In an economic climate where demand for refrigerants is outstripping supply on the international market, the outlook for our sector remains very unstable and there is a risk that it will take some time find its way back to equilibrium.
How did we end up in this situation?
Since the end of 2009 there has been a sharp fall in the availability of the raw materials needed to produce HFCs, mainly trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PER). The shortage of these products has therefore led to a steep rise in prices.
At the same time, production capacities for the HFC R-134a and R-125 molecules have not been sufficient to satisfy market need.
The lack of R-134a is primarily due to the fact that this molecule is of no economic interest for the future. The chemicals industry is therefore not investing in new production plants.
On the other hand, as regards R-125 which is used to make several refrigerants such as the 400 series (R-404A, R-407C, R-410A etc.), decisions have been made to invest in production equipment but the results are still not enough to meet the ever-increasing demand.
Demand for HFCs is constantly on the rise, in order to cope with:
- changes in regulations across Europe (end of HCFCs) as well as in the US
- the needs of certain countries experiencing rapid economic growth (China)
- economic recovery in the automotive industry.
In these circumstances, it is therefore very difficult to estimate what quantities of refrigerants will be available in 2011, or even 2012. One thing is sure, however, which is that prices will continue to rise in the coming months with extremely short price validity.
More information can be obtained from the enclosed press releases issued by international manufacturers: