On Oct. 15, representatives from more than 170 nations met in Kigali, Rwanda and agreed to a legally binding accord to reduce worldwide use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, developed countries — including the U.S. — will begin to reduce their use of HFCs by 2019 while developing countries will begin in either 2024 or 2028. The agreement is designed to reduce HFC use by 85 percent between now and 2047 and reduce the emissions of high-GWP (global warming potential) HFCs by more than 70 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent through 2050. The goal is to prevent up to 0.5°C of global warming by the end of the century and contribute to the ultimate goal of limiting worldwide warming to less than 2°C.
The Kigali amendment is subject to ratification in the U.S. and will formally take effect when 20 member parties to the Montreal Protocol ratify or accept the amendment, which could take up to two years.
It must be noted that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has stated that he intends to “cancel” last year’s Paris Climate Agreement, in which the U.S. pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below its 2005 levels by 2025. So the ultimate fate of the Kigali Amendment — or at least the U.S.’s participation in it — is uncertain; however, the HVACR industry reacted positively to a global HFC phasedown as mapped out in the amendment.
APPLAUSE FOR THE AMENDMENT
Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) reps applauded the agreement reached in Kigali. AHRI has long supported including HFCs in a global phasedown plan under the Montreal Protocol treaty.
“The benefit of a global phasedown plan is it provides a clear path forward with delineated step-downs that enable our industry to properly plan for the future,” said Stephen Yurek, CEO and president, AHRI, who attended the Kigali meeting. “I think any time the industry has predictability — that is, we know what we will have to be doing with respect to regulations in the next five, 10, or even 20 years — we have the ability to make planning, R&D, and investment decisions in an informed way. That makes the whole industry stronger.”
The Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy (ARAP) also praised the agreement reached in Kigali.
“The Montreal Protocol HFC amendment is a tremendous accomplishment,” said John Hurst, chairman, ARAP. “It continues the treaty’s unprecedented record of environmental achievement guided by continuous technology and economic assessment. The long-term schedule provides the most confidence to businesses that now is the time to invest in the development of environmentally friendly, efficient, and high-performance products on a global basis.”
Alliance member companies, which represent more than 95 percent of U.S. HFC production and a significant majority of the manufacturing and other user industries, have pledged their commitment to the research, development, and commercialization of new technologies with low climate impact. These businesses support a global agreement under the Montreal Protocol to facilitate the orderly transition to such technologies.
“Three years ago, our industries discussed the challenge and committed to promoting an economically sensible long-term solution for the growing HFC emissions,” said Kevin Fay, executive director, ARAP. “Since then, the industry has worked in close cooperation with the U.S. government and others on analyzing the challenge and developing solutions, including providing significant policy dialogue assistance between the industry and governments around the world. It has been a demanding process, but we remain certain the results of this agreement will be profoundly beneficial to the global environment and economy.”
“The Kigali Amendment is a really big win,” added Stephen Van Maren, director, ARAP. “All stakeholders and governments affected were basically satisfied. From our perspective, it was noteworthy how much attention the parties paid to the realities faced by the actual companies that are working to develop and deploy next-generation technologies. In the end, the final agreement closely tracks the path the industry identified as the most viable route to balancing the pursuit of environmental and economic benefits.”
ASHRAE commended the governments involved in the adoption of the Kigali Amendment. In conjunction with U.S. government agencies, built environment associations, and HVACR industry associations and companies, ASHRAE launched a multi-million dollar research program that will establish a more robust fact base about the properties and the use of flammable refrigerants, which represent one potential alternative to HFCs.
The research is part of a $5.8 million program serves as part of an ongoing global effort to phase down the use of high-GWP refrigerants and identify appropriate climate-friendly alternatives. The program is funded by ASHRAE, AHRI, the DOE, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and Johnson Controls Inc.
“Flammable refrigerants hold great promise for reducing the use of HFCs in refrigerants and thereby lowering the environmental impact of air conditioning and refrigeration systems,” said Tim Wentz, president, ASHRAE. “ASHRAE applauds the Kigali Amendment and is pleased to be a partner in cutting-edge research effort to better understand how to safely deploy flammable refrigerants.”
