Pioneering the Shift Towards Sustainable Refrigerants
Refrigerants play a crucial role in our everyday lives for creating a comfortable built environment. But the harmful effects it creates on the environment is irreversible. On one hand it benefits human life and on the other hand it finds way to degrade it. In the current scenario the world is more conscious on the climate change impacts and is on an attempt to reduce the global temperature. Conscious refrigerant choices must be made to reduce the negative impacts on the climate. The twofold effects to reduce the global warming are the ODP and GWP. A refrigerant’s capacity to weaken the ozone layer is referred to as ODP, whereas the tendency to trap heat in the atmosphere and exacerbate global warming is referred to as GWP. To reduce the impacts the ODP must be zero and GWP values must be very low.
A refrigerant’s main function is to transport heat through phase transitions from liquid to gas and back. CHC’s and HCFC based refrigerants are now phased out due to their fatal effects on the ozone layer, now HCF’s are used as an alternative but still have a noticeable impact on the global warming. Researchers are coming up with eco-friendly alternatives with a lower environmental impact that helps in cooling the world responsibly. The new ASHRAE standards to consider are ASHRAE 228-2023 and BSR/ASHRAE/ICC Standard 240P, that discusses about the GHG emissions in the building design, construction and operations.
What does 1000 GWP and 10 GWP mean?
The Global warming potential is a measure of how much heat a greenhouse gas traps in the atmosphere over a period mostly 100 years compared to carbon dioxide. A refrigerant with 1000 GWP means that over a 100-year period, it could trap 1000 times more heat in the atmosphere, whereas GEP of 10 could only trap 10 times the heat in the atmosphere which has relatively low environmental impact in terms of contributing to Global warming. The below figure represents a graphical representation of different refrigerants and their GWP.
In the current scenario there is a push to transition from high GWP refrigerants to lower GWP alternatives to mitigate climate change.
Due to the consequences of ozone depletion the Montreal protocol gathered in the 1987 to phase out the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances like CFC’s and HCFC’s used as the refrigerants for various applications. As a follow up to this, the Kyoto protocol was established 1997 which legally binds developed country parties to emission reduction targets and reduction of the so called “Basket of Gases” like CO2, CH4, N2O etc. These amendments signify a shift in the focus to not only addressing the depletion of ozone but also considering the direct impact on climate change.
Currently used Refrigerants
Historically, selection of refrigerants was based on the price and performance, but now GWP and ODP have emerged as critical factors in the decision-making progress. Since refrigeration and air conditioning account for 10 to 20% of the total electricity consumption, that is around 2 to 4% of the greenhouse gas emissions based on 0.65 kg CO2 /kWh, from the developed countries.
Next Generation Refrigerants
As we see in the figure the target refrigerants are having GWP values 1 or less than 1 and ODP equals 0. These next generation refrigerants not only mitigate the negative effects on the ozone layer but also contribute to a more sustainable and eco-friendly cooling landscape. The adoption of these advanced refrigerants plays a pivotal role in achieving a more climate-resilient and environmentally responsible future.
The future prospects of refrigerants depend on a numerous parameters like technological advancements, regulatory actions, international cooperation. The table describes different scenarios in comparison with Business as Usual and different ambitions regarding the phase out of harmful refrigerants. (Source: Manjeet Singh, Gurprasad Gurumurthy, Shreya Shekhar TERI March 2019.)
In the shift towards lower GWP and ODP alternatives it is equally important to create an industry for natural and eco-friendly refrigerants along with the technological advancements. To address Climate Change, International Collaboration, Agreements and Partnership between Countries, Industries & Organizations are needed for collectively working together towards a Sustainable Future.
At McD BERL, we provide solutions for sustainable building services and ensure your building is cost-effective. We provide climate safe refrigerant recommendations that aims at reducing environmental pollution.