One of the world’s most powereful agreements to reduce global warming came into force in December 2015, with 195 countries showing support. However, on Thursday 1st June, President Donald Trump announced that the US would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, weakening efforts to combat global warming.
gasworld spoke to Alton E. Porter, Specialty Gas Manager at Gas Innovations, provider of refrigerant hydrocarbons, to see what part the US refrigerant industry will play following this controversial decision.
“It wasn’t a surprise,” said Porter. “I don’t think it was a surprise to anybody. He’s a businessman. I think he’s the first person we’ve ever had elected as president that has had to run a business, so I think he understands the impact of regulations on business and business growth.”
“From a climate stand-point, I don’t know. I’m a little bit sceptical with some of the stuff that is being presented and how it’s coming across, because I know the world goes through climate cycles. I do believe that merit should be given to the other side of the argument, however, and that business does contribute to the problem. But again, I also know that some of the regulations they’re thinking of enforcing here would really damage the economy,” Porter continued.
One particular regulation enforcement that has impacted the refrigerant industry is the recent Kigali Amendment to reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). This is considered to be a historic step forward in the march towards a 1.5°C world after nearly 200 countries met in Kigali, Rwanda at the 28th meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (MOP28) on 14th October.
HFCs, typically used in refrigeration and air conditioning applications, are the world’s fastest growing greenhouse gases (GHGs) and have extremely high global warming potential (GWP). The refrigerant 134a, which is the most commonly used refrigerant in the automobile sector, has a GWP of 1,300 – meaning its impact on global warming is 1,300 times that of carbon dioxide(CO2).
Although this regulation has not yet been ratified in the US, refrigerant companies like Gas Innovations had been preparing for it, anticipating it to be a giant leap forward for the industry with long-term advantages.
Porter explains, “They’ve already begun phasing out most of the fluorocarbons and there’s still some more that are on their way out. They’re very expensive now too. Because of the products that we handle, I think this is really is going to benefit us in the long run from a growth standpoint. A lot of the products we sell are replacing HFCs, and they are actually a lot more economical for the customers too.”
Thousands of appliances are now being manufactured each month which use high-purity hydrocarbons as the refrigerant. These new models of appliances have become very popular in the higher-end grocer displays and point-of-purchase displays. In the pursuit of this business, Gas Innovations is working to develop shipping efficiencies and the ideal package including cylinders, valves, safeties and labelling. Additional steps to satisfy this market include the certification of refrigerant propane (R-290) and refrigerant isobutane (R610a) as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) classified.
“Our biggest growth area is using hydrocarbons in the LNG industry for refrigerants and coolants, to liquefy natural gas in much higher volumes.” Porter adds, “This has been a new arena for us in over the last five years, which we’re benefiting from.”
Unlike its predecessor, the new hydrocarbon has flammable properties. This has caused delays in its adoption.
Porter explains, “For the longest time, I think the lobbies here kept the hydrocarbons from being used as refrigerants, like in air conditioning or refrigeration, because of flammability issues. But it was such a minor risk and we’ve overcome that now. That was one of the obstacles we’ve had in the US, getting hydrocarbons approved for use in refrigerants.”
“For everyone selling natural gas liquids for refrigeration it’s going to be very positive,” Porter continued. ”We’re seeing tremendous growth in hydrocarbons as refrigerants and anybody who is in the business is going to experience the same.”
It is evident that the sector has a leading role in reducing planet-warming emissions, and efforts must continue if the agreement is going to be successful in delivering a 1.5°C world.
“It’s certainly going to be interesting to see what kind of push-back comes from Trump’s decision to remove the US from the Paris Agreement. How it’s going to impact the country’s economy compared to the other countries remains to be seen,” concluded Porter.
Long before the Paris deal was signed, many of the world’s biggest companies were addressing their impact on the environment and their role in tackling climate change. It seems that this trend will continue in the US refrigerant industry, as long as there are opportunities to be had.