• Contractingbusiness 739 1211 Remtec Building

    The Reclaimers

    Dec. 1, 2011
    RemTec International Wants Your Used Refrigerants

    Recover. Reclaim. Reuse. This is the mantra of RemTec International. Established in 1986, the business is a world leader in removing Halons and refrigerants from a wide variety of industries and then reclaiming or destroying them to industry standards. A full-service business based in Bowling Green, Ohio, RemTec is a one-stop shop with a complete set of services for its customers — wherever in the world they're located.

    Its mission is to reduce the environmental impact of halocarbons (Halons, CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs) on our atmosphere, and RemTec goes about this in several different ways. It will purchase “used” halocarbons from noncritical users and then process them until they meet internationally accepted standards. The clean material is then “banked” in its long-term storage facilities until critical users need it. RemTec also sells new replacement agents to users who no longer require Halons and CFC refrigerants. RemTec also offers several destruction options to clients who need to safely dispose of these hazardous materials in accordance with regulatory requirements.

    Many consider halons and other ozone-depleting chemicals such as freon as “clean” agents because they dissipate in the air once used. For example, Halons are used in fire protection in critical areas, such as in computer applications and onboard aircraft, because their application won't leave a residue. In fact, the U.S. military is the largest user of Halon and freon. New replacement agents are not suited for these types of applications, so there will continue to be a need for these agents in the future.

    While they may be considered “clean” agents, they are, in fact, class-one hazardous agents that require careful handling throughout the entire process. Richard Marcus, president and CEO of RemTec International, says the recovery and reclamation of refrigerants pose unique technical challenges, especially the removal of large amounts of oils and cross-contamination. RemTec has been able to overcome these challenges by using patented equipment and proprietary techniques that cost effectively reclaim refrigerants to AHRI-700 requirements on a large scale.

    “Our business is unique in the sense that we often are buying our raw material (the used refrigerants) from the same companies that we sell our reclaimed products to,” Marcus says. “We can cost effectively provide this service because of our large investment in plant and equipment, which enables RemTec to correct an array of problems during the recovery and reclamation of refrigerants and other hydrocarbons.”

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    While RemTec once concentrated on reclaiming Halons and R-12, the business has focused in the past two years on the HVACR wholesale market as the EPA mandated phaseout of R-22 turns into reality, Marcus says. Patti Ellingson joined RemTec as its director of wholesale development to structure and implement its Buy Back & Recovery Program for the HVACR wholesale distribution chain. Through this program, RemTec encourages and educates contractors and wholesalers to increase the amount of recovered R-22 coming back to be reclaimed.

    The design of the Buy Back & Recovery Program fits around the specific needs of the wholesale industry to maximize the efforts of reclamation and recycling refrigerants such as R-22. “We are committed to the wholesale distribution model and we understand the need for simplicity,” Ellingson says. “Our ‘no hassle’ program provides our customers with a way to dispose of unwanted CFC, HCFC and HFC refrigerants and is customized to each individual customer's needs.”

    RemTec's Buy Back & Recovery Program provides a value-added service through the wholesaler. “Participating wholesalers realize added sales potential by offering their contracting customers a place to dispose of unused refrigerants,” Ellingson says. To help educate HVACR wholesalers about the program and the need for recovery, she participates in counter days and trade shows. In addition to these methods, RemTec and Ellingson also reach wholesalers and dealers through blogs, LinkedIn and advertising in several industry trade publications. “We are interested in increasing the number of participating wholesalers in our Buy Back & Recovery Program,” she says. (Interested HVACR distributors should contact Ellingson at 419/575-9490 or [email protected].)

    RemTec looks for used and unwanted halocarbons (R-11, R-12, R-22, R-23, R-115, R-114) that may be sitting in a warehouse or in old chillers that are ready for removal. Because of RemTec's reputation within the industry, companies or agencies often will contact RemTec about their unwanted refrigerants. RemTec will purchase these controlled halocarbons and process them to regulatory standards. The company's comprehensive services include reclamation as well as distillation. Its on-site full laboratory testing and certification also includes U.S. Department of Transportation cylinder/tank testing and recertification and long-term strategic storage and on-site Plasma Arc destruction. In fact, RemTec is one of three AHRI 700-certified labs in the country.

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    Here's how the process works — in seven steps, according to Marcus.

    Step 1: Cylinder inspection

    The cylinders are immediately leak tested to ensure that they are not emitting harmful substances into the atmosphere.

    Step 2: Recovery

    The material is labeled appropriately and the purity level is measured. The material will be recovered into other tanks with similar purity levels. The process ends when the tanks are emptied and vacuumed.

    Step 3: Testing

    Each batch is tested to determine its purity and the levels of contamination. The batch is not moved from the production area or mixed with other batches until test results are received.

    Step 4: Reclaiming

    Every batch is tested to determine the level of additional processing required. If the material is found to be cross-contaminated, RemTec processes this material using its proprietary distillation and blending capabilities to reclaim it to AHRI-700 specification. A follow-up laboratory will then determine if the batch material meets acceptable industry standards.

    Step 5: Packaging & Final Test

    The material is packaged into various size cylinders and bulk tanks. If requested by the customer, additional samples may be taken and shipped to an independent testing facility.

    Step 6: Shipping and Storage

    RemTec will ship the cylinders to the customer or will offer to store the cylinders in its controlled storage area.

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    Step 7: Recordkeeping

    RemTec provides a complete paper trail for the EPA. When needed, the company provides certificates of destruction as well as chain-of-custody letters. RemTec has the detailed history as to the dates and time of processing with laboratory test results of the reclaimed materials.

