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Refrigerant phase out could lead to huge carbon cuts

Australia could cut carbon emissions by seven per cent from the heating, ventilation, airconditioning and refrigerant industry alone if a move to phase out hydrofluorocarbons is realised, according to the Australian Refrigeration Association.

HFCs, commonly used in airconditioning, refrigeration and insulating foam production, have largely replaced the ozone depleting substances chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons banned under the Montreal Protocol.

However, HFCs, while non-ozone depleting, are still powerful greenhouse gases with global warming potential many thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide. And they’re increasing. If not tackled, HFC emissions are set to double by 2020 and triple by 2030, and will account for 9-19 per cent of global emissions by 2050.

The Climate and Cleaner Air Coalition, an influential United Nations initiative that comprises 40 countries including Australia, the US, European Commission and Japan, has now put its weight behind a push for HFCs to be phased out through the Montreal Protocol, Australian Refrigeration Association president Tim Edwards told The Fifth Estate.

Australia seems set to respond, with foreign minister Julie Bishop today attending the Climate Leaders’ Summit in New York in lieu of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and telling Fairfax Media the government would join a global declaration to phase out HFCs.

Huge climate benefits

The potential benefit of shifting from HFCs is significant. An article in The Economist found that the Montreal Protocol, while designed to tackle ozone depletion through the ban of CFCs and HCFCs, had also made the most significant, though unintended, contribution to tackling climate change of any climate policy ever put in place, with 135 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent saved since its inception.

Tackling HFCs through the same protocol could see similar success, which in Australia could translate to a seven per cent cut in carbon emissions, dwarfing Australia’s current commitment of a five per cent cut in CO2 emissions by 2020 based on 2000 levels.

Mr Edwards said news like this never hit the headlines, largely because refrigerants were poorly understood – “the alphabet soup of the industry”.

Action already being taken

Other nations are already taking unilateral action. The EU has legislated for a HFC phase out by 2030 and the US last week announced executive actions and private sector commitments that would reduce HFC use equivalent to 700 million tonnes of CO2 by 2025. As part of the executive actions, the US Department of Energy announced new funding for research and development into next generation, efficient cooling technologies, including HVAC technologies that use alternative refrigerants and those that move beyond using refrigerants altogether.

Meanwhile members of the Consumer Goods Forum, comprising 400 of the world’s largest retailers, manufacturers and service providers with annual revenues of $3.5 billion, including companies like Woolworths, Tesco and Walmart, have also pledged to phase out HFCs from next year.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has indicated his support, releasing a statement last week on the Montreal Protocol and urging countries to take inspiration from the protocol’s success in preserving the ozone layer and apply it to the climate change fight.

“The Montreal Protocol has shown that decisive action by the international community, including the private sector, can achieve transformative results for the common good,” he said. “Let us learn from this example and apply its lesson to the urgent task of addressing the climate challenge.”

Climate-friendly energy-efficient alternatives available

Mr Edwards said there were replacement natural refrigerant based technologies that were innately more energy efficient, as well as synthetic low GWP refrigerants. There would, however, be winners and losers in the race to more energy efficient and environmentally sound HVAC & R solutions, and it was important for the industry to understand the drivers to change in the industry.

Mr Edwards said original equipment manufacturers worldwide were already responding to movements by the EU, US and Consumer Goods Forum, changing their engineering to enable and accelerate the use of low global warming potential natural refrigerants.

“This is going to happen,” he said.

Government support needed

It was important the Australian government helped local industry move towards low global warming potential refrigerants, Mr Edwards said. There were a range of standards, regulatory and licensing issues that needed to be resolved. Training, education and communications were also needed for an estimated 100,000 individuals.

The ARA is also calling for a HVAC and refrigerant innovation policy “consistent with international agreements calling for the phase down and phase out of ozone depleting and high global warming potential refrigerants”, as well as a nationally consistent licensing system that addresses natural refrigerants.

 

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Comments

2 Responses to “Refrigerant phase out could lead to huge carbon cuts”

  • Jose Romanillos says:

    I am in the Refrigeration trade since 1961, and I was the first to use R-502 in Europe as early as 1967, getting directly 1 – One Ton container from Dupont – USA.
    I was supported in teh 4 test plants by Vilter Mfg, I did 4 jobs:
    A: 1 Water cooled 2-Stage system for the 4 sections of small hogs slaugtherho and 95 Suse (Chilling, Fresh storage, Blast Freezer and Holding Freezer It was done with 440´S industrial grade recip compressors, with 50 % Cap control, 1- Booster (-30 F SST) and 1 Hi Stage (20 F SST/ 95 F SDT)

    B: 1 Air Cooled Ice Plant and Frozen Fish Storage Complex, with 2 – Single stage 320´S Semi-Industrial Grade recip compressors with 33-66 % cap control, -20 F SST, 110 F max. SDT.

