Industrial giant Honeywell is urging caution in the final revision of the European Fluorinated Gases (F-Gases) regulation. The document is to be approved in the coming weeks and will immediately become mandatory at the level of the member states of the European Union. Honeywell believes that phasing out the use of low-emission hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) in heat pumps, air conditioners and other goods widely used in European homes and businesses will have the unintended consequence of increased costs and an adverse environmental impact, in contradiction with the objectives proclaimed by the new European regulation.
Alternative industrial chemicals are preferred over proven fluorinated gas solutions that are safe, energy-efficient and have a low global warming potential (GWP), Honeywell finds. In support of this position, the company’s press release states that “HFO contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy efficiency without sacrificing the performance of the final product.” The company states that the use of Honeywell Solstice technology alone has helped avoid the potential release into the atmosphere of the equivalent of more than 326 million tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of carbon emissions from nearly 70 million gasoline passenger vehicles per year. It is presented, as an example, a recently completed installation at a UK brewery, where energy efficiency analysis showed that an HFO-based solution outperformed an industrial alternative (ammonia) by 25% in terms of energy efficiency. The Imperium cooling unit uses the very low GWP R-1234ze refrigerant, hydrofluoroolefin (HFO). R-1234ze is slightly flammable and non-corrosive compared to ammonia, which is toxic and, if leaked, can pose serious risks to human health and food and beverage operations. In addition, HFO-based cooling systems are more cost-effective due to standard design, manufacturing and components that allow for routine maintenance. Ammonia requires expensive stainless steel piping to withstand its corrosive properties, additional maintenance and special devices fitted to monitor system safety. More information HERE. Thus, HFO also offers better safety compared to toxic ammonia and flammable propane, Honeywell claims.
What are the alternatives?
Honeywell’s call comes on the heels of proposals to phase out or ban all fluorinated gases, even those with low global warming potential and energy efficiency, such as HFO hydrofluoroolefins, which are used from gas pumps. heat and air conditioning units, to foams used in building construction and renovation. Company officials warn of regulatory overreach that could backfire – Radical policy proposals put climate targets at risk, Lucian Boldea, President of Honeywell Performance Materials and Technologies.
In the negotiations on the new fluorinated gas regulation, all three institutions involved – the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament – seem to have agreed on the idea of introducing certification programs for relevant alternatives to fluorinated greenhouse gases, including “natural refrigerants”. These are non-synthetic and naturally occurring substances, unlike synthetic refrigerants, which are compounds created by chemists in the laboratory – CO2, ammonia and hydrocarbons such as propane and isobutane. Beyond origin and efficiency in use, a major difference between these refrigerants concerns their potential impact on global warming (Global Warming Potential -GWP). Studies show that CO2 has a GWP impact of 1, while ammonia, propane and isobutane have even less impact than that. In contrast, two of the most popular synthetic refrigerants globally are R410A and R32 with a GWP of 2,100 and 771, respectively, calculated over a 100-year period. More information HERE.
That is why supporters of “natural refrigerants” promote these solutions, citing environmental protection and reduction of global warming.
HFO’s role in REPowerEU
To achieve the same goals – protecting the environment and reducing global warming, Honeywell urges caution in regulation.
Heat pumps are an important part of the European Union’s REPowerEU plan, which calls for 60 million heat pumps to be installed in Member States by 2030. HFOs are a safe, proven and energy-efficient product that is vital for the implementation of tens of millions of heat pumps in Europe. In addition, HFOs are used in areas important to society beyond the area of heat pumps. From heating and cooling buildings, to metered dose inhalers and more, HFOs offer safe and proven options.
If effective bans on all fluorinated gases were to be implemented, this ban would add major cost pressures to consumers and businesses across Europe and jeopardize the achievement of European climate targets. Without options like HFO, the European Union will simply not be able to achieve the ambitious climate action and energy independence targets set out in the Commission’s Green Deal proposals, the Fit for 55 legislative package and the REPowerEU plan alongside its climate targets .
“Heat pump technology will help households and businesses achieve dramatic reductions in energy consumption,” points out Julien Soulet, vice president and general manager, Fluorine Products, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Honeywell Advanced Materials. “This will reduce emissions and lower the cost of heating and cooling homes and commercial spaces, from factories to shops and hotels. We need all available solutions to meet Europe’s ambitious climate goals, and this includes HFO. […] It would be a dangerous outcome if, in the pursuit of cleaner air, greater energy efficiency and a better quality of life for all who live in or visit Europe, we impede these very goals,
HFO is used as a refrigerant for vehicles, commercial and residential air conditioning applications, heat pumps, insulation blowing agents, aerosol propellants, solvents for cleaning solutions, and is being evaluated for use in metered dose inhalers. In foams, HFOs exhibit superior thermal performance, outstanding strength and stiffness, and long-lasting water resistance properties. All of these factors are important for building maintenance and renovation, and their alternatives do not offer the same level of performance.
Banning the use of HFO in refrigeration could add €10-30 billion in electricity costs in the European supermarket sector alone, due to the lower energy efficiency of alternatives, which require systems to work harder, thus consuming more energy. It could also have the unintended consequence of adding up to 24 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) to environmental emissions – the equivalent of nearly 4.7 million petrol cars driven for a year, Honeywell has calculated.
Trilateral talks between the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament are coming to an end. In the coming weeks, the final form of the Regulation is expected, which will immediately become binding for the member states and will become the basis of additional regulation for them. Some states, such as Germany, are already preparing measures in the same direction. The Republic of Moldova will gradually reduce, starting 1 January 2024, the import and use of fluorinated greenhouse gases and will replace them with natural cooling agents.
The European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament agree to support the use mainly of “natural refrigerants” and to include among fluorinated gases hydrofluoroolefins too, although they have a much lower global warming impact (GWP).
Measures to gradually reduce the use of fluorinated gases are still under negotiation, and Parliament even supports their complete elimination by 2050.
Heat pumps are a tough bargain. The Commission proposed a ban to enter into force on 1 January 2025 on plug-in room air conditioners and heat pumps and other stand-alone air conditioners and heat pumps containing fluorinated greenhouse gases with a GWP of 150 or higher. The Council has come up with a more nuanced proposal, and Parliament is pushing for the complete phase-out of fluorinated greenhouse gases from 1 January 2026, arguing that there are mature alternatives to the technology.
The impact of the Regulation will be enormous, taking into account the scope of the areas to be affected, as well as the relatively short implementation deadlines. In addition, the Regulation considers not only the use, maintenance and decommissioning of equipment, but also imports and exports of products and equipment involving fluorinated gases, with a considerable commercial and economic impact.