LOUISVILLE, Ky. - GE announced that the company has requested approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use isobutane as a refrigerant in household refrigerators. The petition was filed under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP)(a) program which evaluates alternatives to substances being phased out under the Clean Air Act for protection of the stratospheric ozone layer.

According to GE, isobutane has been widely used in household refrigerators in Europe and parts of Asia for several years. EPA approval for the use of isobutane in U.S. household refrigerators would allow, for the first time, use of a hydrocarbon refrigerant as a substitute for HCFC-based refrigerants now widely used in the U.S. The company said using hydrocarbon refrigerants would result in a lower global-warming impact.

Upon gaining EPA approvals, GE plans to include isobutane in a new GE Monogram® brand refrigerator currently in development for introduction in early 2010. The GE Monogram refrigerator will use cyclopentane, another hydrocarbon, as the insulation foam-blowing agent to replace commonly used HFC foam blowing agents. GE will begin test marketing HFC-free GE Monogram refrigerators in select locations later this year. Conversion of the household refrigerators to hydrocarbon refrigerants will be dependent on EPA approval and favorable public policy supporting the transition, but the company believes the climate change benefits could be significant.

“The approval of isobutane under SNAP will pave the way for the use of low-GWP refrigeration technology in the U.S. to help address global warming challenges. A refrigerator with lower GWP emissions will allow consumers to reduce their carbon footprint,” said Kevin Nolan, vice president of technology for GE Appliances. “Our goal is to deliver a new GE Monogram refrigerator that will be Energy Star qualified, and that will conform to GE and third-party safety standards for the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants, including specifically the standards that address any flammability risks associated with the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants. We plan to seek ecomagination certification, a rigorous GE process to demonstrate both operational and environmental benefits.”

According to Drusilla Hufford, director of EPA’s Stratospheric Protection Division, “EPA welcomes GE’s decision to apply for SNAP review of this hydrocarbon refrigerant for household refrigerators, which will be carefully considered by EPA both in terms of its safety and environmental attributes. The environmental gains that have already been realized in the transition from ozone-depleting substances such as CFC-12 under the Montreal Protocol have been dramatic. Should EPA reach a favorable determination on this SNAP submittal, this could be part of the next important step in the market’s transition to more environmentally friendly refrigerants.”

For more information, visit www.ge.com.

Publication date:01/19/2009