Refrigeration / Refrigerants & Reclaim

Pushing Back on the HFC Debate

August 1, 2011
KEYWORDS AHRI / CO2 / HC / HFC
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As hard as certain elements in Europe continue to push for a ban on f-gas refrigerants including HFCs, there is an equally strong push back by those who want any decisions based on a range of factors that could well keep HFCs in play for a long time.

The most recent development was the announcement on June 9 that the International Council of Air Conditioning, Refrigeration, and Heating Manufacturer’s Associations (ICARHMA) had published a policy statement that “stresses the importance of selecting the appropriate refrigerant based on all criteria including cost effectiveness in the intended application, energy efficiency, global warming potential and safety.”

The statement from the international trade organization was immediately endorsed by the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), which said, “We must encourage policy makers to consider more than just global warming potential when evaluating refrigerants.”

The statements come as a number of opponents of f-gases continue to push such refrigerants as CO2, propane, and isobutene; and worldwide debate continues regarding f-gases and so-called “natural” refrigerants.

ICARHMA said it made its statement “to provide a framework for such discussions going forward. The statement has two primary points: choosing the appropriate refrigerant and using refrigerants responsibly.”

The organization specifically said, “In addition to fully understanding the total global warming potential of a particular refrigerant, standardized Life Cycle Climate Performance (LCCP) calculation and Total Equivalent Warming Impact (TEWI) must be used in any evaluation.”

Further, the ICARHMA announcement said, “The containment and efficient use of refrigerants is another important element that should be applied in decisions involving refrigerants.”

AHRI ENTERS IN

In endorsement of the ICARHMA policy statement, AHRI president and CEO Stephen Yurek said, “The members of ICARHMA represent the majority of global heating, cooling, water heating, and refrigeration manufacturers, and the importance of refrigerants and their use around the world is underscored by the creation of the policy statement. In keeping with this policy statement, we must encourage policy makers to consider more than just global warming potential when evaluating refrigerants.” He noted that AHRI is ICARHMA’s U.S. representative and its secretariat.

WHY THE BATTLE

The positions comes as organizations like ICARHMA continue to monitor activities especially in Europe where political pressures are high to move from global warming gases, often without consideration of such factors as LCCP and TEWI. The monitoring is important with the realization that what proved to eventually be successful efforts to phase out CFCs and HCFCs worldwide started in Europe.

In that regard, a European-based organization, Beyond HFCs, is currently in the forefront. It says it is “a campaign fighting for the global phase out of HFCs and promoting the use of natural refrigerants such as CO2, hydrocarbons, and ammonia in refrigeration, heating, and cooling equipment.”

The organization also reports on developments in that regard, such as its report on April 11 - about three weeks before the ICARHMA and AHRI statements - that “two members of the Environment Committee of the European Parliament have urged the European Committee to take immediate action on addressing non-CO2 emissions, including HFCs.”

The report went on to note that the two Members of the European Parliament (MEP) from Austria and Greece “have asked the European Commission to introduce a comprehensive approach towards the reduction of namely HFCs (gases mainly used in refrigeration).”

“When we have an option that costs 5 to 10 cents per tonne (so-called ‘natural’ refrigerants) and can massively reduce greenhouse gases globally, we cannot ignore it, especially when we are paying €12-14 (for f-gases) for the same purpose”, said Greek MEP Theodoro Skylakakis. “The Commission must act now. I have been proposing this since October last year. We must take the initiative to make a huge, immediate and extremely cheap contribution to the fight against climate change.”

Skylakakis added, “The letter comes a couple of weeks after European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment discussed ways to protect climate through taking action on HFCs via the Montreal Protocol and during which the two MEPs had been among the most vocal.”

The reference here was in regard to efforts to include HFCs in the long-standing regulatory Montreal Protocol. That would subject HFCs to the same regulations currently placed on CFCs and HCFCs, but could also include a phase down in use of HFCs. The debate often is over “phase down” versus “phase out,” the former more acceptable to the industry than the latter favored by many non-industry environmentalists.

COUNTERPOINT

The issue of HFCs is a long standing one, as, for example, the stand of the The Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, an industry coalition, which as far back as 2004 “called upon the U.S. government to oppose a decision by the Environment Committee of the European Parliament to ban the import of U.S. manufactured household refrigerators and other plug-in commercial refrigeration equipment that use hydro- fluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant” among its many advocacy efforts.

At that time, it called “HFCs energy efficient, safe, non-ozone-depleting, and cost-effective refrigerants used in refrigeration and air conditioning.”

Publication date: 08/01/2011

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