Editors Blog

The Looming Battle Over HFCs

April 3, 2012

A number of “environmentally friendly” organizations and groups have zeroed-in on refrigerants for their ozone-depleting or global warming potential (GWP) impacts.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has insistently worked to phase out hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), including R-22, for years.

While the natural assumption would be to replace HCFCs with hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a newly formed, government-backed coalition has set its sights on eradicating HFCs.

Hillary Clinton recently introduced the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, a global initiative to “seize the opportunity of realizing concrete benefits on climate, health, food, and energy resulting from reducing short-lived climate pollutants.”

The coalition will focus its efforts on reducing black carbon, methane, and all HFCs. Clinton further stated that HFCs could account for nearly 20 percent of climate pollution by 2050, if left unchecked.

The global group intends to carry out its work by driving the development of national action plans and the adoption of policy priorities; building capacity among developing countries; mobilizing public and private funds for action; raising awareness globally; fostering regional and international cooperation; and improving scientific understanding of the pollutant impacts and mitigation. The initiative is funded through $15 million in government money, courtesy of the U.S. and Canada, over the next two years.

Alternative refrigerants are available, particularly in the form of hydrocarbons (HCs) and carbon dioxide (CO2), but, several major players currently do not manufacture HC or CO2 refrigerants.

R-410A has been widely accepted as R-22’s replacement. Unlike many alkyl halide refrigerants, R-410A does not contribute to ozone depletion; however, it does have a high global warming potential — approximately 1,725 times the effect of carbon dioxide. Additionally, units using R-410A must run at higher pressures (in comparison to R-22) to function, increasing leak potential and electricity use.

Manufacturers have thwarted efforts to eliminate HFCs in Europe for more than a decade. Will American manufacturers be as successful? Will a new product emerge in the battle for R-410A’s pole position? Will Clinton’s coalition kill R-404A, -438A, -407A, and any other HFCs before they ever gain a footprint? Stay tuned to The NEWS for the latest.

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