MANUFACTURERS ARE PREPARED AND POSITIVE
Many HVACR industry manufacturers responded positively to the amendment and indicated they already had been working to prepare for the eventuality of an HFC phasedown.
Ken Gayer, vice president and general manager, Honeywell Fluorine Products, said, “Honeywell congratulates the parties to the Montreal Protocol for the passage of the groundbreaking amendment to phase down the use of HFCs. The amendment is one of the most significant steps the world can take now to deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement.
“Honeywell is investing nearly $900 million in research and development and new capacity and are forming strategic commercial partnerships to provide the broadest possible portfolio of solutions available today to help countries achieve aggressive goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Gayer said.
“I don’t think anybody was surprised by [the amendment],” he continued. “From my perspective, the industry has been preparing for this for quite a while. Many customers have already begun programs to convert their products to lower-GWP fluids, such as our Solstice fluids. The industry is in a good position to comply with the requirements of this rule.”
Allen Karpman, director of government affairs, Arkema Inc., fluorochemicals-Americas, said the Kigali Amendment confirms the trend that has existed in fluorogases for several years — a trend that Arkema has taken into account in developing its business strategy.
“In practice, it means the consumption of HFCs will gradually decrease and, over time, HFCs will be replaced by HFOs,” Karpman said.
The Kigali amendment is good for the environment, and it provides the industry with long-term certainty, but Arkema doesn’t expect a significant impact for the next few years, Karpman added.
“Domestic regulations, such as Section 608 of the Clean Air Act, will likely have a stronger effect on contractors than the Kigali Agreement in the near future,” he said.
At the Chemours Co., Paul Kirsch, president, Chemours Fluoroproducts, said the company recognizes the need for concerted action to avoid significant growth in greenhouse gas emissions, including those associated with the use of HFCs.
“The Montreal Protocol provides a proven, consistent, and well-understood framework that allows the global community to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring consumers and businesses experience a smooth transition to newer, more sustainable products,” Kirsch said. “Many of the governments of the world have already started efforts to reduce the use of HFCs. Coordinating these efforts will provide a much more effective model.”
Such efforts are increasingly possible due to the availability of viable, cost-effective options that help deliver significant reductions in direct and indirect greenhouse gases through superior energy efficiency, Kirsch added, noting that Chemours has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the development of low-GWP, HFO-based alternatives.
“Chemours estimates that use of our HFO-based solutions will achieve a reduction of 325 million CO2 ton equivalents by 2025,” he said. “Our Opteon™ product line is the key to this reduction and will be instrumental when it comes to enabling further reductions that will be achieved through the Montreal Protocol amendment.”
ALTERNATIVES ARE PRACTICAL AND AFFORDABLE
Mark Menzer, director of public affairs, Danfoss, noted that Danfoss has been proactively working toward a low-GWP future for a number of years.
“We have worked closely with regulators to define the EU F-gas rules and the EPA’s SNAP [Significant New Alternatives Policy] program rules, both of which direct the early phasedown of HFCs in their respective regions,” Menzer said. “In scientific and policy forums, Danfoss has shared its research and testing results to demonstrate that the use of both natural and man-made low-GWP refrigerants is practical and will be affordable. For instance, there are currently more than 7,000 ultra-low-GWP CO2 refrigeration systems using Danfoss products in operation today.”
Menzer concluded that Danfoss’s broad portfolio of technologies has the company well-positioned to help its customers transition to low-GWP refrigerants before the Montreal Protocol phasedown deadlines.
“We are partnering with equipment manufacturers at our global Application Development Centers to design and test more efficient equipment for a more sustainable footprint,” he said.
William McQuade, executive director, global energy & sustainability policy, Johnson Controls Inc., said the company congratulates the parties to the Montreal Protocol for taking a decisive step to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent over the next 30 years.
“Johnson Controls is committed to helping meet the challenge by providing products that use low-GWP refrigerant technologies while improving world-class efficiency and driving innovation,” he said.
