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EIA calls for urgent overhaul of US refrigerant leakage policy - Refrigeration and Air Conditioning

Last updated: 03-10-2021

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EIA calls for urgent overhaul of US refrigerant leakage policy - Refrigeration and Air Conditioning

Supermarkets in the US have been criticised for their refrigerant leakage policies, following an undercover investigation by campaign group the Environmental Investigation Agency.

For its Leaking Havoc report, the EIA took leak detection sniffers into a range of stores in shopping trollies and found that many of these stores had measurable leaks.  Leaks were detected at 60 per cent of Walmart stores and 55 per cent of the shops of nine other retailers visited.

The leaks detected during the testing ranged from 2 ppm to 182 ppm and as the US is still using R22, alongside a high proportion of HFCs, the EIA has warned that such leakage has huge implications for greenhouse gas emissions.

Of the leaks detected, under 5 per cent were above 100 ppm, the level at which many alarms are set, and 67 per cent were under 10 ppm.

This, the EIA said, highlights a pressing need for policies that tackle low-level persistent leaks.

The EIA has now called for government action to mandate leak detection and remedial action to repair leaks along the lines of the F-Gas requirements enshrined in UK and EU law.

The news that a country the size of the US does not have any national legislative controls over leakage may be surprising to those used to the F-Gas regime. However, the controls on leakage - primarily in larger systems - that were enacted under the US Clean Air Act were rolled back last year by the Trump Administration, so that they only apply to Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) namely R22, not HFCs.

The group called for immediate restoration of the CAA provisions and further expansion of the controls regime.

The EIA said: “More robust controls on leaks should require regular preventative detection in all stores, capable of alarming and triggering inspection and repair of all detectable amounts of HFCs or ODS, even at low ppm concentrations. All repairs should be conducted within a strict timeframe, with robust recordkeeping and associated enforcement and penalties for violations.”

The Agency makes three specific calls for action to policymakers:

The report also argued the that the consequences of leaks for retailers were financial as well as environmental.

It said: “Refrigerant leaks are a known industry-wide problem that weaken system performance and wreak havoc on our climate. It costs supermarkets money to replace leaked refrigerant and to operate faulty systems that have higher energy demands. Leaking systems are inefficient systems.”

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