Japan's policy on next-generation refrigerants

By R744.com team, Dec 13, 2010, 16:59 4 minute reading

At the International Symposium on New Refrigerants and Environmental Technology 2010 held in Kobe, Japan, in December, the deputy director of the Japanese F-Gas Management Office gave some insight into Japan's policy on next-generation refrigerants. R744.com summarises his presentation. + PHOTOS

Around 400 experts attended the International Symposium on New Refrigerants and Environmental Technology 2010, organised by the Japan Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Industry Association (JRAIA) from 2-3 December in Kobe, Japan, to discuss next-generation refrigerants.

Candidates for next-generation refrigerants

Mr. Shigeharu Minagawa, Deputy Director of the F-Gases Management Office in the Japanese Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), presented Japan's view on next-generation refrigerants.

In an effort to push the replacement of high GWP refrigerants, the Japanese government tries to establish a system that proves the technological viability of the suggested alternative refrigerants, facilitating the majoring of the technology and helping in creating first demand. In sectors, where the replacement of the refrigerant might prove difficult, the government suggests to invest in pilot projects, especially in the air-conditioning sector where the number of installations is very high and a quick conversion raises great expectations in terms of emissions savings. Also industry-academia working groups should be created and contribute their conclusions to discussions on international standards in the refrigerant sector.

Mr. Minagawa highlighted the following alternative refrigerants for the different applications:
  • cold storage: ammonia; air;
  • cooling showcases: ammonia-brine; CO2;
  • mobile air-conditioning: HFC1234yf
All of these options however, still show a price premium. There remain also hurdles to overcome for the use of these alternative refrigerants in domestic heating and air-conditioning appliances in terms of costs and efficiencies.

CO-OP uses CO2 showcases

All the same, natural alternatives gain in acceptance and market stance as showed by ECO-OP in Sapporo. In October 2010, CO-OP opened a store in the main city of Japan's most northern main island that is equipped with CO2 showcases. This is the first time that HFC-free showcases are installed in a large retail store in Japan.

CO-OP expects to save with the CO2 showcases annually around 38 tones of carbon emissions per system (in comparison to the formerly used R404a systems that emitted 62 tons of carbon dioxide per system per year), due to the negligible global warming potential of the CO2 refrigerant in direct emissions on one hand, and due to reduced energy consumption (around 10% less than the former R404a system) in indirect emissions on the other hand.

F-gas regulation in Japan

In its action against F-Gas emissions, the Japanese government targeted in a first period industry sectors with major emitters of F-Gases such as semi-conductor and LCD manufacturers. In a second period, actions to reduce F-Gas emissions will focus on the commercial and domestic sector where F-Gases are mainly deployed in heating and cooling applications. The banks of HFC refrigerants are constantly growing and strong increase in emissions from the cooling and heating sector is expected over the coming years.

F-Gas emissions in Japan

In 2008, more than half of the Japanese refrigerant bank was constituted of HCFCs. Due to conversions from HCFCs to HFCs however, it is expected that by 2020 HFCs will make up the major part of the refrigerant bank.

The stock of CFCs, over 100 million tons in 1995, has decreased to a little over 10 million tons by 2010 and is expected to sink to almost zero by 2020.

HCFCs which made up around 200 millions tons in 1995, have decreased to around 160 million tons in 2010 and are expected, in a business as usual scenario, to make up approximately 20 million tons by 2020.

HFCs on the other hand, show strong growth and have increased from almost zero in 1995 and still very small amounts in 2000 to around 230 million tons in 2010 and are expected to further increase to over 400 million tons by 2020.

The overall refrigerant stock of commercial and domestic HVAC systems will have grown from slightly over 300 million tons in 1995 to around 440 million tons by 2020 - an increase of almost 50%.

In the commercial sector, Japan expects by 2020 emissions from cooling and freezing to be slightly higher than from air-conditioning applications. Within the two sectors, packaged air-conditioning systems with high refrigerant charge in commercial buildings will be with 43% the major emitter for the air-conditioning part, while in commercial refrigeration cooling showcases will account for an estimated 74% of emissions.

Low recovery rates for stationary systems

There are three main periods in the HVAC system life cycle when emissions occur: during production, usage and disposal. Out of these three, emissions during the manufacturing of the systems are the most insignificant (below 0.1%).

In return, there are three main approaches to limit these emissions:
  • enforcing refrigerant recovery at system disposal
  • reducing refrigerant leakages over the system's lifetime
  • pushing the replacement of refrigerants
Despite the fact that the recovery of refrigerants are regulated in the Fluorocarbons Recovery and Destruction Law and the Home Appliance Recycling Law, the recovery rate for refrigerants from commercial HVAC systems and domestic air-conditioning systems stagnates at around 30%.

Refrigerants from mobile air-conditioning in cars on the other hand, are recovered to almost 70% thanks to the well working recycling system for cars that also provides for recycling of the cars' AC systems.

Emissions reductions target: middle and large sized installations

Middle and large sized installations account for only 22% of installations but contain around 80% of the entire refrigerant stock. This makes them a priority target group for improving refrigerant recovery at disposal and emissions reductions through reduced leakage rate.

The conclusion of Mr. Shigeharu Minagawa is clear: in F-gas policy, the reduction of leakages is still key and equipment containing f-gases needs further improvement.


By R744.com team (@r744)

Dec 13, 2010, 16:59

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