Green Technology: Increasing the Use of Hydrocarbon Refrigerants

In 2011 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a rule that made greener refrigeration gases legal in all household refrigerators and in some commercial freezers.

iStock_000010658546SmallThe rule was issued under the agency’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program, which assesses alternative chemicals and technologies to use in place of ozone-depleting substances.

There has been increasing attention paid to the use of natural refrigerants in recent years, which comes as no surprise to us at Goodway.

We talked about the use of ammonia as a greener refrigerant in our blog post, A Greener Choice: Ammonia as a Refrigerant. In that piece we explained that ammonia, as well as other natural refrigerants (propane, carbon dioxide and other gases), are now being used throughout commercial industries.

These gases only minimally impact global warming and they’re not known to harm the ozone layer. In the past ammonia wasn’t used very much in refrigeration because of its smell and potential health hazards, but newer technologies have been developed that make it safer to use in chiller tubes, air conditioner coils and cooling towers.

Then we talked about the increasing use of ammonia in grocery store refrigeration in our blog post, Supermarkets Sold on Ammonia as a Refrigerant.

In that post, we also explained that natural refrigerants are being considered as replacements for R-22 and HFCs because these types of refrigerants negatively affect the ozone layer and global warming.

Hydrocarbon refrigerants are part of the group of natural refrigerants that do not deplete the ozone and minimally affect global warming. The most environmentally safe refrigerants are air, water, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrocarbons, according to Engas, an Australian environmental and energy efficiency company.

The company, in particular, touts the potential of hydrocarbons, which it claims are not only environmentally safe, but they can also reduce energy costs by 36%. That’s because hydrocarbons are 50% more efficient heat conductors than fluorocarbon refrigerants, and their operating pressures are about 20% lower.

Global acceptance of hydrocarbon refrigerants is increasing, according to an article in ACHRNEWS. Some attention is shifting to hydrocarbons even though the use of CO2 and ammonia is increasing.

While it’s not completely clear yet which natural refrigerant will become the preferred choice, more information about the future of natural refrigerants is likely to become available as various organizations hold more discussions about the subject.

Shecco, a European marketing organization, has began surveying natural refrigerant market trends, focusing on those industry professionals who are involved with refrigerants. The survey will look at the return on investment when using natural refrigerants, as well as technician training and how regulations will affect natural refrigerant use.

The organization ATMOsphere plans to expand knowledge and facilitate discussion about natural refrigerants by holding six conferences addressing the topic. The events will bring together industry experts. The first conference was held in Washington, DC in June with other events planned in 2013 for Vienna, Bangkok, Tokyo, Brussels, and Kiev, Ukraine.

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One comment


  • This is a great article, it’s good to see that HFCs and other harmful chemicals are beginning to be phases out of use. I’m interested in seeing which direction the industry goes with in moving towards a “go-to” refrigerant.

    July 24, 2013

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