R-22 Refrigerant Shortage Anticipated

MORRIS TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Because of a proposed revision late last year by the Environmental Protection Agency concerning the availability of R-22 refrigerant, “there’s a very good possibility the R-22 supply may not meet the demand,” said Ron Vogl, technical marketing manager for Honeywell Refrigerants here.

Vogl made those comments as the main presenter during a recent SN-hosted webinar, sponsored by Honeywell, on the R-22 phase-out and retrofitting refrigeration and air-conditioning systems.

As an ozone-depleting gas, R-22 has been subject to a federal phase-out that began in 2010 and will proceed through 2020. On Dec. 30, 2011, the EPA published a proposed rule that would remove an additional 30 million to 100 million pounds of R-22 from the marketplace between 2012 and 2014. The final EPA rule will be published later this year.

The EPA is projecting between 27 million and 43 million pounds of R-22 will be reclaimed by users in 2012 — not enough to meet demand, Vogl said. Supply concerns and price increases have “caused a little bit of angst” among retailers, he noted. “Supermarkets are aggressively looking to retrofit away from this refrigerant.”

In selecting a replacement refrigerant, Vogl pointed to several criteria: capacity, efficiency, mass flow, global warming potential, superheat and oil return. A new refrigerant must continue to be miscible with lubricant oil so that the oil can protect the compressor. “Lubricant selection is refrigerant/system/compressor specific and critical to a successful project,” he said.

Some supermarket chains going after efficiency are using the R-407 series refrigerants as a replacement, said Vogl. “If you reduce leaks and charge size in a conventional system using the 407 series, you get competitive from an environmental standpoint with some of the newer systems.”