Industry Groups Support CARB Rule Encouraging Low-Global Warming Potential Refrigerants in Ice Rinks and Stationary Refrigeration Equipment

California is on track to become the first regulator to address the global warming potential of refrigerants used in ice rinks. “That isn’t to say ice rinks aren’t covered in other regulations, but it’s the first to target ice rinks specifically, which could set a global precedent,” said Christina Starr, senior policy analyst for the Environmental Investigation Agency. “That’s why it’s so important to have a 150 GWP threshold, which sends the right signal about what is feasible in this sector.”


The Environmental Investigation Agency and International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration and have joined together to encourage the California Air Resources Board to enact the proposed regulations, which would reduce emissions of hydrofluorocarbons and encourage the use of low-global warming potential refrigerants in ice rinks and other stationary refrigeration equipment in the state beginning in 2024.

CARB wants to avoid mandating impossible or significantly negatively impactful regulations. “Thus, when proposing that all new ice rinks use refrigerants of less than 150 GWP, which means ammonia or CO2 , they wanted to be certain that this could technically be accomplished and that it would not have a negative impact on the ice rink operations,” said Gary Schrift, president of IIAR.

CARB reached out to IIAR on the application of ammonia and CO2 for ice rinks, and IIAR provided the information the board requested. “We took one step further and, along with EIA, wrote a letter to CARB supporting the initiative and received over 100 signatures from companies supporting this initiative,” Schrift said.

IIAR members can be sure that new ice rink refrigeration systems will use ammonia or CO2 , Schrift said. “By using ammonia or CO2 , we are all contributing to a sustainable world by using a 0 or 1 GWP refrigerant, that is natural, low cost, environmentally friendly, and in most cases, is the most efficient, and thus uses less electricity and thus less carbon release due to fossil fuels used for generating electricity,” he said.

Schrift said the majority of ice rinks in California already use ammonia. “For brand new ice rink facilities, they would be required to use a refrigerant less than 150 GWP, the refrigerant already being used by 80 percent of their peers,” he said. “For existing ice rinks, the current CARB recommendation is that when they need to replace their refrigeration system completely, they would need to use a refrigerant with a GWP less than 750, which does allow them to use a limited number of new HFO’s that have GWPs in the 600’s, or ammonia/CO2 .”

Starr said CARB reasons that there might be some local permit issues with ammonia in some limited regions of California. “In almost all cases, except one or two counties with local permitting issues, California is finding there is no need for any refrigerant over 150 even when replacing an existing ice rink system,” she explained. “So what we’re asking now is to reflect that in the proposed regulation by narrowing the 750 GWP exemption for existing facilities.”

IIAR and EIA have asked CARB to reconsider the 750 GWP threshold for existing ice rink systems. Instead, the groups recommend that if an existing system already uses a refrigerant below a 150 GWP, that it also be required to replace their system with a refrigerant less than 150 GWP, which would be ammonia or CO2 , Schrift explained.

“Thus, if they accept our consideration, the only ice rinks that would be allowed to use an HFO under 750 GWP would be an existing facility that is using a currently high GWP refrigerant such as R-22,” he said.


David Fauser, director of sales for CIMCO Refrigeration, said that natural refrigerants have been used in the ice rink industry since rinks started back in the early 1900s. Even after synthetics were introduced, they were only common in certain geographic pockets depending on local regulations and political themes. “In the ice rink industry, naturals always made sense from a performance and energy perspective.

However, even in the midst of increasing environmental regulations and rising energy costs, transitional, synthetic blends are being introduced to the market as a sustainable alternative. The industry is seeing concentrated marketing efforts by Chemours, for example, which has a marketing agreement with the National Hockey League to build awareness and brand credibility for HFO/HFC blends within the industry.

Chemours’ marketing campaign is centered on sustainability, and it is important for those investing in systems to understand HFO/HFC blends will ultimately be phased out and they are not sustainable from a business or environmental perspective. “For most of our customers, this is a 25-year or more investment, and there is no way that any rink system installed today with a transitional refrigerant such as 513A will still be in operation in 2045,” Fauser said.

Benoit Rodier, director of business development for CIMCO Refrigeration, said the company always asks its customers about their primary criteria. Typically, customers’ No. 1 criteria is the long-term cost of ownership. “No. 2 is that they want to be good with the environment and want to make the right decision for the next 50 years. “In some cases, we can see there has been so much lobbying in the background, they’re considering something synthetic, and it has nothing to do with their own criteria,” he said.


Regulations can play a critical role in spurring the adoption of environmentally friendly systems, and CARB is working to meet state requirements to reduce emissions levels in a relatively short time. “Reducing release of medium- or high-global-warming-potential refrigerants is just one pillar of their plans to meet this legal goal,” Schrift said.

CARB will hold an online hearing on the proposed regulation in December and stakeholders may also submit public comments in writing. If approved at CARB’s board meeting later in December, this will become a final regulation.