Industry and Environmentalists Slam HFC Ruling

17.08.2017 -

US chemical producers who have invested heavily in environmentally friendly cooling products have criticized a 3-2 US federal appeals court ruling this month, which said the  Environment Protection Agency (EPA) did not have the authority to mandate a phasedown in the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in refrigeration and air conditioning appliances.

In 2015, during the administration of President Barack Obama, the EPA extended its “Snap” program of measures for protecting the ozone layer to include the HFC phasedown. However, the court, in deciding a lawsuit brought by HFC manufacturers Arkema of France and Mexican petrochemicals and plastics producer Mexichem, ruled that the program could not be extended for this purpose.

Unusually, chemical producers such as Chemours and Honeywell, who have developed HFC replacements, were on the same page with environmental advocacy groups in opposing the court’s decision. In another twist, the administration of President Donald Trump – which has been bent on overturning all Obama-era environmental legislation – also was unhappy, as the ruling is seen as disadvantaging US industry in competition with foreign players.

In a statement, Chemours said it disagreed with court, as it believes “the EPA properly used its existing authority under the Clean Air Act and followed the required process to compare the impact of alternatives on human health and the environment before changing the status of high global warming potential (GWP) alternatives to unacceptable.”

Honeywell said it was “deeply disappointed” with the decision because “it will adversely impact American innovation, manufacturing and competitiveness in commercializing next-generation technologies.”

For the environmental side, Durwood Zaelke, director of the institute of Governance and Sustainable Development – which focuses on global warming issues – said the market as a whole is still moving toward clean coolant. Zaelke said the issue decided by the court was in reality a trade dispute, in which a French and a Mexican company were trying to remove a US advantage.

As a substitute for HFCs, a new standard for refrigerants based on hydrofluoro-olefins (HFOs), which are ategorized as having zero ODP (Ozone Depletion Potential), has emerged. The first product of this kind, HFO 1234yf, was developed jointly by DuPont and Honeywell. DuPont spinoff Chemours is now regarded as this market’s largest player, and Honeywell is its only competitor.

The products are sold under the companies’ respective Opteon YF and SOLSTICE YF trademarks. Chemours estimates that more than 50% of the mobile cooling market has now transitioned to HFO-1234yf.