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HFC producers reject F-gas emission claims

Fenceline view of the Honeywell facility in Baton Rouge

USA: A report claiming to have detected high levels of F-gas emissions from US refrigerant production facilities has been dismissed by one of the companies targeted as “lacking scientific integrity”.

The report, F-Gases at the Fenceline, published by the Environmental Investigation Agency and featured in yesterday’s Washington Post, is based on field sampling at the Honeywell site in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the Chemours plant in Ingleside, near Corpus Christi, Texas, during 2022 and 2023.

The EIA says it collected air samples from locations 650ft to 850ft (198m to 260m) downwind of the production facilities, using infrared detection equipment. It claims that several potent greenhouse gases detected have not been declared in recent greenhouse gas reports to the EPA.

Three different types of CFCs – CFC13, CFC113 and CFC114 – were said to have been detected at Honeywell’s Baton Rouge site. These high GWP, ozone depleting gases are used as feedstocks or process agents to produce other chemicals. 

The facility reported CFC13 emissions in 2017-2018, but reported zero emissions for 2019-2021. The EIA says that reported data for CFCs in 2022 and 2023, when its investigation took place, were not yet reported/available at the time of publication. It notes, however, that CFC113 and CFC114 have been consistently reported by the facility, with emissions increasing in recent years. 

The EIA also claims to have detected a “suite” of HFCs at the Baton Rouge plant, some of which were not reported by the facility in mandatory greenhouse gas reporting from 2018-2022. HFC125 and HFC143a, detected by EIA in 2022, were not reported by the facility in 2022. In addition, HFC32 and HFC134a, detected in 2023, were not reported in earlier years of reporting from 2018-2022. 

HFO1234yf was said to have been detected at the Chemours facility in Corpus Christi, and HCFO1233zd and HFO1234ze were detected at the Honeywell plant. In each case these HFOs are end products manufactured at the respective facilities, the EIA claims.

Chemours takes issue with the measuring equipment employed by the EIA, claiming it used “imprecise technology” leading to results that were “arbitrary” and lacking scientific integrity.    

The EIA used a Gasmet GT-5000 Terra Portable FTIR gas analyser, an infrared spectroscopy instrument which measures the absorption of infrared light at different wavelengths of a sampled gas. Sampling measurement sessions consisted of at least 30 minutes of 60-second air samples taken in the same location. EIA says it conducted several measurement sessions per facility to confirm presence of greenhouse gases and other substances of interest. 

The EIA equipment used for collecting the air readings

“Based on our understanding of ISGD technology, it does not have the ability to differentiate between substances from a distance — meaning it could not conclusively identify an emission as an HFO or something else,” Chemours said in a statement. 

Chemours also maintained that the technology used does not have accurate depth perception. “If one were to stand outside the fence line of a manufacturing facility, and point an infrared camera device towards it, the technology could not discern if the source of a detection was the closest site or furthest site but would capture everything in-between as if it were a single source.”

The refrigerant manufacturer insists that it continues to implement and advance state-of-the-art technologies to reduce process emissions of fluorinated organic chemicals—which includes HFOs—at its manufacturing sites. 

“In 2018 we committed to reducing air and water process emissions of fluorinated organic chemicals by 99% or greater by 2030,” Chemours said. As of its latest report (2022), the company had reached an overall 53% global reduction since 2018. 

“Our Ingleside site in particular has installed thermal oxidiser technology to minimise emissions and we are continuing to expand and invest in emission reduction technology.” 

Honeywell was more terse in its rebuttal. Mike Hockey, director of external communications for Honeywell’s Performance Technology and Materials strategic business group, said: “Honeywell complies with and provides air quality reporting as required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We are committed to greenhouse gas reduction and have pledged to become carbon neutral at our facilities and operations.”

Related stories:

EIA stands by F-gas emission findings15 October 2023
USA: The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has stood by the methods it used to uncover high levels of F-gas emissions from major US refrigerant manufacturing sites. Read more…

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