Gildardo Yañez, a Training and Applications Manager at Bohn, called natural refrigerants a “protective measure to save the environment” from the harmful effects of f-gases in his keynote address at the ATMOsphere (ATMO) LATAM Summit 2023, which addressed the Latin American marketplace.

“All Latin American countries that have published roadmaps to reduce HFCs are witnessing an increasing trend in adopting natural refrigerants and systems based on them yearly,” he added.

The event was held in November in Mexico City and hosted by ATMOsphere, publisher of Hydrocarbons21.com. “Natural refrigerants offer a reduced ecological footprint compared to their synthetic counterparts,” said Yañez. “These refrigerants are also a smart, energy-efficient investment, balancing initial installation costs with long-term savings.”

Yañez noted that the Montreal Protocol has played a key role in protecting the ozone layer by phasing out ozone-depleting chemicals, but he expressed urgency about the damage synthetic refrigerants continue to do.

While Yañez was bullish on the need to adopt natural refrigerants to protect the environment, he acknowledged the challenges they present. Yañez highlighted ammonia (R717) and CO2 (R744), calling the two natural refrigerants “the best” because it is easier to detect when they leak, which he said is “a rare occurrence.”

He addressed the need for specialized adjustments in refrigeration system designs to ensure effective and safe use.

“Ammonia, which is toxic, can be dangerous if handled incorrectly,” said Yañez. “The high operating pressure required for carbon dioxide and the flammability of R290 [propane] and R600a [isobutane] should be addressed carefully while installing.”

Yañez also underscored the importance of specialized training in handling these refrigerants.

“Working with R290 requires medium training, but for R744, advanced training is essential,” he stated, highlighting the need for an understanding of thermodynamics and electricity.

Regulatory frameworks

Yañez also discussed regulatory frameworks within Latin America and provided a critical perspective on Mexico’s synthetic refrigerant policies.

“Many people view this as a fiscal maneuver, but at its core, it’s a commitment to our society’s health and our planet’s future,” he stated.

Yañez dove into the technical and safety standards governing the use of natural refrigerants. He referenced DIN EN 378, the European Union standard for refrigeration systems and heat pumps, and the ISO 5149-1 standard addressing the safety, environmental and operational aspects of refrigeration and air-conditioning systems.

He offered insights into specific standards in Latin America, including Colombia’s NTC 6228-2 and NTC 6228-3, which regulate the safety and environmental requirements of heat pumps and refrigeration systems during their design and installation.

“In areas such as residential spaces, the use of propane is carefully regulated, with the maximum allowable quantity of 0.09kg/m3 (.09oz/ft³),” said Yañez. “We see stricter guidelines in specialized sectors like food production or chemical plants.”

Yañez emphasized that such distinct regulatory measures are essential to ensure that the implementation of natural refrigerants is safe and effective, catering to the diverse requirements and potential risks inherent in each unique operational situation.

Yañez also reflected on the broader implications of the shift toward natural refrigerants and highlighted the lack of incentives to promote their use and the critical need for professional training.

“Natural refrigerants offer a reduced ecological footprint compared to their synthetic counterparts.”

Gildardo Yañez, a Training and Applications Manager at Bohn

Author Saroj Thapa