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High Global Warming Potential Refrigerant Gases and Climate Change

     Global warming potential (GWP) of a chemical would pertain to its impacts on global warming within a given time as compared to that with the same amount of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide's global warming potential is 1.0, while refrigerants can have a hundred times or even thousands GWP, staying longer in the atmosphere which can cause larger damage to the ozone layer.

All greenhouse gases are assigned with global warming potential values. This number is used by scientists to determine how gases, such as HFC, HCFC, and PFC refrigerants gases, will impact global warming within 20 years, 100 years, and 500 years. Most greenhouses gases stay in the atmosphere longer than 20 years, with many as high as 100 years. Unless action is taken to control carbon emissions and dangerous refrigerant gases, considerable harm will be done to the Earth.

In determining the global warming potential of a substance, three factors are considered. They are the amount of absorption of infrared radiation, the atmospheric location of where absorption takes place, and how long the substance remains in the atmosphere. A substance with a high potential has a greater impact of causing adverse climate change.

To maintain a healthy environment, the lower the global warming potential of a substance or chemical, the better it is. Almost all refrigerants used to day are really greenhouse gases which largely contribute to global warming, and regulations are limiting the use of such as a first step in eventually phasing out its use and production in the near future.

Chemicals with the highest global warming potential are hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), such as those found in refrigeration and cooling systems or HVAC-R equipment. Hydrochlorofluorocarbons have GWPs ranging from 120 to 12,240 in a given lifetime. When these numbers are broken down, it takes only one molecule of refrigerant gas to cause harm to the ozone layer.

The refrigerant Trichlorotrifluoroethane (R-113) has one of the highest global warming potential values at 4800, while the refrigerant Dichlorotetrafluoroethane (R-114) has one of the lowest values at 3.9. The alternative SNAP refrigerants being developed by the EPA and various refrigerant gas manufacturers have no impact on global warming and are being used in the production of all types of new refrigeration and air conditioning systems.

Because refrigerants used in commercial refrigeration and air-conditioning systems, as well as heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, have a high global warming potential, facilities with this equipment in use are required to follow guidelines set forth by the U.S. International protocols and treaties mandate the reporting of refrigerant gas usage to environmental regulation authorities.

Although emissions from refrigerants with a high global warming potential are declining due to new regulations, particular concerns still surround instances of refrigerant leaks and systems containing refrigerants that are not maintained properly.

By implementing leak reporting regulations and guidelines for fixing leaks, the U.S. is controlling the problem. The U.S. Clean Air Act is also well underway to phasing out harmful refrigerant gases by 2015 to ensure our environment remains healthy for years to come. Facilities should comply with these regulations in order to avoid penalties and sustain the future of the environment.

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Sustainability Resource Planning (SRP) platform for carbon emissions and refrigerant gas tracking, energy efficiency, sustainable asset management, and water conservation. Increased greenhouse gases regulations are causing significant challenges and impacts to business operations, brand management, and fiscal accountability. Learn more at

Posted on 2010-02-03, By: *

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