Friday, January 13, 2012

EPA Approves Latest Refrigerant Substitutes

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month added three hydrocarbons as acceptable alternatives in household and small commercial refrigerators and freezers through the agency’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program.

By Anne Vazquez, on January 13, 2012, at 11:18 am

The three substitutes, for use in small commercial and refrigerators and freezers (and their household counterparts), mark the first time hydrocarbon replacements might be widely used in the U.S. The refrigerants approved as acceptable substitutes, with use conditions, are propane, isobutane, and a chemical known as R-441A.

EPA took action after requests from Ben and Jerry’s and General Electric, as well as A.S. Trust & Holdings, and True Manufacturing, a family owned small business. SNAP is globally recognized as the only program designed specifically to evaluate substitutes for ODS and to focus on the industrial sectors that use them.

“[This] is a great example of how businesses and EPA can work together to protect our planet and drive innovation,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “This action increases the options for effective, climate friendly refrigerants in the U.S.”

Under the Clean Air Act, the SNAP program evaluates substitute chemicals and technologies for ozone depleting substances (ODS). The newly approved refrigerants (propane, isobutane, and R-441A) can be used to replace ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbon (CFC)-12 and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-22 in household refrigerators, freezers, combination refrigerator-freezers, and commercial standalone units.

Replacing older refrigerants will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 600,000 metric tons by 2020, equal to the emissions from the annual electricity use of nearly 75,000 homes, and will help protect people’s health and the environment.

At the recent 23rd Meeting of the Montreal Protocol Parties, EPA and the U.S. Department of State announced that 108 countries signed a declaration to address hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). While HFCs are ODS substitutes, they are increasingly contributing to climate change. The approval of hydrocarbons in the U.S. is significant because hydrocarbons are more environmentally friendly substitutes than HFCs.

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