Which refrigerant fluid will replace the R404A?

R404A gas bottles

2018/01/23

Over the last few years, our governments have been trying to reduce the environmental footprint by enacting various regulations. One in particular concerns us the most. It is the gradual cessation of the use of fluorinated gases (HFC HydroFluoroCarbons) such as the R404A with a high GWP index (Global Warming Potential).

Every day and since 6 months, the same question is asked: “Which fluid will replace the R404A?”. Unfortunately, this simple question calls for a complicated answer. The only honest answer is that the R404A is not replaceable by only one substitution gas.

 

THE FACTS

The latest regulation of 2014 (EC 517/2014) requires all the member states to gradually reduce the use and the availability of HFCs according to the following schedule.
The reference consumption is the consumption of 2015.

CO2 equivalent = Product of quantity and GWP

 

The decrease of 7% in 2016 went relatively unnoticed. However, in 2017, supply problems with the R404A had quite an impact.

The 37% decrease imposed for 2018 is therefore about 1/3 less than the 2016 or 2017 gas consumption. Therefore, if arrangements are not made, the authorized quota will be reached in the third quarter of 2018 and will result in a total shortage of gas in the last quarter of 2018!

Today, the main replacement fluids are: R290A, R449A, R452A and R134A.

In our application areas, there are several alternative solutions for a particular application with a given compressor technology. It is complicated to choose one refrigerant fluid more than another for all refrigeration applications because none of the actors are ready for this change:

  • Compressor manufacturers have not chosen the same gases for their equipment,
  • Refrigerating elements such as regulators are not available for all powers and for all gases,
  • The fluid manufacturers are unable to guarantee the availability for a given gas on an annual quantity.

 

2018 will be a chaotic transition year.

In this turmoil, it is appropriate for Hengel not to give in to siren calls or to follow trends. Rather that, Hengel will have a pragmatic approach to guarantee its customers reliable and efficient equipment.

 

HENGEL'S CHOICES

We chose to split our approach according to the field of use of the equipment.

We eliminated the R134A due to a lack of choice of compressors in the power range needed for our applications and an uncertain economic return.

Depending on the regulatory limits for the quantity of fluid, the cooling capacity required and the types of compressor used, we decided to use these 4 gases: R290A, R449A, R452A and R404A.

FOR DEEP-FREEZING:
For small powers, the R449A is not suitable for piston compressors. Only the R452A, whose obtained performances do not satisfy us, remains. As a result, in 2018, while we carry on with our research, we will continue to use the R404A for this type of application.
For higher powers, by using a scroll or a semi hermetic compressor, we can use the R449A. This is the chosen solution. It is important to note that since 2015, all HENGEL’s equipment with a refrigeration power above 3 kW, can be equipped with an electronic expansion valve which makes it possible to have excellent results with any refrigerant fluids.
Last but not least, the R449A and the R452A are transitional fluids and their durability is not assured, nor their supplies (there was a shortage of R452A in December 2017).

Deep-freezing
  Hermetic compressor Semi hermetic compressor Scroll compressor
R290A - - -
R449A - From 3 kW From 3 kW
R452A - - -
R404A  Up to ~2 kW max. - -

 

FOR REFRIGERATING STORAGE AND PROVING :

The R290A is the most durable solution for small powers; that is, the storage cabinets. The regulatory fluid limit of 150 grams can achieve the sufficient cooling capacity for this type of application of about 1500 W maximum.
This is the reason why, from March 1st, we will propose the choice between this fluid and a HFC. 
The R449A is an interesting fluid from a GWP point of view but has a significant slip and heating during the compression, which in our eyes, make it unsuitable for hermetic compressors. It is therefore only interesting for scrolls and semi-hermetic. The R449A will be kept for considerable installations.
The R452A is an intermediate between the R449A and the R404A. It is currently the least scalable solution but the safest for hermetic compressors. This is the solution we have chosen for the range of refrigerating powers up to 4 kW.

Refrigerating storage and proving
  Hermetic compressor Semi hermetic compressor Scroll compressor
R290A Up to ~1500 W max. - -
R449A - - From 4 kW
R452A Up to ~4 kW - -
R404A - - -

 

FOR FREEZING STORAGE:

The analysis for freezing storage is the same as refrigerating storage but the refrigerating powers are different.

Freezing storage
  Hermetic compressor Semi hermetic compressor Scroll compressor
R290A Up to ~1500 W max. - -
R449A - From 3 kW From 3 kW
R452A Up to ~2 kW max. - -
R404A - - -

 

CONCLUSION

Having 4 fluids to manage may seem strange but can also be interpreted as a cautious approach that reconciles efficiency in each of the applications with the bonus of securing gas supplies.