves the main EU institutions, namely: the Commission, the Council and the Parliament, which are conducting the so-called tri-dialogue aimed at agreeing on a uniform version of the amendment to the regulation, including a number of amendments submitted by individual authorities. For the purposes of substantive consultation, the following committees were involved: ENVI (Commission for the Environment, Public Health and Safety) and ITRE (Commission for Industry, Research and Energy), which assess the impact of the proposed amendments on their areas of competence.

Let's take a look at the Gas Regulation No. 517/2014 and the intensive work on its update. At one time, the regulation outlined a road map for lowering the upper limits of GWP factors for refrigerants allowed in specific air-conditioning and refrigeration devices and installations. An example point on this map was the ban on the use of refrigerants with a GWP higher than 150 for multi-unit centralized refrigeration systems in commercial facilities, e.g. in supermarkets, from 2021, which actually happened. The above-mentioned schedule with its milestones ending in 2030 was perceived as daring when it was implemented, which is why work on its modification and reports of the introduction of additional exclusions before 2030 arouse emotions in interested circles!

GWP limits for refrigerants used in devices and installations according to the Gas Regulation No. 517/2014

The institutions also took a closer look at the plan to reduce the so-called quotas of fluorinated gases allowed for import into the EU, calculated in CO₂ equivalent. According to the law, each entity planning to introduce fluorinated gases to the EU market must have a permit for a specific quantity in a given year in the form of an allocated quota. As part of the amendment to the regulation, the quota limits in the years 2024 to 2030, established earlier in 2014, were reduced and, at the same time, a new plan for permitted quotas was developed until 2050, which assumes a more dynamic reduction of the upper limits with a total ban on introducing fluorinated gases to the market from 2050.

New GWP limits and their implementation dates have been set for various categories of refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment. The first amendments have already been adopted in the European Parliament, including: in March 2023, introducing a total ban on the use of f-gases in heat pumps from 2026, which caused a great stir on the markets. Another restriction that is being discussed is the introduction of a ban on the use of stand-alone appliances, refrigerators and freezers for commercial use, from 2024, in addition to HFCs, also all other fluorinated gases with a GWP greater than 150, and one version of the amendments provides for a total ban on all fluorinated gases regardless of the GWP limit. . Categories of devices and installations were also looked at and a more detailed division was made, which will allow for a more detailed analysis of the impact of individual subcategories on the environment, and GWP limits of permissible refrigerants were set for them in the timeline. What is new is the separation of a group called CHILLERS, and although the GWP limits in the timeline for these devices have not been significantly reduced in the near future, a number of market mechanisms will still result in great pressure to eliminate HFC gases from them.

At the same time, the committees review the provisions of the previously mentioned Eco Design Directive. The classification of devices, categories and various requirements is such an extensive issue that this directive itself can constitute the basis for a separate, comprehensive article. The essence of the directive for, among others, refrigeration equipment is to design and produce units that consume as little electricity as possible and achieve the minimum efficiency parameters specified in detail in the provisions of the document.

And everything is fine and ambitious, because the work is guided by the idea of ​​climate protection, potential technological progress, etc. The problem is that meeting the goals of both regulations, i.e. the Gas Regulation and the Eco Design Directive, is difficult to achieve.

An example of an ideal refrigeration device nowadays should be: efficient, cheap and ecological. The reality is that if it is to be:

  • efficient, cheap - will not be ecological
  • efficient and ecological – it will not be cheap
  • ecological, cheap - it will not be efficient

Therefore, the European Commission has included a so-called review clause in the new regulation, according to which a report on the effects of the amendment to the regulation will be presented by January 1, 2030. Alternative solutions would have to prove that they are suitable, more energy efficient, practical, reliable, sufficiently accessible and cost-effective in the applications where restrictions and prohibitions are proposed.

There is another very important group of provisions of the regulation, which clearly tightens the provisions related to monitoring compliance with the regulation and penalizing offenses. The Environmental Protection Inspectorate in Poland, responsible for inspections also within the scope of Regulation 517/2014, is working more and more effectively and the value of penalties imposed, which were already high before the amendment, is increasing year by year.

The so-called tripartite dialogue has already ended and the draft changes are ready. It is expected that the European Parliament will put the amendment to a vote by mid-2024, and it will probably enter into force in the middle of this year.

What effects will these changes have on, for example, the food industry? The simplest and cheapest refrigeration concepts will certainly disappear, and with them the group of suppliers and contractors offering solutions that meet the requirements of the regulation will narrow. Many small refrigeration companies will not achieve the appropriate qualifications. This will happen because all the most popular HFC refrigerants will disappear from use either through direct bans on use or through high prices of the limited number of refrigerants available on the market.

Air conditioning and refrigeration devices will only operate with natural refrigerants, i.e. propane R290 or isobutane R600A, ammonia R717 and carbon dioxide R744.

Please don't worry though. The Polish, private company COOL, which the author of the article has the honor and pleasure to manage, currently has an offer of refrigeration devices with natural agents that can cover the full spectrum of temperatures required by the market, from deep freezing with a temperature of -30 ⁰C to high, air-conditioning systems of the order of 6 - 15 ⁰C.

Proven and defect-free, so-called childhood devices are the result of the ability to predict trends, which resulted in the company producing the first chilled water units, so-called chillers with the R290 refrigerant (propane, GWP = 3!), 12 years ago. Years of experience have resulted in the production of, among others: a reliable line of AQUACOOL GREEN chilled water units with the R290 refrigerant in the cooling power range of 20 kW to 800 kW. Indirect cooling systems using these chillers are able to provide the lowest temperature of cooled liquids of -24 ⁰C., so these concepts are able to meet the requirements ranging from air conditioning projects to industrial freezing solutions. Currently, the company is the leader in Poland in the production and sale of propane chillers.

PPH COOL factory hall in Chotomów. / Chiller AQUACOOL GREEN with ecological refrigerant R290 - propane

The second eco-refrigerant that the company used in its solutions is R744 - carbon dioxide, which is used in cascade refrigeration units for low-temperature applications. These cascades are a special design dedicated to freezing processes and frozen storage facilities.

PPH COOL has been operating on the market for over 40 years and offers the construction of complete refrigeration and air-conditioning installations. The ability to apply its own factory products gives the company a huge advantage and the freedom to create concepts precisely tailored to the investor's individual requirements.

Additional advantages of the company include having its own factory service and, something that few refrigeration companies can offer, the rental service of chilled water units.

We encourage everyone to contact us, we will help in developing the optimal cooling concept for investors in need, we will offer our best solutions allowing you to benefit from timeless, compliant with the F-gas regulation refrigeration installations and devices

Cascade condensing unit POLARCOOL CC – 25 , colling capacity 25 kW for low temperature applications.