With the impending phase-out of HCFCs, in 2013, the UAE has evolved a strategy of a two-phase response. Speaking exclusively to Climate Control Middle East in his sun-drenched room at the Ministry of Environment and Water, in Dubai, the Minister’s Advisor, Dr Saad Al Numairy revealed how the UAE – and for that matter, the remaining GCC countries, with the exception of Bahrain – would first focus on HCFCs from a foam perspective and, later, tackle the issue of coolants. During the interview, Dr Al Numairy said HCFCs as refrigerants would remain for the time being, because the Ministry felt there were no viable alternatives that could match them in energy efficiency.
The Ministry revelation does not mean a shut-door case for alternatives, though, as Dr Al Numairy was quick to add that it was up to other refrigerant manufacturers to prove the energy-efficiency credentials of their coolant materials. For this, the Advisor suggested that the manufacturers set up pilot projects in the country.
A key aspect that came up for discussions during the interview was the use of natural refrigerants, with Dr Al Numairy suggesting the use of hydrocarbons in a wide range of HVACR applications. He cited sufficient international research that had gone into hydrocarbons in Europe and in Australia and added how questions related to their combustible nature had been robustly addressed.
Another issue with hydrocarbons is related to O&M-related challenges, which necessitates a broad base of skilled and specialised technicians. The general feeling in the industry is that currently there are an inadequate number of such technicians for hydrocarbons to gain popular currency.
Another natural refrigerant, ammonia, is also a contender, though its potential for extensive use is hampered by cost considerations and, according to some quarters, the myth surrounding its safety. They argue that even the word used to describe ammonia, ‘toxic’, is inaccurate, saying that the correct word would be hazardous. In the same breath, they describe how technology and engineering practices have evolved to contain the hazard and how ammonia could be safely deployed even in congested residential neighbourhoods, as is the case with the Ski Dubai project at Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates. In its seven-year run, they say, there has not been a single incident of an ammonia leak or any danger to the people living there.
Sufficient food for thought there.