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Two ASHRAE Members Create Refrigerants Course Specifically For Developing Countries

Two ASHRAE Members Create Refrigerants Course Specifically For Developing Countries

From eSociety, November 2017

By Mary Kate McGowan, Associate Editor, News

Amid the changes in the refrigerants industry, two ASHRAE members collaborated with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to specifically help developing countries better understand and implement best practices and protocols for refrigerants.

Bryan Becker, Ph.D., P.E., Fellow ASHRAE, and Brian Fricke, Ph.D., Member ASHRAE, worked for about three-quarters of a year to create the “Refrigerants Literacy” course for UNEP.

The 4.5-hour web-based course includes four lessons designed to educate both HVAC&R professionals and non-specialists such as policy makers, procurement offices, building owners and facility managers, according to UNEP.

“This is one step in trying to inform folks about those issues from a global perspective,” said Fricke, a research and development engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Becker participated in an UNEP-sponsored eLearning workshop in Paris to learn about UNEP’s efforts in developing countries. Becker and Fricke then met and worked with ASHRAE staff and Ayman Eltalouny, coordinator of international partnerships for UNEP’s OzonAction Programme, to develop this course, according to Becker.

The course was officially launched in July during the 39th Meeting of the Open-ended Working Group. UNEP plans to begin a new campaign before the 29th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Montreal, Canada, scheduled for Nov. 20–24, Eltalouny said.

Behind the Course

The course was designed to help UNEP’s National Ozone Units (NOU) monitor the use of refrigerants, set national policies for refrigerant usage and control the emissions of ozone-depleting substances, among other tasks. NOUs are the government units in developing countries responsible for managing their national programs to comply with the Montreal Protocol, said Becker, a member of ASHRAE’s Handbook committee and a professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.   

“This ‘country-driven approach’ is a key factor contributing to the remarkable success of the Montreal Protocol.  Therefore, it is important that the National Ozone Officers and their staff in the National Ozone Units participate in this course. They can take the information presented in this course back to their respective countries and use it to set up technician training and certification programs, refrigerant management programs and refrigerant legislation and regulations in their respective countries,” he said.

The broad audience with varying levels of experience with refrigerants made developing the course more complex than other ASHRAE eLearning courses, Fricke said. Prior to this course, Fricke and Becker had both designed and authored several ASHRAE eLearning courses, including an extensive course on industrial refrigeration.

“Different countries have different needs. They’re in various phases of their deployment of technologies, so there’s considerations to be had there,” he said.

Four lessons comprise the course:

  1. “Refrigerants Types” addresses different types of refrigerants and the refrigerants’ environmental impact. The section also discusses the various international agreements aimed at reducing these environmental impacts.
  2. “Refrigerants Classification”  discusses physical properties of refrigerants and appropriate refrigeration lubricants. It also discusses the two standards—ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 34, Designation and Safety Classification of Refrigerants, and ISO 817,
    Refrigerants–Designation and Safety Classification—that are used for the number designation and safety, toxicity and flammability classifications of refrigerants.
  3. “Refrigerants Selection” explores the market sectors that use various refrigerants, the types of systems used, the existing refrigerants being used and the new low GWP alternative refrigerants.
  4. “Refrigerants Management” discusses refrigerant management, optimizing refrigerant use in existing equipment, minimizing the demand for virgin refrigerant and reducing the negative environmental impact from refrigerant emissions through refrigerant recovery, recycling, reclamation, containment and safe disposal. Training and certification are discussed in this lesson. The management of refrigerants has become an increasingly important topic, so Fricke and Becker wanted to be sure the topic was adequately covered in the course to make more people aware of proper protocol, said Fricke.

Changes in Refrigerants

The refrigerant industry is in a transition phase, and that creates uncertainty, Fricke said.

“People have a lot of questions about it both in terms of what refrigerants options are there and impact on the environment and how to use them safely and dealing with new refrigerant options coming out...I think it’s important to get this information out in front of people,” he said.

Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants have dominated the refrigerants industry since the 1930s, according to Becker. Over the years, the industry has changed. In the 1980s, the CFCs with high ozone depletion potentials (ODPs) were phased out and replaced with hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants, which still had moderate ODPs, he said. The HCFCs were then replaced by hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, which have low ODPs but high global warming potential (GWP).  

Now, the industry is trying to replace the high GWP refrigerants with new refrigerants and refrigerant blends. Some of those are flammable, and some operate at very high system pressures, which create flammability and safety concerns, Becker said.

“One important takeaway from this course is the crucial need to move toward low-GWP, low ODP refrigerants to mitigate global climate change,” Becker said. “However, this move to new refrigerants involves some new safety and flammability risks as some of the new refrigerants require very high system operating pressures, and some of the refrigerants are flammable.”

Because of this, service technicians need to be made aware of these new safety and flammability issues. It is important for them to follow proper procedures for the capture and disposal of old refrigerants when changing out old refrigerants for new refrigerants, Becker said.

This course was developed for UNEP, which is making the course available through its National Ozone Action Units. Questions from ASHRAE members should be directed to