The January 1, 2019 final compliance date for the refrigerant management rule (40 CFR 82, Subpart F) is fast approaching. (See two related EQ articles detailing the numerous significant rule revisions on 12/4/2017 and 6/21/2018 that describe specific requirements and compliance deadlines as well as valuable guidance on preparing for compliance.) This article focuses on the recent U.S. EPA proposal to roll back portions of the rule as well as some best practices as facilities begin to live with the portions of the rule already in effect. 

Confusion over EPA's Recent Proposal

On October 1, 2018, EPA issued a proposed rule in the Federal Register that included the following:

  • Proposal to limit leak repair provisions to refrigerants containing ozone depleting substances (ODS)
  • Request for comment on:
    • Full roll back of requirements under this rule for non-ODS refrigerants (all but the venting prohibition)
    • 6-12 month extension to 1/1/2019 compliance date for non-ODS refrigerants if rule not finalized in reasonable time prior to 1/1/2019

This proposal has created confusion for facilities as they try to interpret what they must comply with starting on 1/1/2019. It is important to understand that this proposal does NOT impact the rule as it relates to ODS refrigerants. Therefore, sites with large (≥ 50 lb) appliances using refrigerant containing a class I or class II ODS (e.g., R-22, R-123) must comply with the revised leak repair provisions within 40 CFR 82.157 beginning on 1/1/2019.

It remains uncertain how EPA will move forward with the proposal, given that all commenters at the recent public hearing were opposed to the proposal and the public comment period was still open when this article was written. However, it is likely that there will be a delay of at least six months to the 1/1/2019 compliance date for large (≥ 50 lb) appliances containing non-ODS refrigerants such as R-134a, R-407C, and R-410A. Thus, if all of the large (≥ 50 lb) appliances at a facility contain only non-ODS refrigerants, at least a short reprieve from complying with the leak repair provisions of the rule is likely. Note that several other parts of the rule became effective on 1/1/2017 and 1/1/2018 and apply to non-ODS refrigerants. Therefore, it is important to understand that unless EPA elects to implement the full roll back for non-ODS refrigerants, which is unlikely, some requirements continue to apply and the compliance date on those requirements has already passed.

Key Components to Compliance

As outlined in the previously referenced articles on this rulemaking, facilities must implement numerous changes to their refrigerant management program in order to ensure compliance with the rule. Many companies depend heavily on their HVAC/R contractors to ensure compliance, however, due to the new requirements, it is critical for facility environmental staff to diligently review records, perform leak calculations, and submit any required reporting.

Some of the common gaps in compliance with the refrigerant management requirements include the following:

  • Evacuation level issues
    • Technicians not meeting proper evacuation levels, which varies by refrigerant and size of appliance
    • Lack of documentation when using alternative evacuation levels that are allowed by rule
    • Using recovery equipment that has not been certified for a particular refrigerant
  • Appliance disposal requirement issues
    • Service/disposal forms for all information required under the revised rule
    • No records kept for appliance disposal events
    • No signed statements or required contract language in place with scrap recycler
    • Failure to differentiate between small (≤ 5 lb) appliances that “leaked out” versus those that required evacuation prior to disposal
  • Leak repair provision issues
    • Improper categorization of appliances as industrial process refrigeration appliances
    • No documentation of full charge method
    • Assuming HVAC/R contractor knows what records are required (do not blindly rely on contractor service forms!)
    • No documentation of leak locations
    • Incomplete leak repair verification testing records
    • Not calculating leak rates (acceptable under the old rule if all leaks were fixed within 30 days)

In order to address these compliance gaps and ensure that your site is prepared to meet the conditions of the current rule, the following key steps are recommended:

  1. Develop a high-level policy outlining the requirements and how the facility complies.
  2. Prepare an accurate appliance inventory with a focus on large (≥ 50 lb) appliances.
  3. Ensure that comprehensive service/repair and appliance disposal forms are implemented; contractor forms may not contain all necessary data.
  4. Implement a tool to track leak repairs and calculate leak rates according to the rule.
  5. Implement a tool to track off-site refrigerant transfer activities.

Refrigerant Management Compliance Tools

Through the process of assisting numerous organizations with the refrigerant management rulemaking, including performing gap assessments, preparing site appliance inventories, and developing compliance programs, the authors evaluated several environmental management software solutions available in the market to support compliance with these requirements.

Commercial Software Applications

Some of the most popular enterprise EHS software platforms offer refrigerant management applications. For current customers, this may mean simply activating this new application on the platform to take advantage of new functionality that enables the changes in the business processes to meet the requirements of the new rules. These applications provide the means to manage a dynamic equipment inventory, track/schedule maintenance, capture refrigerant charges, and document leak inspections. In addition, customers can then take advantage of the numerous data visualization, reporting, and dashboard options to create useful data views, pre-formatted reports, or other useful output.

Software platforms with refrigerant related applications include:

  • TrakRef
  • Sphera's Refrigerant Compliance Management (RCM) solution
  • GenSuite's ODS Sentinel
  • Intelex's Refrigerant Management software

Refrigerant pull quote

Other options for refrigerant management can be leveraged by an organization's Computerized Maintenance Management Systems. These systems are already designed to track equipment and any related maintenance. However, some customization may be needed to ensure compliance with the new refrigerant management rules.

Figure 1_Refrigerant Servive Form

Trinity's Refrigerant Leak Repair Tracking Spreadsheet Tool

Additionally, as an alternative to an off-the-shelf software solution, Trinity Consultants has developed a compliance spreadsheet tool that assists facilities with tracking and maintaining all of the necessary records required by the current rule, including:

  • Appliance inventories (both <50 lbs and ≥ 50 lbs)
  • Service and disposal records (provides forms for technicians with pre-populated data associated with the appliance)
  • Leak repair tracking and leak rate calculations
  • Leak inspections records
  • Chronic leaker records
  • Retrofit-retirement records
  • Technician and recovery equipment certifications, and associated recordkeeping requirements

For a consultation on whether Trinity's tool would be beneficial for your organization, or for related assistance with refrigerant management requirements, contact the authors or call (800) 229-6655.

Refrigerant Maintenance