Refrigerant management #1

The more obvious ways to address climate change is to purchase an electric car, or plant more trees. So it comes as surprise for many, that refrigerant management is the number one solution in the Drawdown ranking, projected to achieve a reduction of 89.74 Gigatons of CO2 equivalents by 2050.

Here is more about refrigerant management from the Drawdown website.

This article from United Fresh, identifies the problem as the F gases, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCHCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

The global warming potential of F gasses

According to Drawdown, HFCs have 1000 to 9000 times the potency of CO2.

Below is an example from a UK government website. On this site, the gas with highest potency is sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) with a global warming potential of 22,800.

The global warming potential of HFC 404A is 3,922. Therefore the tonnes CO2 equivalent of 10kg of HFC 404a is calculated as follows:

  1. Mass (in tonnes) of F gas multiplied by GWP of F gas
  2. = (10/1,000) * 3,92
  3. = 39.2 tonnes CO2 equivalent

Regulation and phase down

New Zealand is a signatory of the Kigali Amendment of the Montreal Protocol. We have signed up to a phase down of HFCs starting in 2019. Discussions about the pathways to achieving the eventual elimination of these gases are underway. Costs of these gases are increased because of  Emission Trading Schemes (ETS) provisions. The United Fresh article expands on the increased costs of HFCs.

Awareness

Refrigeration units are everywhere. We can assume most Northland households have at least one fridge and a proportion will have a freezer. There is an increasing uptake of air-conditioning.  Food producers, distributors and resellers and the hospitality industry rely on refrigeration. Every dairy farm has a milk vat. Most modern cars have air-conditioning units. Updating this equipment is a valid way to reduce carbon equivalents in the atmosphere.

refrigeration consumption

from European Union Climate Action

Public awareness of this issue appears almost non-existent. Government regulations will ultimately eliminate the problem, but increased awareness will accelerate implementation. For example, I now see replacing my old fridge with a new one with isobutane coolant (R-600a) as a way that I can contribute. Replacing high global warming potential refrigeration is another way for businesses to demonstrate their commitment to that increasing segment of customers who factor in sustainability in purchasing decisions.

Questions

  • What is the volume, or approximate volume of Refrigerant F gases in Northland?
  • How can phasing out of HFCs be accelerated?
  • Who are key stakeholders?
  • How well is disposal handled by the industry and district councils?
  • How well equipped is the industry to support the phase down?
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