Reducing GHG Emissions From Refrigerants

Cleaning Up Cooling Down

Refrigerant Management and Alternative Refrigerants

Frozen Food, Supermarket, Frozen, Cold

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are currently used as refrigerants globally and are a class of chemicals made up of hydrogen, fluorine, and carbon. ["Refrigerants" in this case refer to air conditioners and refrigerators/ freezers.] Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from HFCs are thousands of times more potent than any other GHG.
The Montreal Protocol, the Kigali Amendment, CFCs, and HFCs
Prior to the use of HFCs, refrigerants used globally were another substance, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). CFCs were found by the international scientific community to cause the depletion of the ozone layer of the atmosphere. The Montreal Protocol is an international treaty ratified by 198 nations, effective as of 1989, that successfully phased out CFCs. The Montreal Protocol was a successful international response to the "hole" in the ozone layer, aimed to restore the ozone layer of the atmosphere. However, as a result, HFCs replaced CFCs, and another international agreement was needed to address the new, potent GHG.
The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol is the international response to HFCs, aimed to phase-down the use of HFCs. The US Senate voted to ratify the Kigali amendment in 2022, bringing the total number of nations that have ratified it to 138, and the amendment has to effective since 2019. Solutions to HFCs, and the ways HFC use can be reduced and replaced, are discussed below>>>
Project Drawdown has refrigerant management and the use of alternative refrigerants in its top 10 climate solutions. Project Drawdown has identified 5 ways greenhouse gas emissions from refrigerants can be reduced.

"Emissions from refrigerants can be reduced in five main ways:

  • lower the demand for appliances
  • replace refrigerants with substances with lower global warming impact
  • increase the refrigeration efficiency of appliances to control leakage of refrigerants from appliances
  • recover, reclaim, recycle, and...
  • destroy refrigerants at the end of their useful life."  FROM  -

Here are quotes from Project Drawdown on 2 top climate solutions: refrigerant management and alternative refrigerants>>>

Refrigerant Management

"Fluorinated gases, which are widely used as refrigerants, have a potent greenhouse effect. Managing leaks and disposal of these chemicals can avoid emissions in buildings and landfills.

Practices to avoid leaks from refrigerants and destroy refrigerants at end of life can substantially reduce emissions, both before and after the adoption of alternatives to hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants. Over 30 years, preventing 100 percent of refrigerant leaks that otherwise would be released can avoid emissions equivalent to 57.15 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Although some revenue can be generated from resale of recovered refrigerant gases, the costs to establish and operate recovery, destruction, and leak avoidance systems outweigh the financial benefit—meaning that refrigerant management, as modeled, would incur a net lifetime cost of US$622.73 billion."  FROM  -

Alternative Refrigerants

"Fluorinated gas refrigerants are powerful greenhouse gases. Alternatives, such as ammonia or captured carbon dioxide, can replace them over time.

"The replacement of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants with a mix of alternatives can reduce emissions by 42.73–48.75 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent from 2020 to 2050. Current and emerging refrigerants and appliances (including ammonia, carbon dioxide, and propane) can replace between 67 and 82 percent of HFC refrigerants by 2050.

[Low global warming potential (GWP) replacements for conventional HFCs include:]

  • Commercially available natural refrigerants include ammonia, with a GWP of near zero; hydrocarbons (e.g., propane and isobutene), with GWPs of less than 4; and carbon dioxide, with a GWP of 1.
  • [Alternative] commercially available fluorinated substances [with low GWP].
  • Other alternatives, such as district cooling, [that] do not involve refrigerants.  FROM  -