One of the causes of global warming is due to countrys’ way of handling their refrigerants and air conditioning systems. This is why stakeholders from all governmental institutions in Eritrea gathered for a one-day workshop on Refrigerant and Air conditioning. Following the workshop a three-day training was given to technicians by the Ministry of Land, Water and Environment (MoLWE) in the previous week.
The workshop focused on the common refrigerants in use, their impact on the environment, ozone and global warming. The presentation led by Mr. Marvin Logan, an Environment Engineer from Malawi, also provided the stakeholders with a general overview of the current alternatives of HCFC. Discussions on fake and contaminated refrigerant s and their effects were followed by regulations and legislations and recommendations on how refrigerants should be handled. The all-time pre- caution experts’ give is that Refrigerants should only be handled and used by competent and trained persons, to save lives on earth.
Refrigerants are simply chemical substances used in a refrigerating cycle or directly in the making of ice for cooling. Substances such as Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), H y d r o c h l o r o fl u o r o c a r b o n s (HCFCs)-Ozone Depletion Substance (ODS) alternative, Hydrocarbons (HCs) can be used in an air conditioning. Experts in the field contend that we can’t normally use one chemical substance for a long while because of its effects on the ozone layer and global warming (GW). Thus, refrigerants are phased out from time to time for technological reasons, the economy of a nation, the international market and, more importantly, the overall sustainability of the climate. Mr. Marvin further said that about 10% of CO2 emissions are due to energy generated to run heating, refrigeration, and air conditioning equipment.
If the production of one refrigerant is terminated and a new one is adopted, then it is a must for countries to import and adopt the new one since few produce these refrigerants. In selecting a particular refrigerant many factors such as the environment, cost and availability, performance, compatibility, toxicity and flammability are considered. At the moment, the minimum price of one refrigerant could reach up to 4000 Nfa.
To combat ozone depletion (OD) and protect the planet from harmful ultraviolate radiations, 197 parties ratified the Vienna convention and the Montreal protocol (MP), and Eritrea became a member in 2005 with the establishment of the Ozone Unit Office. Based on this ratification, ODS and ODS-based equipment survey have been done annually since 2005. The surveys focus on the situations of CFCs and HCFC consumption rates. According to the 2010 baseline (20.31tones), the consumption trend of these refrigerants has been decreasing since. The national declaration of the legal notice for the issuance of licensing system for the importation and exportation of ODS (CFCs) and ODS-based equipment (refrigeration, air conditioning…) was made in 2010. The MP, as amended, has been ratified at different periods in Africa.
Since the last Harmonized System (HS) revision in 2007, trade patterns in ODS have changed with the complete phase-out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as of 1st January 2010 (except for a few exempted uses) and the increased trade in HCFCs and HFCs as replacement chemicals. HCFCs will be phased-out by 2020 in developed and by 2030 in developing countries.
Refrigerants are applied in domestic, commercial, and transport refrigeration, air-conditioning as well as heat pump systems. The Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) are applied in refrigeration and air-conditioning as refrigerants, in aerosol industry as propellant, in foam industries as blowing agents, in industries as solvents or cleaning Agents, as firefighting substances (Halon), and also in agricultural crops and grain storage as pesticide fumigants (MeBr).
Halocarbons have high potential to deplete the ozone layer and eventually threaten life on earth. Overcoming such problems requires transforming refrigeration systems into HCFC-free refrigerants.
However, ozone depletion is not caused only by refrigerants but by other gases used in foam, anti-insect-promyde, fire extinguishers and propellants. Ozone depletion causes skin cancer, damages the eye, weakens human immune system and prevents reproduction in seas and oceans.
Further, the greenhouse gas emissions such as the HCFC and HFCs contribute to the global warming which in turn leads to climate change we are witnessing on a daily basis. Using energy efficient air conditioners is believed to reduce global warming. Developing countries plan a 100% HCFC phase-out by 2030.
Mr. Robel Bereket from the Department of Environment in MoLWE said that the phase-out of a refrigerant is not announced suddenly. Instead trainees are first made aware of new technologies and then made to migrate refrigerants to these technologies. To use and apply these refrigerants, skilled human resources are critical; for safety reasons. In Eritrea, there are three training centers that provide services of recycling to refrigeration technicians, train newly recruited/ licensed technicians and introduce students with new technologies. From 2012 up to 2015, 209 technicians were trained out of which 24 were internationally certified. Training is also given to 30 custom officers 2010-2012 since they are part of the main work. One training center is located in Asmara and the other two in Massawa.
