US EPA New Refrigerant Management Requirements Under the Clean Air Act

On November 18, 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the final rule updating the Refrigerant Management Requirements under the Clean Air Act (40 CFR Part 82). The new rule updates the ozone depleting substance (ODS) refrigerant management requirements of the existing rule to apply to certain non-ODS replacement chemicals that are classified as potent greenhouse gas (GHG) chemicals.  The Part 82 regulations prohibit the knowing release of refrigerants during the course of maintaining, servicing, repairing, or disposing of appliances or industrial process refrigeration equipment.  The Part 82 rule changes are to be implemented according to the a 2-year timeline, with the final date of implementation being January 1, 2019.

The current rule regulates ODS refrigerants, such as Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). Non ODS substitute refrigerants that will be subject to Part 82 requirements starting in 2017, 2018, or 2019 include Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), and Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs).  Exemptions are provided for ammonia, propane and certain other refrigerants.

The modifications to the leak repair requirements will apply to all refrigerants (excluding exempt refrigerants) beginning January 1, 2019. Each time refrigerant is added to an appliance containing >50 lbs. of refrigerant, the leak rate must be calculated.  The technician is required to provide owners and operators with invoices including the amount of refrigerant added and the results of the leak inspection.  The revised leak rate thresholds are as follows:

  • 30% for Industrial Process Refrigeration (IPR) (lowered from 35%)
  • 20% for commercial refrigeration (lowered from 35%)
  • 10% for comfort cooling (lowered from 15%)

Repairs must be made within 30 days to any equipment with leak rates that exceed these thresholds. The new rule requires verification tests and periodic leak inspections for repaired equipment.  A new EPA annual reporting requirement is specified for “chronically leaking appliances”, which are those with an annual leak rate of > 125% of the full charge amount.

The servicing of HFC appliances and the sale of HFC refrigerant will be restricted to certified technicians. Beginning January 1, 2018, certifying organizations will be required to post a list of new technicians certified after January 1, 2017.  Technicians will be required to use certified recover and/or recycling equipment when opening an HFC appliance.  Proper evacuation levels must be specified before opening an appliance.  Prior to disposal, it will be required to remove any refrigerant present in the appliance.  In order to reclaim and sell used refrigerant, reclaimers will be required to be certified and must analyze each batch of reclaimed refrigerant.

Following the implementation of the new rule, EPA anticipates the annual GHG emission reductions to be approximately 7.3 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2eq), equaling the annual GHG emissions of 1.5 million cars.

How to plan for the impact of the new rule:

  1. Inventory all chillers and refrigeration equipment for types of refrigerant and equipment charge capacity.
  2. Review refrigerants to determine if they are acceptable or if they are being phased out due to ODS potential.
  3. Identify all large appliances with >50 lb refrigerant charge.
  4. Ensure that service is only conducted by a certified technician and that certified recovery/recycling equipment is used.
  5. Implement a refrigerant tracking system to compute leak rates for each large appliance.
  6. Implement an annual leak inspection program for large appliances.

For more information on this and other regulatory compliance matters, contact Gavin Biebuyck, Principal at 610.375.9301.