Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hydrofluorocarbons to be Banned

On Tuesday the White House announced the commitments by the country’s largest chemical firms and retailers to phase out R-134a and similar refrigerants compounds that are used in most air conditioning systems in offices, homes, schools and automobiles in the country.
from EPA
This summer under President Obama's Climate Action Plan the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it’s proposed to ban on the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs do not exist in nature; they are entirely manmade and are used primarily as refrigerants. They came into wide use in the 1980s; as chlorofluorocarbons were being phased out under the Montreal Protocol. Chlorofluorocarbons had been found to be depleting the earth’s ozone layer. So chlorofluorocarbons were replaced with hydrofluorocarbons; however, while HFCs do not deplete the ozone layer, they are very potent greenhouse gases that do not break down in the atmosphere.

So, now the replacement is being replaced. Under the authority of the Clean Air Act, EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program evaluates substitute chemicals and technologies that are safe for the ozone layer. The EPA is banning hydrofluorocarbons under SNAP, though all HFC’s are safe for the ozone layer. Now, HFCs with a high global warming potential that were previously listed as acceptable by the EPA now will become unacceptable where there exists approved substitutes with a lower global warming potential.

Hydrofluocarbons are used as refrigerants, aerosol propellants, solvents, and fire retardants. The major emissions source of these compounds is their use as refrigerants in air conditioning systems in vehicles and buildings. Between 1990 and 2012 emissions of hydrofluorocarbons increased by 310% as their manufacture and use increased when they became the accepted substitute for chlorofluorocarbons. Without this HFC ban EPA projected that hydrofluorocarbons emissions will continue to significantly as demand for refrigeration and air conditioning continues to grow and as more ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons are replaced under the terms of the Montreal Protocol.

The Administration will be stepping up its diplomatic efforts to encourage other nations to phase out production of the potent greenhouse gas; though our influence in this arena is limited. This announcement came in advance of next week’s summit of world leaders at the United Nations to debate options for slowing the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

There are three main categories of fluorinated gases--hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). Perfluorocarbons are compounds produced as a by-product in the manufacture of aluminum and semiconductors. Sulfur hexafluoride is used in electrical transmission equipment, including circuit breakers, magnesium processing and semiconductor manufacturing, as well as a tracer gas for leak detection; however, it is the most potent greenhouse gases that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has evaluated. Its use has been decreasing and is of less concern. Use of perfluorocarbons is expected to remain flat. 

 At the White House announcement GreenChill Partner member supermarkets reconfirmed their current commitment to transition to climate-friendly refrigerants, reduce the amount of refrigerant used, and eliminate refrigerant leaks. In addition, Target announced that it is expanding its use of HFC-free refrigeration systems, partnering with chemical producers to test the next generation of climate-friendly refrigerants, and working with a beverage cooler manufacturer to test HFC-free solutions this fall. Hillphoenix announced that it is commercializing a new, more energy efficient, HFC-free CO2 booster system, and introducing an HFC-free hydrocarbon self-contained door case. Kroger and Port Townsend Food Co-op of Port Townsend, Wash., also announced that they’ve joined the EPA’s GreenChill Partnership

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