China: latest update on R290 RAC conversion progress

By Caixia Mao, Dec 02, 2014, 17:59 3 minute reading

On 4 November, the International Workshop on Alternative Technology to HCFC-22 in the Room Air-Conditioning Sector was held in Ningbo, Zhejiang province in China. Jointly organized by the Chinese government and international organisations, the event provided an update on R290 technology development in the RAC sector. Commercial production of R290 RACs (Room Air Conditioners) is likely to begin in late 2015. 

First organised in 2008, the 5th International Workshop on Alternative Technology to HCFC-22 in the Room Air-Conditioning Sector, with a focus on R290 technology, was jointly organized by the Foreign Economic Cooperation Office of the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP/FECO), the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNITO), the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), GIZ-Proklima and the China Household Electrical Appliances Association (CHEAA). The 2014 Workshop was convened to review progress on production line conversion and a potential date for commercial production of R290 RAC products. 
Targets and progress on R290 conversion in China
R290 is an efficient, zero ODP (ozone depletion potential) and extremely low GWP (global warming potential) alternative to HCFC22, which is being phased out following international agreement. In China, the natural refrigerant is recommended as the replacement for HCFC22, and manufacturers and research institutions have been actively engaged in R&D activities to develop room air conditioners that safely use propane as the refrigerant. 
China’s goal for its R22 phase out is to:
  • Reduce levels of R22 by 10% compared to 2013 level (74,700 tons)
  • Replace three compressor production lines with R290 technology 
  • Replace 18 RAC production lines with R290 technology
So far, one compressor production line conversion has been finished with the conversion of the other two lines ongoing. With regards to the RAC production lines, two of the RAC production line conversions have been finished, whilst the conversion of the other 12 lines is ongoing. What is more, a further, 4 RAC production lines are in the discussion for a conversion contract. One Chinese manufacturer has already said that their commercial production for R290 RAC will start in December 2015. 

Reasons to select R290 as the alternative refrigerant 
Compared to other existing refrigerants, R290 has an advantage over others with regards to climate change, efficiency and safety. Its key advantages over other refrigerants are as follows:
  • GWP: compared to R32, which has a GWP of 650 and R161, which has a GWP of 10, R290 has a GWP of only 3. 
  • Energy efficiency: the efficiency of R290 is calculated as being 10-15% R290 is higher than R22
  • Vapour pressure: similar to R22
  • Pressure: Component’s pressurization would not need to be changed 
  • Latent heat: about 1.8 times higher than R22
  • Thermal productivity: higher than R22
  • Viscosity: lower than R22
  • Acceptable and manageable flammability risk: according to the Tianjin Fire Research the associated risk level of R290 is deemed to be acceptable. The ignition frequency is calculated as 8.05×10-9  
  • Non toxic: combustion products are water and CO2, non-toxic, unlike R32 and R161 whose combustion products contain hydrofluoric acid, which is corrosive and toxic
One disadvantage of R290 is that the specific volume is higher than R22, which means that the mass flow is lower than R22 for certain compressor displacements. 

R290 RAC development supported by international community 
The international community has been actively involved in China’s R290 conversion process, providing funding and supporting the development of safety standards. For example, under the Sixty-fourth Meeting of Executive Committee of the Multilateral Fund for the implementation of the Montreal Protocol, UNIDO funded the several R290 conversion projects including an R290 compresor demonstration project by GMCC and a Midea R290 RAC project. UNEP is providing funding for a project aimed at supporting China’s refrigeration servicing sector, designed to ensure the presence of a service infrastructure for the R290 conversion.  From 2008-2013, GIZ-Proklima funded the demonstration project of a Gree R290 RAC. Alongside these projects, the CHEAA and Chinese RAC manufacturers have participated in the review and amendment of international safety regulations for air conditioners, such as IEC60335-2-40. 


By Caixia Mao

Dec 02, 2014, 17:59

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