Bill Dietrich, product general manager, chillers, Daikin Applied, said building operators want to know that the HVAC investments they make today will still be the right investments in 20-30 years, and contractors are in the unique position to keep them informed.
“When contractors are familiar with Montreal Protocol HFC amendments and applicable U.S. law, they can provide sound advice to their customers,” Dietrich said. “Contractors should understand how every HVAC manufacturer they specify is addressing regulation changes. Fluency in this complex and changing landscape is valuable to building operators and will generate recommendations for other projects, as well.”
Dietrich noted the HFC phasedown in the Kigali Amendment is similar to the hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) phasedown, except that HCFCs are quickly approaching the end of their lives, with Jan. 1, 2020, as the deadline for R-123 in new equipment and for new R-22 in servicing. In contrast, R134a can be used in new chillers until Jan. 1, 2024, in the U.S. and used for servicing existing equipment for many years after that.
“Daikin Applied advises its partners to leverage R-134a and R-410A for the next five years because they are available, safe, and, most of all, efficient,” Dietrich said. “As a manufacturer of not just HVAC equipment but also refrigerants, our product development over the last several years has been based on the sunset of HFCs.
“Daikin is working closely with its partners and sales representatives to provide resources and information on the Montreal Protocol amendment and the phasedown of HFCs to ensure building operators are as informed as possible,” he added.
RECOVERY AND RECLAMATION FRONT AND CENTER
Many refrigerant recovery and reclamation companies also hailed the Kigali Amendment. Ken Logan, commercial business development director, A-Gas, said the company is looking forward to the agreement’s full implementation.
“In all A-Gas regions, ozone-depleting substances [ODS] are regulated under the Montreal Protocol,” Logan noted. “The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol will now include an orderly and gradual phasedown of high-GWP virgin HFC products under a very similar framework. The original Montreal Protocol is seen by the United Nations as the most successful international treaty negotiated and implemented in history, regardless of subject matter, so the inclusion of HFCs is an important addition.”
Logan said A-Gas believes the Kigali Amendment represents overwhelmingly good news for its business and will help strengthen and grow the company as well as create new business opportunities.
“Robust international environmental policies together with the necessary level of enforcement are key drivers in the success of A-Gas worldwide,” Logan said. “With this latest announcement, we see this continuing to grow for many years to come.”
Kevin J. Zugibe, chairman and CEO, Hudson Technologies Inc., said, “Hudson has been an early and long-term supporter of an orderly phaseout of refrigerants with high GWPs. The best way to accomplish the goal of reducing emissions of these gases is to limit production of virgin refrigerant and establish policies that promote, encourage, and provide the right incentives to manage, preserve, reclaim, and reuse refrigerant that is already in the installed base.”
Zugibe added that Hudson met with representatives of a number of Article 5 (developing) countries at the Montreal Protocol meetings in Vienna in July to discuss how a strong refrigerant reclamation program can be a tool to facilitate and accelerate the phasedown of HFCs.
“Every pound of reclaimed refrigerant that is reused in equipment eliminates the need to produce a pound of virgin refrigerant,” he said. “Reclamation provides an opportunity to achieve dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions almost immediately without having to make immediate investments in new equipment and technology.”
Jay Kestenbaum, senior vice president, sales and purchasing, Airgas Refrigerants, said the Kigali Amendment is a great step forward for the planet and called it the best opportunity to combat global warming.
“The fact that we have worldwide agreement is extraordinary. The exciting part of it is that we’re helping the developing world get beyond this phase faster, which is going to help all of us,” Kestenbaum said, referring to helping developing countries skip the transition from HCFCs to HFCs before arriving at HFOs and natural refrigerants.
As an HVACR contractor, stay educated on what’s new, Kestenbaum said.
“Customers are going to be asking what to do next,” he said. “Some will be facing system end-of-life issues, while others will be looking at the rising cost of refrigerants and seeking alternatives. A few will even be versed in the Montreal Protocol. So, the best thing to do is to understand what new refrigerants are coming. For today, keep being responsible with recovering refrigerant as much as possible. For tomorrow, become the trusted expert your customers want to do business with and come to with their questions for the future.”
Publication date: 12/12/2016