ACHRNEWS

HFCs Are Target of Global Warming

March 12, 2007

Al Gore is not the only one talking tough on the issue of global warming. DuPont Fluoroproducts made bold statements recognizing many current HFCs as contributors to the global warming situation during a Feb. 28 Webcast event. The Webcast also noted increasing pressure to further regulate HFCs and industry efforts to find refrigerants with lower global warming potential (GWP).

“The basic science of global warming is sound; there is a natural greenhouse effect,” said Mack McFarland, an atmospheric scientist for DuPont Fluoroproducts, during the Webcast. “Increasing concentrations will cause an enhanced greenhouse effect, global climate change, or global warming,” he said. In his presentation, he cited the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that has documented the global warming issue for 17 years.

Part of the equation is HFC refrigerants, he said.

To address the phaseout of CFCs and HCFCs because of ozone depletion questions, the HVACR industry turned to HFCs - of which R-410A, -404A, and –134a are most familiar - only to have questions about their GWP arise.

Even though HFC refrigerants remain “the best option to meet many needs,” McFarland said he expected HFCs to continue to face attack as well as calls for phaseout because they are seen as “a small but very visible part of the global warming issue.”

“The bottom line: HFCs are a target for global warming regulations,” he said.

HFCs A TARGET

McFarland said that just six months after the European Commission (EC) seemed to give a seal of approval to HFCs in stationary equipment, “The EC has already issued a new report calling for ‘further restricting or prohibiting uses of fluorinated gases.’ ”

Meanwhile, he said California regulations continue to move forward to “adopt specifications for new commercial refrigeration (that) limit the global warming potential of refrigerants used in refrigerators in retail food stores, restaurants, and refrigerated transport vehicles.”

Further, he said, consideration is being given to “require that centralized systems with large refrigerant charges and long distribution lines be avoided in favor of systems that use much less refrigerant and lack long distribution lines.”

Even with all the new attacks on HFCs, McFarland said, “Current HFCs still offer the best ‘balance of properties’ for many a/c and refrigeration applications.”

He noted industry efforts continue to develop refrigerants with lower GWP. For example, in Europe, R-134a in automotive air conditioning is facing a phaseout starting in 2011 because of perceived high GWP of the refrigerant. In response, he said, DuPont has come up with a refrigerant called DP-1 as a low GWP option to R-134a. He said that research in automotive could “be leveraged to other applications.”

THE STATUS OF R-22

McFarland also commented on the ozone depletion issue that originated 20 years earlier and led to the phaseout of CFCs and HCFCs. He said “actions to reduce the use of ozone depletion substances has reduced the risk of depletion but mid-latitude ozone depletion will likely continue until about the middle of this century, and the Antarctic zone hole is likely to continue until the 2060-2075 time period.”

He encouraged the acceleration of the phaseout of HCFCs, especially R-22, and more efforts “to capture and destroy CFCs contained in equipment and products.”

One practical reason for a more rapid move from R-22 is because based on current use of 22, there will be a shortfall of the refrigerant by about 2015, he said.

He encouraged contractors to “avoid using R-22 in equipment for new installations, improve service practices, enhance efforts to capture and recycle R-22, and retrofit existing R-22 equipment with non-ozone depletion refrigerants such as HFCs.”

As a further incentive, he noted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to soon be tightening its rules regarding leak rates and record keeping for CFCs and HCFCs.

Publication date: 03/12/2007