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USA: Leading US air conditioning and refrigeration companies are backing president Obama’s call to  slash emissions of HFCs and accelerate a global HFC phase down.

In a White House declaration today, the Obama Administration announced new private sector commitments and executive actions that could reduce cumulative global consumption of these greenhouse gases by the equivalent of 700 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2025, equivalent to 1.5% of the world’s 2010 greenhouse gas emissions.

The announcements, made during a White House meeting of industry and government leaders in Washington, come on the eve of next week’s United Nations Climate Summit and follows this summer’s, proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency to expand the list of acceptable refrigerant alternatives and the controversial proposal to limit the use of some of the most harmful HFCs where lower risk alternatives are available.

In commitments announced today, the Air Conditioning Heating & Refrigeration Institute was joined by product manufacturers including Carrier, Danfoss, Emerson Climate Technologies, Johnson Controls and refrigerant manufacturers Arkema, DuPont and Honeywell pledged to work towards the phase out or phase down their use of HFCs and transition to climate-friendly alternatives.

“These industry associations and companies are making significant commitments to phase out or phase down their use of HFCs and transition to climate-friendly alternatives that are good for the environment and good for business,” said a White House statement.

Stephen Yurek

AHRI president Stephen Yurek: “over the next 10 years, the HVACR industry will invest an additional $5bn for r&d and capital expenditures to develop and commercialise low-GWP technologies”

The Air Conditioning Heating & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) announced that its member companies will commit to spending $5bn in new r&d and capital expenditures to develop and commercialise low GWP technologies over the next ten years.

AHRI president and ceo Stephen Yurek Yurek told those in attendance, which included Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, and State Department Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern, that the HVACR industry has been proactive in developing refrigerants with lower GWP.

“Close to $2bn has been spent by the industry since 2009 researching energy-efficient equipment and the utilisation of low-GWP refrigerants,” Yurek stated, “and over the next 10 years, the hvacr industry will invest an additional $5bn for r&d and capital expenditures to develop and commercialise low-GWP technologies.”

He noted that, with no encouragement from government, AHRI and its member companies launched the Low-GWP Alternative Refrigerants Evaluation Programme in 2011, the first phase of which was completed at the end of 2013. The second phase of the programme is currently underway. The intent of the program is to evaluate different refrigerants in several applications. “The industry is committed to working with the international community in transitioning away from high-GWP refrigerants in a managed and orderly process, and this research is a tangible part of that commitment,” he said.

Eliminating HFC23 emissions
Baton Rouge

Honeywell’s Baton Rouge plant will see the start up of a number of new low GWP gases

As well as committing to a 30% reduction in GHG emissions from its operations by 2020 and a promise to reduce its net energy purchases by 1.5% on average each year to 2020, refrigerant manufacturer Arkema pledged to eliminate byproduct emissions of the potent greenhouse gas HFC23 from all its fluorochemical production facilities worldwide.

Rival DuPont announced that its new low GWP refrigerants are anticipated to reduce greenhouse gas content by some 90 million tons CO2e in the US, and 245 million tons worldwide by 2025.

Honeywell announced plans to transition the majority of its high-GWP HFC production to new low-GWP production, reducing its annual production of high-GWP HFCs by nearly 50% on a CO2e basis prior to 2020, with a cumulative elimination of more than 350 million tonnes CO2e by 2025.

To achieve this goal, Honeywell anticipates spending a total of more than $880m for research and development and new capacity, mainly in the United States. Honeywell also announced the start-up of two new Solstice HFO production plants in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. One of these is thought to be HFO1234ze, which is also finding applications as a refrigerant. Like Arkema, Honeywell also agreed to strictly control and eliminate byproduct emissions of HFC-23.

HFC-free

Amongst the product manufacturers in attendance, Carrier announced its commitment to pursue the commercialisation of HFC-free refrigerants in road transportation refrigeration by 2020, building on its expertise with CO2 in reefer and food retail applications.

