USA: Green group the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and refrigerant manufacturer Chemours have clashed sticks over the latter’s partnership deal with the National Hockey League.
The EIA has accused the National Hockey League (NHL) of accepting around $2m from Chemours to promote its HFC refrigerants as “environmentally sustainable”.
Chemours has been partnering with the NHL since 2018 to promote Chemours’ lower GWP refrigerant solutions for NHL ice rinks. This has included the replacement of ozone depleting or high GWP refrigerants such as R22 and R507 with lower GWP alternatives R513A and R449A.
The EIA argues that the deal actively markets HFCs “with GWPs thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide”, while maintaining that non-HFC alternatives, including zero-GWP ammonia, are commonly used in ice rinks and in a majority of NHL ice arenas.
It’s alleged that the partnership uses the NHL’s brand and influence to gain the trust of communities and companies not just in the ice rink sector, but in other industrial cooling and cold food chain sectors widely using non-HFC ammonia refrigerants that compete with Chemours.
In filmed interviews contained in the EIA report On Thin Ice, Chemours’ business development director Derek Ramsay appears to admit to replacing a “double digit” number of older ammonia systems with its HFC alternatives.
“The NHL accepted money from Chemours to spread dangerous climate misinformation,” said EIA executive director Alexander von Bismarck. “It’s surprising to us that the NHL, which advertises its “green” credentials, would want to use its brand to promote super greenhouse gases as environmentally sustainable during a climate emergency. NHL fans, and all of us, deserve better.”
In response, Chemours claims the EIA report is “factually inaccurate and misleading”.
“EIA distorts information about Opteon lower global warming potential refrigerants and Chemours’ partnership with the NHL to fit their contrived narrative,” the company says. “This partnership is focused on providing education on refrigerant solutions to rinks across North America that are faced with the need to address environmental regulations as well as economic sustainability concerns. Chemours offers a robust portfolio of Opteon products to reliably meet a broad range of performance characteristics with favorable cost and safety profiles.”
Many ice rinks in the US and Canada previously used R22, an HCFC refrigerant with a GWP of 1,810. With the phase out of this ozone-depleting gas, many systems were retrofitted to higher GWP gases R507 (GWP 3985) or R434A (GWP 3245), or replaced with R134a (GWP 1430).
Chemours offered R513A, an A1 refrigerant branded Opteon XP10 with a GWP of 631. For some specific R22 and R507A system retrofit projects, Chemours’ Opteon XP40 (R449A), another A1 refrigerant with a GWP of 1397 has been used.
The refrigerant manufacturer argues that as well as providing a reduction in GWP, its Opteon HFO blends match the Class A1 safety profile of the products they are replacing, allowing rink owners to utilise the same equipment and/or machine room classification.
Chemours also points out that ammonia systems also involve other considerations for the rink operator, including its safety, a higher cost of operation, and unsuitability as a retrofit. “In addition, there are some jurisdictions across the country that do not allow the use of ammonia,” Chemours says.
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Chemours’ R513A keeps ice hockey onside – 3 February 2020
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Chemours and NHL seek sustainable future – 22 May 2018
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