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USA: Industry and environmental groups in the US are pushing for a ban on R410A in new domestic and commercial air conditioning equipment from January 1, 2025.

The proposals are contained in petitions before the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which have been submitted under the recently passed AIM Act to restrict the use of HFCs.

The EPA has granted, or partially granted, 11 petitions. Seven of these petitions relate specifically to the air conditioning and refrigeration industry. 

Several of the petitions received and granted by the EPA contain overlapping requests to restrict HFCs in specific sectors. In many instances, the HFC restrictions, sectors covered, and transition timelines are identical.

In general, the petitions request a 150 GWP limit threshold for most refrigeration including supermarkets and ice rinks, and a 750 GWP limit for air conditioning.

The petitions largely support the SNAP Rules 20 and 21, which were originally proposed by the EPA in 2014 but overturned in the US Court of Appeals in 2017. These proposals, which sought to prohibit the use of certain higher GWP refrigerants in specific applications, were later adopted by California and a number of other US states.

Granted petitions include those representing manufacturers – the Air conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, and Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers – and the environmental groups – the Environmental Investigation Agency, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.

In the air conditioning sector, this could see a ban on new equipment with a GWP of 750 or greater for all domestic and commercial units from 2025, with an extension for VRF to January 1, 2026. For air conditioning chillers, the petitioners call for the ban to become effective from January 1, 2024.

This proposal would effectively ban R410A, due to its GWP of 2,088, leaving the flammable A2L refrigerants R32, with its GWP of 677, and R454B (GWP R466) as the main currently available commercial options, with flammable A3 propane in smaller systems. It may be no coincidence that the 750 GWP maximum leaves the door open for Honeywell’s non-flammable A1 refrigerant R466A, with its GWP of 733, if or when it becomes commercially available.

The possibility of a 750 GWP maximum is also being considered by the European Commission under the current revision of the European F-gas regulation.

On the refrigeration front, the petitions also propose bans on the use of refrigerants with a GWP of 150 or above in all new supermarket systems, cold storage warehouses, some industrial process refrigeration, and other stationary refrigeration equipment on January 1 2023.

Phase down

The final HFC phase down rule under the AIM Act, signed last month, establishes a comprehensive programme to cap and phase down the production and consumption of HFCs in the US by 85% by 2036.

A key part of the AIM Act authorises the EPA to restrict the use of HFCs in sectors where they are used, either fully, partially, or on a graduated schedule.

The EPA will now have two years to consider these petitions and propose and finalise rule makings. Other petitions not yet granted are still being considered.

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