The VKE, Norway’s refrigeration and air conditioning association, has warned its members that proposals to restrict per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances could signal the end for synthetic refrigerants in Europe.

Last month, five European member states – Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark – published their intention to submit a joint restriction proposal under the European REACH regulations for per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). This proposal includes any substance that has a CF2 group or a CF3 group – properties shared by HFC and HFO refrigerants.

Incorporation into the REACH regulations would mean that the substances would be subject to stricter rules for registration and use, and in some cases a total ban on use. These restrictions go further than the current European F-gas regulations and enforcement would also be stricter.

While most other industry groups have remained tight-lipped on these proposals and their potential ramifications for the industry, the head of Norway’s VKE, Espen Rønning, writing on the association’s website, says: “One wonders if this is the writing on the wall for synthetic refrigerants.

“It is clear that the environmental authorities in the five countries have a strong desire for even stronger restrictions on the use of synthetic refrigerants,” he added.

The VKE also claims that in a meeting to revise the F-gas regulation, one of the leaders in the EU Ministry of the Environment, DG Clima, said that if the EU is to achieve its climate goals by 2050, the use of F-gases must be eliminated.

The latest consultation is open until 19 September 2021. Thereafter, the five environmental authorities have until July 2022 to complete the restriction proposal. This is followed by a new public hearing. Then the European Commission could start working on amendments to the REACH regulations at the beginning of 2023.