Refrigerant gas emissions and how to reduce them efficiently: Caroline X

The consensus to reduce emissions leads to an increase in repair costs of refrigeration appliances, but this will remain inefficient if the leak is not easily, precisely and rapidly located during the reparation activity.

Once CFC coolants, which are highly damaging to the ozone layer, have been largely eliminated from use, the next generation of refrigerant gases (knows as F-gases, mostly HFCs), has a global warming potential thousands of times more than does carbon dioxide, the standard greenhouse gas.

According to the Environmental Investigation Agency, they are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. If the global use of HFCs continues to grow at the current rate, their contribution to the greenhouse effect will increase up to 10 percent of that of the main greenhouse gas CO2 in 2050, adding 0.5 degrees Celsius to the global temperatures by this century.

These gases are used all around the globe in refrigeration systems for storage, production or industrial purposes. Authorities are well aware of the danger F-Gas represent and are already taking action. Worldwide, the Kigali Amendment of 2016 to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was ratified by 65 countries. In Europe, Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council of April 2014 on fluorinated greenhouse gases looks for progressively banning the use of equipment containing HFCs in specific sectors and undertake the necessary measures to adopt lower GWP alternatives.

Specifically, two types of measure have been put on the table and are already increasing the cost of gas and equipment repairs: a tax on fluorinated gases (which each member country is responsible for imposing) and the European Regulation F-Gas’s measures, which allocates a maximum quota of gas that each manufacturer can sell. In addition, this will be reduced to 21% of the total in 2035. As an example, and according to a specialized website, the cost of a reparation of variable flow type refrigerant (VRF) that can easily contain more than 40kg of R410A, involves a cost of approximately 5,800€.

Figure 1. Restrictions applied to the quota.

The gas present in refrigerated equipment is not fungible and should never have to be recharged except in the event of a leak.

Detection of a refrigerant leak is troublesome, even for an experienced technician. There are various types of testing equipment and different methods (soap solution, a halide torch, dye interception, isolation of a component from the system, or pressurizing the system with dry nitrogen gas…), all use an intrusive measure with low ratio time-effort and not always achievable in large industrial refrigeration or inaccessible areas.

A recent study led by the French Environment & Energy Management Agency on 1000 installations (Bakery, Butchery cold rooms, Large supermarkets and Food industry) filled with refrigerants has shown that small leaks (5 gr/yr) account only for 1,2% of the total weight of lost refrigerant whereas leaks bigger than 500 gr/yr up to 5000 gr/yr account for more than 91%. It means that an Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) camera able to track leaks > 500 gr/yr is demanded for maintenance company and system owners.

SENSIA’s OGI CAROLINE X can effectively detect refrigerant gases. Due to their internal molecular structure, most gas species have spectral absorption features of the infrared radiation. This property allows gas imaging, even if they are undetectable for the human eye. Images with visual representation of gases provide intuitive context comprehension.

CAROLINE X makes possible fast, reliable and money-wise industrial refrigeration gas leak detection. Freon based refrigerants, R134a and Ammonia gas leakage point can be easily detected using SENSIA’s CAROLINE X, making it the perfect tool for Commercial refrigeration, Industrial refrigeration, Stationary air conditioning or, Transport refrigeration.