EPA’s final rule expands the use of 4 hydrocarbon refrigerants in North America

By Elke Milner, Mar 03, 2015, 14:27 2 minute reading

On 27 February 2015, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed a final rule listing four additional hydrocarbon refrigerants (R290, R600a, R170 and R441A) as acceptable substitutes under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Programme in certain refrigeration and AC applications. The rule exempts these refrigerants from the venting prohibition in the approved end-uses.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has issued a final rule on the June 2014 proposal to list four hydrocarbon refrigerants as acceptable substitutes, subject to use conditions, in six end uses, including household refrigerators and freezers, stand-alone retail food refrigeration equipment, very low temperature refrigeration, non-mechanical heat transfer, vending machines and room air conditioning units. 
Today’s rule is an example of how we can turn the challenge of climate change into an opportunity to innovate our way to a better future. By working together, businesses and EPA are bringing new, climate-friendly refrigerants to market that better protect our health and the environment,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy 
The hydrocarbon refrigerants listed are ethane (R170), isobutane (R600a), propane (R290) and hydrocarbon blend R441A for the following end uses: 
  • Ethane in very low temperature refrigeration and in non-mechanical heat transfer;
  • Isobutane in retail food refrigeration (stand-alone commercial refrigerators and freezers) and in vending machines;
  • Propane in household refrigerators, freezers, or combination refrigerators and freezers, in vending machines, and in room air conditioning units; 
  • The hydrocarbon blend R-441A in retail food refrigeration (stand-alone commercial refrigerators and freezers), in vending machines and in room air conditioning units
The rule is expected to pave the way for a wider adoption of hydrocarbons across the US in these end uses, especially once the other SNAP proposal, currently pending approval, will be finalised. If approved as proposed this rule will prohibit the use of certain high-GWP refrigerants (incl. R134a) in certain applications by 2016, such as retail refrigeration and vending machines. 
HCs exempt from venting prohibition
The final action exempts the four hydrocarbon refrigerants from the Clean Air Act’s prohibition on venting, release or disposal, in specific end-uses for which they are now listed, on the basis of current evidence that they do not pose a threat to the environment. 
June 2014 proposal only slightly amended
The final rule lists all five proposed refrigerants as acceptable in the same end uses as in the proposed rule and retains the same use conditions as proposed for household refrigerators and freezers, retail food refrigeration (stand-alone equipment only), very low temperature refrigeration, non-mechanical heat transfer and vending machines. For room AC units, the final rule retains the same use conditions as proposed, except in the case of portable AC units, for which the EPA modified charge limits, consistent with the requirements of UL 484.
The Climate Action Plan announced June 2013, calls on the EPA to “use its authority through the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Programme to encourage private sector investment in low-emissions technology by identifying and approving climate-friendly chemicals.” By default, all substances that can potentially be used as refrigerants are not allowed on the US market, unless they are specifically listed as acceptable (with or without use restrictions) per application under the SNAP Programme. 


By Elke Milner

Mar 03, 2015, 14:27

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