Background article

Fit for the phase-down

The European Union's climate and energy strategy with its so-called "20-20-20 targets" has resulted in a legislative package which aims among others to bring about a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020. This is an ambitious undertaking that encompasses various specific measures. One of these refers to the use of partly fluorinated hydrocarbons or so-called F-gases. To minimise their impact on global warming, in April 2014 the EU Council adopted Regulation (EU) No 517/2014 on fluorinated greenhouse gases as the long-awaited revision of the F-Gas Regulation. New regulations such as the ban on refrigerants that have a particularly strong impact on the climate should help the EU to achieve its climate targets and promote the use of technologies in the refrigeration and air-conditioning branch which significantly reduce the environmental impact. Europe is thus setting new global standards for reducing CO2 emissions. The revised F-Gas Regulation will be applied from 1 January 2015 onwards. But what does it mean in specific terms for manufacturers, system planners and operators? eurammon has put together the most important facts and background data.

Core elements of the revised F-Gas Regulation in detail

The targets of the revised F-Gas Regulation will be implemented with the following package of measures:

  • Phase-down: The F-gases available on the market will be gradually reduced.
  • Restrictions on use: F-gases that are particularly harmful to the climate will be gradually prohibited completely.
  • Quota system: F-gas quotas will be allocated to the manufacturers and importers in order to control the actual consumption of F-gases.
  • Leak tests: To avoid leakages, stricter regulations will apply in future to leak tests on refrigeration and air-conditioning systems.
  • Extended operator obligations: Operators are responsible for ensuring that installation, maintenance, servicing, repairs or decommissioning is performed only by certified personnel.

Phase-down – gradual reduction in the available quantity of F-gas

The EU will be gradually reducing the permitted total quantity of F-gases as from January 2015. The reference point (100%) consists of the mean available quantity of F-gases available on the market in the period 2009 to 2012. Working on this basis, the total quantity available in the EU will be reduced to 21% in six stages through to 2030. In order to take account of the differing climate impact of the various refrigerants, the quantity of F-gas is stated in tonnes of CO2 equivalents rather than an absolute value in kg. The CO2 equivalent is easily calculated with the following formula: quantity of refrigerant in kg multiplied by the corresponding global warming potential (GWP).







from 2030

100 %

93 %

63 %
(-30%), first drastic reduction

45 %

31 %

24 %

21 %

Restrictions on use – prohibition of certain F-gases with high GWP

From 2020 onwards, stationary systems may no longer use refrigerants with a GWP > 2,500. This also applies to the maintenance of plants with a new refrigerant having more than 40 t CO2 equivalent – which corresponds approximately to about 10 kg filling of R404A and R507A. The only exemptions are systems in military use and systems that cool products to temperatures below -50 °C. Existing systems may still be operated through to 2030 and refilled, but only with recycled F-gases. In a second stage, from 2022 refrigerants in “multipack centralised refrigeration systems” (at least two compressors, a number of cooling devices and a refrigerating capacity of more than 40 kW) are permitted to have only a GWP < 150. Excluded from this is the primary refrigerant circuit in cascade systems in which F-gases may be used with a GWP <1500.

Quota system – allocated quotas for more control

In order to control refrigerant consumption, refrigerant manufacturers and importers will be allocated F-gas quotas on submitting a corresponding application. Quantities will be distributed according to the following key: altogether 89% of the total quantity will be shared out among existing market participants with the remaining 11% reserved for possible increased demand and new entrants. Also, pre-charged systems being imported into the EU will fall under the quota system from 2017. The quotas can be freely traded on the market in the same way as emission rights. The companies are obliged to submit reports on their actual F-gas consumption. The only exemptions from the quota system are production outputs of manufacturers or importers with less than 100 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, military systems or applications for which no demonstrably suitable technical alternatives are available up to now. In addition to these core elements the F-gas Regulation implies further details which need to be considered.

Leak tests – more frequent and more precise checks

The new F-Gas regulation stipulates stricter and more frequent leak checks to minimise leakage in the systems. Hitherto the cycle of checks was defined by the metric quantity of refrigerant in kg. In future, the checking frequency depends on the quantity in tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Regular checks are prescribed already from a refrigerant charge of more than 5 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. The plan is to halve the checking frequencies if the systems have a leak detection system that informs the operator automatically in the event of any leakage:

Charge in t CO2 equivalent

Frequency of checks

Frequency of checks with leak detection system

5 t to < 50 t

every 12 months

every 24 months

50 t to < 500 t

every 6 months

every 12 months

≥ 500 t

every 3 months

every 6 months

Extended operator obligations: more responsibility and mandatory certification

With effect from 1 January 2015, system operators face considerably more obligations. They bear full responsibility for ensuring that installation, maintenance, servicing, repairs or decommissioning are performed only by certified personnel or certified companies. However, up to now no pan-European standard system exists with clear guidelines for certification. Moreover, operators are responsible for heeding future prohibitions on use – such as the guidelines for charging their systems, and for complying with prohibitions on buying and selling.

The revised F-Gas Regulation with its direct and indirect prohibitions is a major challenge for the refrigeration and air-conditioning sector. The tasks that have to be mastered and the chances these then offer in turn are explained by eurammon expert Hermann Renz, member of the Technical Committee of eurammon and Technical Programs Manager at Bitzer Kühlmaschinenbau GmbH.

1. The revision of the F-Gases Regulation prescribes which refrigerants will be allowed or prohibited in future. What does this mean in concrete terms for manufacturers and operators, and where do you see the challenges?

The roadmap features a phase-down through to 2030. At first glance this seems to be a long time, but the branch is already being forced to set the points in a sustainable direction in the long term. It is also foreseeable that new challenges will emerge in the future. The EU has meanwhile announced a further reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, which will result in an additional need to act.

2. Does it make sense to convert existing equipment or is it better to invest in a new system that will meet future requirements?

Even if existing systems could continue operations through to 2030 when operated with recycled refrigerants, it often makes commercial sense for well maintained systems that are operating efficiently to be converted to refrigerants with a low GWP. However, it has to be ensured that there are no disadvantages in terms of energy efficiency due to the change-over. As far as older equipment is concerned, new investment is recommended here as this is often far more profitable to operate thanks to more developed technologies.

3. How does the revised F-Gas Regulation impact on the future use of natural refrigerants?

In principle the phase-down will make F-gases extremely scarce, which will be tantamount to an indirect ban in many areas, thus boosting refrigerants with low GWP. But the sheer diversity of refrigeration and air-conditioning systems means that it is not possible to define any one universal solution, even for sub-sectors. One thing is relatively certain, and that is that there will be a clear increase in the number of applications with natural refrigerants and alternative “low GWP” system solutions. However, successful implementation will need sound foundations. This includes among others corresponding initial and further training of the professionals involved – which in turn needs experienced trainers, which takes time, as is well known.