ICI hits back at UK Government’s anti HFC-stance

The UK air conditioning industry has been thrown into confusion following what appears to be a Government u-turn on the long-term acceptability of HFC refrigerants.

Key elements of the Government’s new position on HFCs are set out in the recently published draft Climate Change Policy (see related story). It states that “HFCs are not a sustainable technology in the long term” and that “they should only be used where other safe, technically feasible, cost effective and more environmentally acceptable alternatives do not exist.”

HFCs, like R134a, R407C, R410A, have previously been seen as vital replacements for ozone-depleting CFCs and HCFCs, like R22, which have been the subject of phase-outs under the Montreal Protocol (see related story). However, HFCs have come in for criticism as greenhouse gases.

The draft UK Climate Change Policy document accepts that HFCs “are necessary in some applications to meet Montreal Protocol commitments” but “is concerned that emissions from these sources are forecast to grow strongly in the near future.”

ICI Klea, one of the UK’s leading refrigerant producers, has called on the HFC industry to respond to the document before the June 2 deadline.

Commenting on the document, ICI Klea’s managing director Tom Crotty, said: “We don’t understand the logic. On the one hand they are saying systems can be made sufficiently leak-tight to enable flammable refrigerants to be used and yet HFCs are pilloried even though HFC systems can be made equally leak tight. It almost defies belief that they can focus so much effort on HFCs – at so much cost to industry – when their own figures show that HFCs will account for no more than 2% of the total man-made greenhouse gas emissions in this country.”

Crotty goes on to say that “because hydrocarbons are secondary greenhouse gases and frequently less energy efficient than HFCs, ironically greenhouse gas emissions could actually rise under these proposals.”

A draft Regulatory Impact Assessment included within the Climate Change document admits that the reduction in HFC usage would mean that the air conditioning industry will incur costs in “finding alternative technologies, better containment to reduce leakages and more environmentally responsible disposal procedures.”

The document insists that the Government’s measures will reduce harm to health but, as ICI points out, it recommends, at the same time, the use of the flammable refrigerants hydrocarbons and ammonia in place of HFCs.

This latest announcement comes hot on the heels of the Danish Government’s adoption of an HFC phase-out policy – a policy that some other EU governments are thought to be considering.

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