Technicians are made to take relevant and up to date technical training such as how to recyce, recover and reclaim chemical substances. Recovering a substance means to remove refrigerant in any condition from a system and store in an external container while recycling it means technicians reducing contaminants in used refrigerants by separating oil, removing non-condensable, and using devices such as filters driers to reduce moisture, acidity and particulate matter. Reclaiming a substance is processing used refrigerants to new product (gas) specifications, and verify by chemical analysis of the refrigerant that new product specifications have been met.
Refrigerant 22 (R22) has been chosen in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (RAC) systems for over 40 years. This refrigerant is commonly used in industries such as fisheries, health, and brewery and is expected to last until 2030/40. Even though this refrigerant is phased out from other nations, it is still operational in third world countries. R-600a is a refrigerant we use in refrigerators. This is an efficient refrigerant as it does not cause ozone depletion and global warming. Mr. Robel Bereket, further said that a normal refrigerator has about 150 grams of gas and can last up to a century if no leakage occurs. This is because the systems are closed. Leakages can occur due to vibration, poor brazing or connections, poor workmanship, corrosion and accidental damage.
R-290 is a refrigerant we use for air conditioning, replacing R-22. Isu-butane is the hydro carbon we use for cooking. Hydro carbons are environmentally friendly with zero ozone depletion potential, high efficiency and reduced energy usage. Hydro carbons are better refrigerants since they result in less OD and GW. Hydro carbon refrigerants are natural replacements for CFC, HFC, HCFC and are safer to use with proper handling.
Phased out refrigerants shouldn’t be imported, the 2010 national declaration made sure everything is up to date. In 1987, the MP, an International Environmental Agreement, established requirements that began the worldwide phase-out of CFCs. HCFCs are less damaging to the ozone layer than CFCs but still have ozone destroying chlorine. As HCFC manufacture and use are being phased out, suitable alternatives are required. HFCs are introduced as alternative to HCFCs. These should be zero ozone depleting, negligible global warming potential, energy efficient, widely available and cost effective. Despite, its low potential to deplete the ozone, HFC hugely contributes to the global warming. Scientists are on a regular experiment to come up with the best combination of chemicals that would have less effect both on OD and GW. Later, they discovered that the Hydro Carbons better were since the results were zero in OD potential and one digit GW potential.
Blending refrigerants was also required at some point. Blending refrigerants contributes to less depletion of the ozone but still higher global warming. The application of these refrigerants depends on what the industries require for production. Therefore, scientists are regularly conducting research in phasing out, blending refrigerants for better result and introducing new chemicals.
Refrigerant Identifying services are conducted by the MoLWE for the safe operation of RAC instruments, protecting the phase-out and illegal import of ODS, to save money as well as to protect ODS waste accumulation. The three refrigerant identifiers are stationed at the Department of Environment (ozone office) and the branch office and training center in Massawa. The offices provide all the services free of charge.
Fake refrigerants are likely to be found in the process of identification. Fake refrigerants are caused when two or many types of refrigerants are mixed in the cylinder knowingly or unknowingly contaminating the gas and are labelled as fake refrigerant. Giant R22 is always the target for counterfeiters. The effects of contaminated refrigerants to the RAC system include damage of RAC system, reduction in cooling capacity and more consumption of electrical energy and reduced efficiency in systems and a possible explosion.
The common challenges faced to date are illegal importation, non-licensed technicians and inadequate recording system (importers, technicians). Experts recommend technicians not to release refrigerants and chemicals into the atmosphere and also recover and reuse them, switching over into natural or low GW potential refrigerants.
The Ministry of Land, Water and Environment looks forward to implementing the phase-out Management Plan of HCFC completely by 2040. Regular assessments on national inventory of HFCs and HCFC- 22 consumption for 2018 are ahead. Training for RAC technicians and Custom and Legal officers that focuses on raising the public awareness in all regions are scheduled.
Reducing energy consumption in Refrigeration and Air conditioning systems will reduce ozone depletion and greenhouse gas emissions, and will keep the environment safe. It will save up additional expense and save lives on earth. As recent studies show, the small endeavours until today are paying off with the ozone layer recovering at present.