The Montreal Protocol is an international agreement designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances (ODS). The agreement, finalized in 1987, is designed to protect the ozone layer which filters out harmful ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet radiation is associated with an increased prevalence of skin cancer and cataracts, reduced agricultural yield, and the disruption of marine ecosystems. The Montreal Protocol has proven to be innovative and positive and is the first treaty to achieve universal ratification by all countries in the world. Leveraging worldwide participation, the Montreal Protocol has sent clear signals to the global market and placed the ozone layer, which was in peril, on a path to repair. Full implementation of the Montreal Protocol is expected to reduce the number of cases of skin cancer drastically. The Montreal Protocol’s Scientific Assessment Panel estimates that with the implementation of the Montreal Protocol we can expect near complete recovery of the ozone layer by the middle of the 21st century. The most urgent priority was eliminating chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the biggest contributors to ozone depletion. These have since been virtually phased out on a global basis. Governments have also implemented legislation to meet hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) phase-out obligations. Developed nations, such as the European countries, USA, Japan, and Australia, must completely phase-out HCFCs by 2020. This phase-out means that several refrigerants currently in use will no longer be manufactured or available for use.
Which refrigerants are affected?
Industrial Refrigeration uses refrigerants for its systems and solutions, so the legislation of the Montreal Protocol is particularly important in this industry. When CFCs were initially being phased out, many turned to HCFCs as a replacement, however it was soon realized that these compounds were similarly detrimental to the ozone layer. Thus, an Amendment to the Montreal Protocol was signed to phase these refrigerants out as well. Under this new agreement, HCFCs will no longer be manufactured or used as of January 1, 2020. R-22 and R-123 are likely the most popular HCFCs still in use today; R-22 is typically used in existing air conditioners and refrigeration equipment and R-123 in chillers. Most other HCFCs were phased out earlier. The phase-out will result in a mere 0.5% of the HCFCs in use at their peak will remain in use worldwide after the 2020 deadline. With this phase-out of HCFCs the industry turned to Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) for refrigerants, these seemed to be a great alternative as without the chlorine component there was no risk to the ozone layer. Instead, they have a high global warming (GW) potential. As a result of this yet another agreement was reached to phase out numerous HFCs currently in use. R-404a will be among the first HFC to be phased out, and all but obsolete by 2020. Another HFC R-134a typically used in automobiles, will not be permitted to be used in Model Year 2021 vehicles; however, R-134a is not restricted for use in chillers. Even though HFCs are under scrutiny, they remain the right choice for chillers and other industrial cooling uses. The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which addresses the phase-out of HFCs, allows for a slow phase-out of the HFCs in developing countries and this allows time for manufacturers to explore new and better options which might be available. Other refrigerants that will face substantial supply restrictions and new equipment bans under the Montreal Protocol and Amendments are:
The overall goal of the Montreal Protocol and its amendments is to phase-out all ozone-depleting refrigerants, which has or will have occurred by 2020, and to eliminate the use of fluorocarbons (HFCs and PFCs) with a GWP of 2,500 or higher. The phase-out of HFCs is already underway and expected to reduce the use of F-gases, those containing fluorine, to about 10% of its peak levels. Lower GWP refrigerants often have lower efficiencies than those currently available, so the focus is on containment of these refrigerants to prevent their release into the environment, there is no direct impact on the environment if the refrigerants are not released into the atmosphere.
There are many HFCs which have a GWP of less than 2,500, and these are great options for the interim. However, there are other options available. Hydro fluoro olefins (HFO) are one option which has proved stable in refrigeration systems but have a quicker breakdown in the atmosphere resulting in less harm. Natural refrigerants are also available, and these are hydrocarbons, CO 2, ammonia, and air. The regulations around the phase-out of refrigerants vary from country to country, and at ARANER, we are prepared to help you make the best decisions based on the various factors of your project, including location. Contact us today and let us help you decide which refrigerant choice is best for the environment and your project.