    As part of the Buy Back & Recovery Program for wholesalers, RemTec accepts refrigerants as low as 90 percent purity for credit, pays top dollar for 99.5 percent R-22 and has a no-charge policy for mixed refrigerants. RemTec also offers a cylinder exchange program or bulk recovery cylinders, where available, and offers on-site tank refurbishment and DOT certification.

    Marcus says the basis for RemTec's development and growth has been responding to its customers' needs to solve environmental problems and reduce risk. Demand for safer alternatives to ozone-depleting agents continues to grow as governments around the world create more stringent regulations governing the creation, handling and destruction of these chemical agents. The influences cited by Marcus include social and environmental pressures from major institutions such as the U.S. government, a focus on “green” products and vendors who strive to be seen as environmentally conscious, and those businesses and organizations that have adopted internal environmental policies.

    Such governmental regulations at the federal, state and local levels “have the potential to quickly change demand for sustainable products,” Marcus says. “Government regulations continue to encourage companies to operate in an environmentally conscious way and, in some cases, are phasing out certain refrigerant gasses. Global supply continues to shrink as shortages of chemical products increase, thus increasing the demand for reclamation and increasing the value in reclaiming and reusing the existing resources.” If wholesalers don't become actively involved at the recovery stage, there will be shortfalls of needed refrigerants, which will ultimately make their jobs more difficult, Ellingson notes.

    Staying on top of the complex rules that are continually in flux requires a lot of work, but Marcus says RemTec has been “extremely successful” in projecting future moves because it works closely with many of the regulatory committees and industry organizations. “We also keep our hand on the pulse by staying in contact with the EPA on questions and concerns that may come up throughout the year,” Marcus says. RemTec also is involved with The Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy and AHRI, where Marcus serves as sectional chair for chemical reclaimers. Because of RemTec's status as one of three AHRI 700-certified laboratories, the company is able to stay apprised of upcoming changes. Ellingson also serves on HARDI's Refrigeration Council and is active on several other committees.

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    RemTec recently established a quality assurance program in China. Its new facility there offers a complete quality assurance check on bulk and packaged product before shipping, and all of it meets AHRI 700 standards. “This program offers peace of mind when purchasing and filling refrigerants in China,” Marcus says. “Our team will complete several checks on the product both prior to and after filling the cylinders.”

    As more people around the world upgrade their standard of living and come to depend on air conditioning and refrigeration, there will be no shortage of future work for RemTec International, Marcus says. “With refrigerants a big part of our comfort level and standard of living here in the U.S. and other countries across the globe, there will always be work for the reclamation industry. Be it reclamation or destruction of Halocarbons, RemTec has the solution,” Marcus says.

    Michael Maynard is a contributing editor based in Providence, RI. He writes frequently on HVACR, construction and architecture issues. Contact him at[email protected].

    Best Practice

    Plascon Destruction and Carbon Credits

    Definition and Example: Customers rely on RemTec's patented Argon Plasma Arc technology to dispose of controlled halocarbons properly. The Plasma Arc technology is designed to break down halocarbons and other organic matter at an ultra high-efficiency that is rated in excess of 99.99 percent. Since the only significant effluent is a salt solution, this technology is considered safe to operate and environmentally friendly.

    Significance: Plascon destruction system is superior to the competing methods:

    • Capable of handling large volumes of destruction of bromine- and florine-based halocarbons.
    • Complies with Technology and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP) guidelines.
    • Plasma arc recognized for effective breakdown of 99.99 percent of halocarbons, with the only discharge being salt water.
    • Allows for close monitoring of the destruction of halocarbons and third-party verification of carbon offset credits.

    RemTec follows all procedures to qualify for ODS (Ozone Depleting Substance) destruction for CAR (Climate Action Reserve) protocols.

    Benefits: Carbon Credit revenue is directly related to destructive revenue. Depending on market conditions, these offset credits could cover all the costs of destruction and provide additional incentives to convert to CFC alternatives. Upon successful destruction and verification, CAR issues “Climate Reserve Tonnes” or CRTs recognizing the emissions of CO2 avoided. The CRTs are traded daily in the “carbon market.”

    Procedure: The process inputs are electricity, argon, steam and sodium. The liquid effluent is a low-volume, concentrated, inorganic salt solution suitable for discharge to an industrial sewer. The gaseous effluent consists of a mixture of inert gases and water vapor.

    RemTec will act as the project developer and will be responsible for all issues in getting the material pre-verified to the issuance of CRTs for the destruction of the ODS.

    People involved: The process utilizes all departments of our organization. Shipping, Receiving, Quality Control, Marketing and our AHRI-700 certified lab, the Plascon destruction department, our Operations team and Project manager, Tim Kearney, a third-party verifier (assigned by CAR) and our audit team.

    Cost: Following the verification process, the project developer registers the CRTs earned from the project and pays 20 cents per CRT to CAR to list the project's emission reductions. Once in the account of the project developer, they can be transferred to UNOPS/Nepal or sold to other prearranged buyers, and an additional 3 cents is charged by CAR for each transfer. If UNOPS/Nepal prefers to hold the CRTs until a later time, they can be held indefinitely.

    For cost details about a specific project and more information regarding the destruction of your CFCs, please contact Tim Kearney at [email protected].

    Other considerations: To be eligible for CRTs, the material must be refrigerant (not solvent or propellant material) that can be legally sold in the refrigerant industry. Only CFC-11, CFC-12, CFC-113, CFC-114 and CFC-115 are eligible under this protocol. Eligibility is very involved and requires a lot of documentation. RemTec will work with UNOPS/Nepal to make sure the material is eligible for offset credits before any costs are incurred.

    Contact: Tim Kearney, 1100 Haskins Rd., Bowling Green, OH 43402 [email protected], 419/867-8990