Natural HC Refrigerants Spell Change Not Doom

Originally published by Ron Rajecki on April 4, 2016

Examining the impact refrigerants lacking recovery requirements have on recovery and reclamation

What does the growing popularity of natural refrigerants and hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants bode for the recovery and reclamation industries?

From the article:

Jerry Dykstra, environmental compliance facilitator, Rapid Recovery, has misgivings about reintroducing HCs into the refrigerant market on a large scale. He noted that part of the reason synthetic refrigerants were invented years ago was to replace HC refrigerants and address some of the inherent safety issues caused by the flammability of HCs.

“The move back to HCs, and the EPA’s current regulations regarding venting HCs, concern us from a safety standpoint,” he said. “From an environmental standpoint, we don’t know what the impact may be when we start venting large amounts of hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. But, from a safety standpoint, [HCs] are certainly more dangerous for technicians than the nonflammable refrigerants technicians are used to working with.”

According to Dykstra, the risk of venting HCs inside a confined space is well known; however, even if HCs were to be vented outdoors, it would have to be done very cautiously.

“We’ll likely need regulations guiding what areas HCs can be vented in, how far the venting would have to take place from ignition sources or other flammable materials, and so on. Even now, when you go to a store or gas station that sells propane for your backyard barbeque, there are warning signs that say, ‘Danger, no smoking, stay 50 feet away.’ So, it seems likely that the EPA will have to provide more clarity in its venting regulations.”

In addition, Dykstra said Rapid Recovery is especially concerned about technician safety when dealing with larger systems that may contain a mix of synthetic refrigerants and HCs.

“What happens if we’re dealing with mixed refrigerants?” Dykstra asked. “They can’t be vented, so recovery units will have to be re-engineered to handle flammables. And storing and transporting flammables is a lot different than storing and transporting refrigerants. It becomes a very dangerous situation for technicians.”

[Read the full article here]

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