Industry groups in new spat over HFCs

Global refrigerant performance testing programme leaves hydrocarbon producer fuming

A new intra-industry row over hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) has been sparked by announcement of an international project aiming to produce "the first" reliable comparative data on the performance and safety of different refrigerants used in air conditioning and refrigeration systems.

The project is being launched by refrigeration organisations in several continents, but is being operated in Europe by the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE), a body which promotes HFC use. Leading producer of alternative hydrocarbon refrigerants Calor Gas today said it would not be taking part, alleging that the programme would be "entirely designed to defend HFCs".

HFCs have become widely used refrigerants as replacements for ozone-depleting CFCs and HCFCs, but are controversial because they have very high global warming potentials. One battleground over their future is their relative performance and safety compared with the main alternatives, hydrocarbons and ammonia.

According to EPEE, a better agreed understanding of these issues would support a more reasoned debate. "The interested parties...throw figures at each other and we need a baseline," a spokesperson told ENDS Daily today. EPEE stresses that an independent research body or laboratory will participate in the project to ensure reliability. Factors to be tested are energy efficiency, safety, practicality and cost-effectiveness.

While not denying a lack of comprehensive, comparable data on refrigerant performance, Paul Blacklock of Calor Gas attacked the EPEE project as biased in favour of HFCs. Independent tests have demonstrated that hydrocarbon refrigerants offer "huge emissions savings as well as energy efficiency gains," he said.

Follow Up:
EPEE, tel: +32 2 230 7020; Calor Gas, tel: +44 19 26 31 88 91.

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