Costa Rica Looks to Neighbors, IIAR, to Promote Natural Refrigerants in Central America


In 2013, the Costa Rican government began implementing its national strategy to eliminate hydrochloroflourocarbons while supporting IIAR’s first Industrial Refrigeration seminar in Central America.

In a speech outlining the country’s national strategy for the elimination of HCFCs, Dr. Elidier Vargas Castro, Deputy Director of Costa Rica’s Ozone Technical Office, told IIAR members and seminar attendees that companies in Costa Rica now face a new quota for the importation of HCFC refrigerants and equipment.

MINAET has posed an ambitious challenge: to leapfrog over the intermediate stage of HFC and HFO use, transitioning directly to natural refrigerants. Dr. Vargas identified natural refrigerants suitable for most types of cooling including HC and NH3 in air-conditioning; CO2, NH3 and HC in commercial refrigeration; HCs in domestic refrigeration and air conditioning for cars, etc.

One important reason for the interest in jumping directly to the use of natural refrigerants in Costa Rica is the economic savings that eliminating the investment in HFC and HFO refrigerants, equipment and related knowledge would represent, given that the country recognizes that its goal is to transition to natural refrigerants in the long term because of their high energy efficiency and low GWP.

Costa Rica’s National Strategy for the Elimination of HCFCs represents part of Costa Rica’s international commitments and it fits in with the county’s own goals and interests. Costa Rica signed the Montreal Protocol in 1991 and the directives of the Protocol have the weight of law in Costa Rica.

Since 1991 MINAET has received one million dollars in financial and technical support from the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol. MINAET used part of these funds to provide support to companies to upgrade their equipment.

MINAET said it regards the implementation of this program as part of a global initiative; however, to succeed it recognizes the importance of participation by other countries with more limited resources for investment.

For example, Vargas Castro noted there is resistance in neighboring Nicaragua due to the lack of financial support for transitioning to more environmentally sustainable refrigeration technologies. A successful amendment to the Montreal Protocol sponsored by the U.S., Mexico and Canada regarding HCFC reduction could possibly bring more support for developing countries and add momentum to the HCFC phase-out curve in countries like Costa Rica.

MINAET hopes to see increasing support from developed countries towards the transition from HCFCs to natural refrigerants in developing countries.

Part of Costa Rica’s vision for creating incentives for developing countries to adopt more environmentally friendly policies relates to the role that forests play in capturing carbon emissions: 25 percent of Costa Rica’s territory consists of national parks and 50 percent of the country is covered by forests.

It hopes for the implementation of a mechanism in which polluting countries provide compensation for countries like Costa Rica that play an important role in capturing these emissions by preserving their forests.

Although support for the Montreal Protocol is strong globally, there is no comparable effort to Costa Rica’s program for phasing out HCFCs in other Central American countries.

In the absence of such programs, largely due to financial and other barriers found in the other countries of the region, Vargas Castro said the short term priority should be to convince companies with the resources to do so to invest in this transition.

Both the cold chain and other growing sectors of Costa Rica’s economy highlight the need for investment in new environmentally friendly HVACR technologies.

Providing the knowledge necessary for the transition from HCFCs to natural refrigerants to technicians and other industry professionals is a key part of MINAET’s refrigerants program. For this reason, MINAET has cultivated a strong relationship with Costa Rica’s National Institute of Learning, or INA, universities and professional schools, as well as other educational and training entities.

Beginning with its involvement in the IIAR seminar in Costa Rica, MINAET said it will collaborate with organizations like IIAR to develop technician-training standards, basic education, renovate curriculums for new technologies and apply installation and safety standards to eliminate risks and accidents in the industry.

MINAET said it would also like to collaborate with international organizations and the Costa Rican Accreditation Entity, or ECA, in setting up an accreditation program for refrigeration technicians.

According to Dr. Vargas, MINAET chose to participate in IIAR’s regional seminar because it views ammonia is a positive alternative for the future and because it hopes to work with IIAR to train technicians.

He stated that events like IIAR’s benefit the entire Central America region as Costa Rican technicians work in other countries of the region as well.

Vargas Castro added that without the participation of a larger number of countries, there is more resistance to efforts like the initiative in Costa Rica. “The more participants we have, the easier it is to make progress,” he said.