Chemical Companies Investing Millions as Countries Agree to Phase Out HFC Gases

by | Oct 17, 2016

supermarket refrigerationChemical companies including Honeywell and Chemours are scaling up efforts to make low global warming coolants used in air-conditioners and refrigerators, following a global deal to phase down super-polluting hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases.

These man-made greenhouse gases can be up to 10,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide and were the topic of discussion of a meeting in Kigali, Rwanda last week to amend the Montreal Protocol, which aims to stop ozone depletion.

On Saturday 170 nations agreed to cut HFCs in three tracks, with the richest countries including the US and European Union freezing production and consumption of HFCs by 2018, reducing them to about 15 percent of 2012 levels by 2036, the New York Times reports.

Most of the rest of the world including China, Africa and Brazil will freeze HFC use by 2024, reducing it to 20 percent of 2021 levels by 2045.

And the world’s hottest countries such as India, Iran and Saudi Arabia will freeze HFCs by 2028, reducing them to 15 percent of 2025 levels by 2047.

The chemical industry has already been working to phase down the use of HFCs in commercial refrigeration and air conditioning.

“Our industry is hard at work doing the research on the HFC alternatives that will be used in the world’s air conditioners, heat pumps, and refrigeration equipment, and getting that right is certainly as important as reaching agreement,” said Stephen Yurek, president and CEO of the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), who attended the Kigali meeting. In a statement, he said the AHRI applauded the HFC deal.

“While the freeze dates and step down levels are ambitious, the HVACR industry is confident we can meet them,” Yurek said.

In 2011, AHRI initiated a global refrigerant research program, called the Low-Global Warming Potential Alternative Refrigerants Evaluation Program (Low-GWP AREP), to identify the most promising HFC alternatives. After two phases of research, the most promising alternatives are currently classified as mildly flammable or flammable, so additional field research is being undertaken to determine their suitability in different applications.

Honeywell began developing HFC alternatives in 2000 and has invested $500 million to date, a company spokesman told Reuters.

In August, Festival Foods, one of the largest independent grocery store chains in the US Midwest, became the first supermarket chain to build a new store with refrigeration equipment designed to run Honeywell’s reduced-global-warming refrigerant.

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