EPA eyes HFCs for global warming potential

15 March 2007 17:49  [Source: ICIS news]

NEW YORK (ICIS news)--The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is keeping a watchful eye on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) as the chemical continues to replace hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which are being phased out as refrigerants due to their impact on global warming, industry sources said on Thursday.

“We are studying HFCs,” said Jeff Cohen, manager of the alternatives and emission reduction branch for the US EPA office of atmospheric programmes.

“We know that they are ozone friendly,” Cohen said. “But, we also know that because of their chemical stability they persist in the atmosphere for many years and they have high global warming potential.”

“Despite a comparatively small impact on global warming versus other greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels for energy, HFCs have high visibility and therefore are under attack globally for their impact on climate change,” said Mark Baunchalk, global business manager for refrigerants at DuPont.

Cohen said the EPA was working with a variety of industry sectors to estimate the emissions of HFCs and to ensure that these chemicals are being used responsibly to minimise emissions and maximise their functionality.

“HFCs are the main replacement for CFCs and HCFCs,” Arkema officials said. “About 80% of the volume from the original ozone depleting substances [ODS] has been replaced with these solutions. The 20% that remains continues to grow in volume due to increased demands in developing countries.”

In general, HFCs offer the best balance of properties - cost, performance, safety, environmental impact - for many air conditioning and refrigeration applications and are expected to be the refrigerant of choice for many years, barring additional phase-out regulations, said Baunchalk.

(Look for the full story on refrigerants in the 19 March issue of ICIS Chemical Business Americas.)

By: Lindsey Blanchfield
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