Caution urged in final revision of f-gas regulation to avoid unintended consequences

Miruna Macsim 18/07/2023 | 15:15

Honeywell is urging caution in relation to proposals being debated to regulate fluorinated gases (F-Gases) in Europe, which is due to be agreed upon in the coming weeks. This call follows the proposals to phase out or prohibit the use of all F-Gases, even low global warming potential, energy-efficient ones, such as hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), in uses ranging from heat pumps and air conditioning units to foams used in building construction and renovation.

 

Such proposals are also featured in domestic policy initiatives such as Germany’s Buildings Energy Act, which allows the option to ban or phase out F-Gases in the use of heat pumps. This Act is a cornerstone of the German government’s strategy to decarbonize the building sector and achieve the target of 500,000 heat pumps installed each year from 2024.

Heat pumps are a significant part of the European Union’s REPowerEU plan, which calls for the installation of 60 million heat pumps across member states by 2030. HFOs are a safe, proven, and energy-efficient product which are vital to the rollout of tens of millions of heat pumps across Europe. In addition, HFOs are used in applications that are vital to society in many areas beyond heat pumps. From heating and cooling of buildings to metered-dose inhalers and more, HFOs provide safe and proven options.

If effective bans on all F-Gases were to be implemented, it would add major cost pressures to consumers and to businesses across Europe and jeopardise the achievement of European Climate Targets. Without options such as HFOs, the EU simply will not achieve the ambitious climate action and energy independence goals set out in the Commission’s Green Deal proposals, the Fit for 55 legislative package and the REPowerEU plan alongside its climate targets.

“Europe undeniably needs heat pumps, tens of millions of them, across residential and commercial buildings, as well as industrial processes, and they need to be installed as a matter of urgency. It is a policy priority, a societal imperative and an absolute necessity from a sustainability perspective. Heat pump technology will help households and businesses achieve dramatic reductions in their energy usage. It will lower emissions and cut the cost of heating and cooling homes and commercial premises ranging from factories to shops and hotels. We need all solutions available to meet Europe’s ambitious climate targets, and that includes HFOs. The unintended consequences of removing HFOs from the market in the EU or Germany would be far-reaching. It would be a perverse outcome if, in the pursuit of cleaner air, greater energy efficiency and a better quality of life for all those who live in or visit Europe, we frustrate those very objectives by removing from the market an innovative technology developed to help achieve them,” said Julien Soulet, vice president and general manager, Fluorine Products, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Honeywell Advanced Materials.

HFOs help lower greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency without sacrificing end-product performance and their use includes refrigerants for vehicle, commercial and residential air conditioning applications, heat pumps; blowing agents for insulation; aerosol propellants; solvents for cleaning solutions; and are being evaluated for use in metered-dose inhalers. Use of Honeywell Solstice technology has helped avoid the potential release of the equivalent of more than 326 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, equal to the carbon emissions from nearly 70 million gasoline-powered passenger vehicles per year.[1]

HFOs are a solution designed specifically to meet the pressing needs we face across society and across our economies. They can be used in circumstances where other available industrial alternatives such as propane, ammonia or carbon dioxide (CO2)-based refrigerants are not suitable due to safety, compatibility with the external environment or with the relevant equipment. In foams, HFOs exhibit superior thermal performance, outstanding strength and rigidity, and long-lasting water resistance properties. All of these factors are important to buildings upkeep and refurbishment, and their alternatives do not provide this same level of performance.

In a recent and significant installation, analysis of the energy efficiency showed an HFO-based solution outperforming an industrial alternative option (ammonia) by 25 percent in terms of energy efficiency.[2]  HFOs also provide better safety compared to toxic ammonia and flammable propane. Myriad additional savings, such as standard design and more routine maintenance mean significant cost savings accrue to those who choose HFO-based options to keep their produce fresh, be it apple farmers or breweries. This is an important benefit in times of high inflation and rising costs.

A ban on use of HFOs in refrigeration could add €10–30 billion in electricity costs to the European supermarket sector alone because of the lower energy efficiency of alternatives, requiring the systems to work harder, therefore consuming more energy. It could also have the unintended consequence of adding up to 24 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) in emissions to the environment — the equivalent of nearly 4.7 million petrol-powered cars driven for a year.[3]

To meet all the challenges ahead of us, we should be providing options and embracing a range of innovative technologies to meet a complex and widely divergent range of demands — from keeping homeowners warm in apartments in Berlin to cooling holidaymakers staying in Barcelona hotels. Instead, there is a risk that we will enter this crucial window of opportunity in the fight against climate change and combined push for decarbonisation with one hand effectively tied behind our backs.

Honeywell is calling urgently for caution in the final stages of the revision of Europe’s F-Gas Regulation that put at risk the use of a proven, safe and effective technology that is specifically designed to support the achievement of climate targets.

[1] Calculations are based on actual sales of Solstice products (in lbs) from Jan 2010 through Dec 2022, and utilise the EPA GHG equivalency calculator for conversion.

[2] Source: ICS Cool Energy, New Beer Bottling Line with High Capacity Process Cooling, https://www.icscoolenergy.com/new-beer-bottling-line-with-high-capacity-process-cooling/

[3] Calculation based on Frankfurt climate conditions. Source: hwll.co/references

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