Comparative Analysis Gives HFCs High Marks

April 18, 2002
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WASHINGTON, DC — At the Earth Technologies Forum here, the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy announced the release of a new Arthur D. Little report entitled “Global Comparative Analysis of HFC and Alternative Technologies for Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, Foam, Solvent, Aerosol Propellant, and Fire Protection Applications.” The report states that HFCs have become the “preferred replacements” for hvacr and other applications because of their safety characteristics and the potential to provide substantial cost savings.

The new report is an update of a version first published in August 1999. It documents the performance of HFCs compared to other fluids and technologies in those application areas where HFCs have emerged as replacements for CFCs and HCFCs. The key applications cited include residential and commercial refrigeration, mobile and unitary air conditioning, chillers, foam insulation, solvent cleaning, aerosols, and fire protection.

“A highlight of the report is its concentration on safety considerations and energy efficiency,” stated Dave Lewis, chairman of the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy and vice president of government affairs for Lennox International, Dallas, TX. “HFCs have emerged as the preferred replacements for CFCs and HCFCs because of their desirable safety characteristics — low toxicity and nonflammability — and their ability to reduce energy consumption,” he said.

The report says that the production of HFCs is increasing as phaseout of CFCs and HCFCs continues. “However,” it notes, “the quantities of HFCs that are likely to be produced in the future, under present Montreal Protocol and Kyoto Protocol treatment, given inherently higher production costs and end-user prices and tight regulation of system tightness and servicing/venting practices, are significantly less than the peak of quantities of CFCs and HCFCs that were produced in the late 1980s.”

HFCs generally provide the lowest net global warming impact, as measured by Life Cycle Climate Performance (LCCP), states the report. LCCP is a method of calculating the cradle-to-grave global warming impact of a product, accounting for direct greenhouse gas emissions and indirect emissions associated with energy consumption. According to the report, “The net warming impact of most HFC use is close to zero or provides a net reduction in warming.”

SAFETY FACTORS

As mentioned above, the desirable features of HFCs are that they are nonflammable and low in toxicity. The primary alternatives, says the report, “are hydrocarbons, which are highly flammable, carbon dioxide, which is higher in pressure, and ammonia, which is toxic and flammable. The measures required to allow the safe use of these alternatives vary with the application, but increase the cost of the application.”

Determining acceptable safety levels “is a significant undertaking that is fraught with uncertainty.”

ESTIMATED COST SAVINGS

An estimate of the annual cost savings that would be provided by HFC use is also provided in the report. The basis of the estimate is the most viable non-HFC used compared with the most likely HFC option. The approximate timeframe of these savings is from 2020 to 2030 when the full impact of the transition to HFCs is expected to be realized. The costs were applied to current market levels without projecting growth.

Cost savings in the U.S. are estimated to be $17 billion annually. (See Table 1.) Worldwide costs savings are estimated to be $36 billion annually. (See Table 2.)

Insufficient cost data were available to provide an estimate of the savings provided by HFCs in solvent, aerosol, and fire protection applications. The report concedes that none of its figures are beyond dispute, but the possible savings are large and the estimates would be higher if market growth were considered. Therefore, this issue “deserves more in-depth analysis.”

A copy of the complete report is available at the Alliance website, www.arap.org.

Publication date: 04/22/2002

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