Fridge maker freezes out CFC substitute

 作者:秦飚     |      日期:2019-03-02 05:12:09
By DEBORA MacKENZIE in BRUSSELS Bosch, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of refrigerators, has decided to abandon HFCs, the chemicals industry’s preferred substitutes for ozone-destroying CFCs, opting instead for chemicals such as pentane and isobutane. The German company’s decision will be a serious blow for the chemicals industry, which has invested millions of dollars in HFCs. CFCs are used to make the plastic foam that insulates refrigerators, and as coolants. Under the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer, CFCs will be banned by the end of 1995. The chemicals companies that make CFCs want refrigerator makers to switch to HFCs, which are similar to CFCs but do not contain the chlorine that destroys stratospheric ozone. ICI has spent £250 million on safety tests and production facilities for HFC 134a. The US firm Du Pont has spent $500 million on CFC replacements, about half of it on HFC 134a. But while HFC 134a does not damage the ozone layer, like CFCs it is a powerful greenhouse gas. Environmental campaigners argue that simple hydrocarbons such as pentane and butane should replace CFCs in fridges. Several companies have made prototypes that use hydrocarbons, but Bosch is the first to opt for them in almost all its models. Bosch replaced the CFCs in its foam insulation with pentane last year, and began to use HFC 134a as a coolant. But last week Bosch announced it would drop HFC 134a in most models. By the end of the year, more than 80 per cent of Bosch fridges and freezers will have pentane as the coolant. Only frost-free models, which are more difficult to convert, will use HFC 134a. Gunnar Pautzke of Bosch says the company is working on eliminating HFCs in these models as well. The German manufacturer Liebherr is likely to follow Bosch’s lead. Both companies tested the market with isobutane models last year, using advertisements that stressed the greenhouse dangers of HFCs. Pautzke says the new fridges will cost ‘about 5 to 10 per cent more, to pay for changing the plant’. Bosch’s adoption of a CFC replacement that will contribute nothing to global warming could nip the market for HFC 134a in the bud. Both the US and Britain plan to limit HFCs to ‘essential uses’. The US Global Warming Action Plan, published last October, says the government will ‘narrow the scope of uses allowed for HFCs with high global warming potential where better alternatives exist’. Britain’s plan for tackling climate change, as required under the Climate Change Convention, says that bringing emissions of greenhouse gases, including HFCs, down to 1990 levels by the year 2000, poses ‘difficulties’, as HFCs were barely being produced in 1990. Britain will therefore seek voluntary agreements to ensure that HFCs are used only where emissions are avoidable and ‘safe, practical and more environmentally acceptable alternatives are available’. Emissions from old refrigerators are unavoidable unless manufacturers set up expensive reclamation schemes. An in-house briefing note circulated by ICI last November said HFC 134a was unlikely to be ‘singled out’ in national climate strategies, as its ‘contribution would be too small to make any difference, scientifically or politically’. It said the restrictions on HFCs in the US ‘would not affect the substitution of CFCs . . . by HFC 134a’, and ‘should leave plenty of room for the expected market growth in HFCs’. But the US plans to allow HFCs only when there is no climate-safe alternative. CFCs contribute around 24 per cent of the increased greenhouse effect in the atmosphere. HFC 134a has half the warming potential of the most common CFCs. With refrigeration the fastest-growing industry where CFCs must be replaced,