Figure 1. Actual CFC chiller replacement and conversions plus projected figures for the next three years. Courtesy ARI.
The "Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer" effectively restricted the use of chlorofluorocarbon- (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbon- (HCFC) based refrigerants by the countries that signed the agreement. In the United States, production of CFCs has been prohibited since January 1, 1996. This same agreement also restricted HCFCs and the United States agreed to freeze HCFC production on January 1, 2004 and gradually limit their use through a gradual phaseout program. Here is an update on where things are headed.

CFC Conversion And Replacement

There are two ways for owners to stop using CFCs: converting their equipment or replacing it. If owners choose not to do either, they have to rely on reclaimed or stockpiled refrigerant for their chillers.

According to a recent survey by the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), 2001 marks the halfway point for CFC replacement and conversion. Of the 80,000 CFC chillers in service in the early 1990s, 39,440 will have been replaced or converted by year's end. To break down this further, in 2001, the projection is for 452 conversions and 3,324 replacements. Projections for 2002 and 2003 are 372 and 43,245 and 312 and 47,115, respectively (Figure 1).

According to Ed Dooley, vice president of communications and education with ARI, although the number of replacements and conversions is slower than previously anticipated, the figures are holding steady with last year's pace. Shipments in 2000 were up 18% over 1999 levels. Dooley expects this trend to continue this year despite the slowing economy.

An informal survey taken by Engineered Systems last year at this time revealed that building owners were hesitant to replace or convert units because the units were still in good condition or because of the cost involved.

Higher energy costs are one of the reasons Dooley believes the number of conversions has increased. "New, non-CFC chillers reduce electricity costs because they can be at least 40% more efficient than the CFC units installed two decades ago," Dooley said.

He estimates that "non-CFC chillers, due to their higher efficiency, reduces energy usage on an annual basis beginning in 2000 by 7 billion kWh/yr. This results in a savings of $480 million, and avoids production of 4 million tons of carbon dioxide by power plants."

HCFC Phaseout

The international Montreal Protocol has proposed the gradual phaseout of HCFCs by all agreeing parties through a schedule of consumption and production caps with a worldwide ban scheduled by 2030.

According to the EPA, consumption for any country is defined by its production plus imports minus exports. The HCFC consumption cap is 2.8% of the country's CFC consumption in 1989, plus its consumption of HCFCs in 1989. The HCFC production cap comes from the average of the country's consumption cap and is the result of 2.8% of the country's CFC production in 1989 plus its HCFC production in 1989.

The Copenhagen Amendments to the protocol call for a 35% reduction of the cap in 2004, followed by a 65% reduction in 2010, a 90% reduction 2015, a 99.5% reduction in 2020, and the worldwide ban in 2030.

For the United States the consumption cap, which went into effect on January 1, 1996, is 15,240 ODP-weighted tons. (The ozone depleting potentials, or ODP, of a chemical is determined by its ability to destroy ozone molecules in the stratosphere.) The production freeze cap for the United States is 15,537 metric tons.

Because of this agreement, the EPA has developed an HCFC allowance allocation system to guarantee compliance, which is similar to the CFC allocation system. Additionally, the Clean Air Act required the EPA to develop such an allowance system. This proposal is still in the preliminary stage. According to Vera Au, of the EPA, Global Programs Division, Office of Atmosphere Programs, "The rule... was published in the Federal Register on July 20, 2001, after review by the new administration at EPA. The earliest projected publication for the final rule is Spring 2002. There are no projected changes to the phaseout dates for HCFCs."

The system would work as follows, according to the EPA, "Each producer or importer would be allocated allowances (one allowance per each kilogram of HCFC), based on historical production and import activity. When a company then produces or imports each type of HCFC, it would expend an allowance for each kilogram of the HCFC produced or imported. If a producer expends allowances to make HCFCs, then exports those HCFCs, the producer will receive allowances for the amount exported. The system is based on the need to ultimately balance the global output of HCFCs."

According to the EPA, environmental organizations and industry groups lobbied for a ban on the most destructive substances first. Consequently, HCFC-141b, with an ODP of 0.11, will be phased out by 2003; and HCFC-22 and HCFC-142b will be phased out by 2010, except for use in equipment manufactured prior to January 1, 2010. The production and import of both HCFC-142b and HCFC-22 will be banned beginning January 1, 2020. HCFC-142b has an ODP of 0.065 and HCFC-22 has an ODP of 0.055.

The production and import of the remaining HCFCs will be prohibited beginning on January 1, 2015, except as a refrigerant in equipment manufactured before January 1, 2020, according to the EPA.

For more information on the HCFC phaseout schedule, visit