Danish company Danfoss announced a partnership with the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy to champion a stakeholder task force to accelerate adoption of standards and building codes for next generation, low-GWP refrigerants.

Emerson Climate Technologies said it will launch a full line of compressors, flow and electronic controls approved with three non-flammable low-GWP HFCs. It said it will also expand its range of Scroll compressors for commercial refrigeration use in supermarkets and convenience stores that will be 15% more efficient than today’s products. In July next year, Emerson said it will expand its range of CO2 compressors, flow controls, discrete and system electronic controls.

Air conditioning manufacturer Goodman said it is committed to having a full product line of low-GWP air conditioners and/or heat pumps after completion of working with EPA and other stakeholders to permit low-GWP refrigerants in both building codes and EPA’s SNAP programme.

Commercial refrigerated display case manufacturer Hillphoenix announced that it is commercialising a 100% HFC-free, CO2 booster system now commercially viable for all climate regions. Hillphoenix is also introducing an HFC-free hydrocarbon self-contained door case and a recently re-engineered service called Close the Case that utilises the company’s door technology to retrofit existing open display cases.

Johnson Controls has committed to spending $50m over the next three years to develop new products and improve and expand its existing low-GWP portfolio, of which a significant portion of that investment will address products that traditionally use HFC refrigerants.

Hydrocarbon domestic fridges?

In a move that could signal the adoption of hydrocarbon domestic fridges, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), the largest municipal utility in the US, plans to include a criterion for low-GWP HFCs in its energy efficiency incentives for residential refrigerators.

Target, an upscale discount retailer with approximately 1775 stores in the US, recently opened two new ammonia cold storage facilities expanding its refrigerated warehouse space by nearly 1 million ft². The company also has five stores that use CO2 refrigeration systems and commits to expanding this technology to two additional sites next year. Target is also partnering with chemical producers to test HFOs and is working with a manufacturer of beverage coolers to test HFC-free solutions.

Transport refrigeration firm Thermo King says it will offer customers product alternatives using a refrigerant with about half the GWP compared to what is currently used. These new offerings will be available in 2015-2016 in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and to the United States upon EPA approval of the alternative refrigerant.

Commercial refrigeration equipment manufacturer True Manufacturing has committed to using only climate-friendly, low-GWP refrigerants and low-GWP blowing agents, in all future general use and refrigeration product development. Over the next five years True Manufacturing will develop low-GWP replacements for its existing products.

New executive actions

President Obama has already directed Federal agencies to purchase “safer and cleaner” alternatives to HFCs whenever feasible and to transition to equipment that uses safer and more sustainable alternatives. Now the Administration says it will begin the formal process of reviewing revisions to Federal acquisition regulations to promote the use of safer chemical alternatives to HFCs by service and vendor contractors. To help agencies monitor progress, contractors will be asked to keep track of and report on the amounts of HFCs added or removed during routine maintenance, repair or disposal of any government equipment, appliances or supplies.

As part of its Green Proving Ground (GPG) program, the US General Services Administration is inviting technology manufacturers and industry stakeholders, including those that offer HFC alternatives, to submit information on innovative and transformational building technologies that can be used in Federal buildings.

The EPA  is to continue to expand the list of climate-friendly alternatives and is currently working on its next listing notice under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) programme.

The EPA and the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy is to work with other interested governments, international agencies, private sector organisations and civil society to organise a series of sector-specific workshops. These workshops will provide an opportunity to share information on technologies, policies, and standards, will address the technical aspects of transition, including barriers that slow the uptake of alternatives, and will also include information on policy initiatives. The EPA has also given a positive response to a petition from the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy to create consistent refrigerant management regulations by applying the same rules that already exist for ozone-depleting refrigerants to HFCs.

Finally, the US Department of Energy is announcing new funding for the research and development of technologies and approaches that lead to energy reductions in US buildings. The funding will encourage next generation, efficient cooling technologies, including examining hvac technologies that use alternative refrigerants and those that move beyond using refrigerants altogether.