A refrigerant is a fluid that is used in air conditioners and refrigerators. The function of a refrigerant is to absorb heat from the contents of the refrigerator or the room (in case of ACs) and throw it out into the atmosphere. A typical refrigerant undergoes a phase change from liquid to gas upon absorption of heat, and back to liquid when a compressor compresses it. There are various types of refrigerants available such as chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), hydro fluro carbons (HFC), and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC). The application of an ideal refrigerant is made on the basis of its thermodynamic properties, non-corrosive nature, and properties such as non-toxicity and non-flammability.
The usage of various refrigerants and their environmental effects causing depletion of the ozone layer have been a constant matter of discussion for the last few decades. Before 1990s, the most common refrigerant used was R-12 (CFC), by Dupont, named Freon. However, in the 1990s and 2000s, CFCs were replaced by HCFCs; the most common being R-22. HCFC refrigerants contain chlorine, which causes the depletion of the ozone layer and hence, are being phased out. The use of R-22 in new units has been outlawed since 2010. The phasing out of HCFC, has been planned, with the U.S. slated to terminate the supply by the year 2020. In emerging economies such as India, 50%to 60% of the ACs operating in the country utilize HCFCs and as per the Government’s plan, it is estimated to be phased out by the year 2030.
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Manufacturers created another set of refrigerant called Hydro Fluoro Carbon (HFC) in order to remove the chlorine content from the refrigerant. HFCs have the potential to cause global warming; however, they are still better than HCFCs, as they do not deplete the ozone layer. The most common HFC in use is R-410A, being better in terms of ozone depletion potential and energy efficiency; however, it still causes global warming.
The primary restraint associated with the R-410A refrigerant is still possesses the potential to cause global warming potential. In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added a new rule to their Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP); this new rule was targeted toward the phasing out Hydroflurocarbon refrigerants, including R-410A. Currently, no specific timeline has been issued for the phase out of R-410A refrigerant; however, the scheduled phased out by the EPA is expected to be staggered with respect to different applications. The approach used here is to allow businesses, contractors, and consumers to have time to adapt to the changes. Moreover, the emergence of environment-friendly set of Hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants such as R-290 and R-600A due to their halogen-free nature, no ozone depletion potential, and lower global warming potential are likely to catastrophe the demand for R-410A refrigerant in the near future.
The driver of the R-410A refrigerant market is that the government had recently planned for the phase out of an important refrigerant R-22. Therefore, it is unlikely for the government to announce the phase out of R-410A in the near future; at least till 2025. This presents significant opportunity for the R-410A refrigerant to capture significant share of the market. R-410A has been approved for usage in new residential air conditioners in 2015 in the U.S. Moreover, newer AC models are being designed to be utilized with R-410A for reliable and more efficient operation. Air conditioning compressors can run cooler, reducing the risk of compressor burnout due to overheating, as R-410A can absorb and release more heat than R-22. Another advantage offered by the R-410A is that it also functions at a higher pressure than R-22, therefore new compressors are built to withstand greater stresses, reducing the chance of cracking. Furthermore, R-410A refrigerant possesses the potential to cause global warming potential and governments are planning to phase out of the same; however, no official announcement has been made; there has not been a defined or clear low Global Warming Potential alternative to R-410A. This certainly doesn’t mean that companies and governments aren’t proactively looking for a suitable alternative; however, at this point in time, no suitable alternative exist, meaning R-410A is going to remain in the market in the near future.
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Key players operating in global R-410 refrigerant market include Daikin, Chemours, Arkema, Dongyue Group, and Sinochem Group.