    C: 1 Air Cooled Multiplexed Single stage rck for an small supermarket with Open Drive Tecumseh VFT-L compressors at 2 suctions: -20 F for frozen foods section and +20 F for Fresh foods section, both with a common discharge at max SDT 112 F

    D: 1 Restaurant Yearound Airconditioning job with a HeatPump, without electric support in winter, using 2 – Copeland´s licensein compressor built in Spain of 7,5 HP each, in 2 independent circuits. Summer outside conditions went to be 100 F and winter 20 F.
    The extreme conditions in summer 35 F SSTand 120 F SDT In winter 5 F SST and 100 F SDT

    I did made all kind of measurememnts, including mass flow, temperatures, pressures, electrical efficiency at part load and full load, power demand, etc.

    After 1 year, I got what I was looking for:
    At that tiome, Spain was going in to modernity, and Heat pump was a must, bur single stage R22 with the compressors of that era was a painful experience and reliability was very low. Also frozen foods was at a high rate growth and simple reliable systems were in need as well as for commercial applications. Kramer Trenton i n USA had comemrcial packages with 2 compressors in 2 stage for Frozen Foos applications.
    If found the true advantages of R-502, but also the weak points.
    I decided if a large system as an slaughterhouse or a frozen foods coldstore was to be built by me, I will keep with Ammonioa or R-22 2-stage as the energy savings will pay any extra expense in short time, making it a real worth investment including the diference in prices for the Refrigerant.
    I would use R-502 as doctors use Pennicilyn: When realliong required by each extreme case. And I did many times, as when I did built 2 mobile Ground freezing units cooling Terpeno at -76 F for helping boring tunnels in watery grounds, compiting successfully with direct expending huge amounts of CO2 (The 2 system were 2-Stage water cooled systems with cooling water in same container or river water cooled when possible.

    At same time I have worked more than 30 years ago with CO2 systems in Liquifying recovery systems and CO2 SeCo2 Thermal storage with Solid Liquid CO2 and ammonia cascade systems re

    I can not see the energy savings that every one is saying. In countries like Spain, where it is not required any heating for a supermarket, except in 2 months of the years being enough to recover rack´s heat for maintaining sales area at 65 F Buyers are winter dressed and all have their coats on during shopping doe not have the counterweigth of heat to compensate for huge enegy demand of the transcritic CO2 systems I see all over.
    I am 68 years old, ASHRAE member since 1973 and during 4 years I was tied to TC10.1 and had the great pleasure of sharing my thougts and feelings with the best “creme de la creme” of USA professors and engineers. It is a pity most of them are gone They will be able to put some logic “technical logic” in all this turmoil. We are in the wrong direction. We have aserious task that I do not see seriously in the aim of any one: Save Energy in the original design, I have been writting on how to do it since mid 70´he ss and I have bave the long articles I did publishjed at the time. But Commercial push from mfrers is not letting it to go as required I have demonstrated it in huge supermarkets: 40 % less energy thn second one, just using the rules learned reading Roy J Dossat Book, Sparks and Diilio Bok, Stoecker´s books, Ramsey Book, and so many others that explain it clearly.
    New refrigernts soe not need to be tested for many years. A simple look at data truly tested and measured as I did in the past will tell us the hard thruth: We are wasting more that we income. Beware of the Dog, my friends an colleagues in the Refrigeration Trade

  • Nigel Howard says:

    This is a good initiative, but as the US Green Building Council found during the “refrigerant wars”, it needs to be carefully considered from a life cycle perspective to avoid perverse outcomes.

    Many things can tradeoff here – ozone depletion, global warming potential, toxicity and efficiency (it’s no good reducing global warming from refrigerant leakage if the equipment now runs less efficiently causing more energy consumption). Also different refrigerants require charging to different pressures and therefore may be more or less prone to leak.

    The need for tradeoffs also means the need for a judgement to be made of the relative importance of all of these aspects – the weighting of the issues is inherrently subjective and can determine the outcome, so vested interests will always be able to argue for their version of the weightings.

    Lastly, whilst great strides have been made in building AC and recovery of refrigerants etc. the BIG missing piece in the jigsaw is AC in cars. This is poorly regulated and policed and in most countries the largest source of emissions of refrigerants.

    My knowledge of this issue is now quite out-of-date so I’m happy to be corrected on any of these points.

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