What are F-gases?

What are F-gases?

Fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) are a family of man-made gases that play a vital role in modern society.

The use of F-gases has increased steadily since the 1990s due to the phase-out of CFCs, which have been banned by the Montreal protocol to protect the earth’s ozone layer. The use of F-gases is now controlled by the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and will be phased-down globally, but the use of hydrofluoro-olefins (HFOs) and hydrochlorofluoro-olefins (HCFOs) with an ultra-low Global Warming Potential (GWP) is expected to grow to replace the hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) due to  the growing demand for refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps, especially in developing countries.

Download F-Gases Explained – a new guide on everything you need to know about fluorinated gases, their role in decarbonising Europe and how they are regulated.

Why do F-gases like HFCs, HFOs and HCFOs have an important role?

What are F-gases?

F-gases are used throughout the cold chain to keep food fresh and safe to eat, in air conditioning units and heat pumps by providing the ‘working fluid’ of the systems and as high-performance blowing agents to make insulation foams and fire suppressants. F-gases are also used as propellant gases in medical devices and other technical aerosol products.

Which F-gases are most commonly used?

What are F-gases?

HFCs, HFOs and (HCFOs) are the most used F-gases since they are energy efficient and their low levels of toxicity and flammability mean they can be used effectively in a wide range of applications.

They are gases, or low boiling point liquids, and if released into the environment will enter almost exclusively into the ambient air without persist. They have a low potential for adsorption (low log Kow) and rapidly decompose in the atmosphere.

Are F-gases safe?

What are F-gases?

There has been extensive research carried out on the environmental impact of HFCs, HFOs and HFCOs. They are not stable in the atmosphere, which means they quickly break down to substances that occur in nature.

A small group of F-gases produce trifluoroacetic acid (TFA) as a by-product of their atmospheric degradation. TFA is found naturally in large quantities in the oceans (up to 200 million tonnes). HFOs and HCFOs have a defined atmospheric lifetime measured in days or months, while HFCs are measured in years or decades.

Are F-gases bad for the environment?

What are F-gases?

While all F-gases are ozone-friendly, some of them do have a high GWP and therefore contribute to climate change, if emitted. HFOs and HCFOs have ultra-low GWPs similar to carbon dioxide, which is why they are being used to help replace HFCs with high GWP.

Although F-gases are used in the manufacture of energy efficient appliances, products and other energy efficiency applications, the release of the gases themselves potentially contributes to global warming to some extent. Good containment practices and well-designed equipment are being used to minimise or avoid emissions.

As a result, the EU is regulating F-gas emissions via two legislative acts: the F-gas Regulation 517/2014 and the MAC (Mobile Air Conditioning systems) Directive 2006/40/EC.

The F-gas Regulation controls the leakage of F-gases, mandates reporting and reduces the quantity of HFCs that can be placed on the EU market using a quota system.

This quota system aims to achieve a 79% reduction of HFCs by 2030 compared to 2015 by driving the transition to F-gases with lower GWP.

Could F-gases be caught in the PFAS restriction?

What are F-gases?

Currently, most F-gases are classed as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) by the OECD and the Inter-Organization Programme for the sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC). The REACH restriction proposal by five European countries aligns with the OECD definition, which means that these gases could potentially be caught up in a PFAS restriction. This PFAS REACH restriction aims to tackle risks posed by PFAS, which covers a broad range of products from gases to polymers.

It is important to highlight that the HFCs, HFOs and HCFOs used in the refrigeration, air-conditioning and insulation foam industries are a distinct sub-set of fluorinated compounds and do not have the hazardous properties of some specific PFAS, such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS).

Therefore, a ban on F-gases is unnecessary and could severely impact the ability to deliver energy efficient Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heat Pump (RACHP) and transform heating through decarbonisation, which is necessary for the global drive to reduce CO2 emissions and move towards net zero emissions. A ban on their use could also impact patients that rely on using metered dose inhalers as life-saving medicines.

What have been the consequences of F-gas regulation?

What are F-gases?

The F-gas Regulation is taking effect and resulting in the adoption of lower GWP F-gases, improved containment and reduced emissions. However, one of the unintended side-effects of imposing this quota system and reducing HFC availability has been the development of a black market for HFCs in the EU. Illegal HFC refrigerants are being smuggled into the EU in a variety of ways, impacting many individuals and companies around the EU and undermining to some extent the objectives of the F-gas Regulation and the EU’s climate goals. EFCTC is active in raising awareness and finding solutions to this issue. Find more info here: https://stopillegalcooling.eu/.

What are manufacturers doing to make F-gases more environmentally friendly?

What are F-gases?

Producers of refrigerants have developed ultra-low GWP HFOs and HCFOs and worked with equipment manufacturers to introduce their use either as single substances or in blends with HFCs. Together lower GWP refrigerants, energy efficient systems and improved refrigerant containment are contributing to reducing global warming emissions. The whole supply chain is also prioritising the circular economy by reusing F-gases and reclaiming them with a high level of purity.

F-Gases Explained

F-Gases Explained

Everything you need to know about fluorinated gases, their role in decarbonising Europe and how they are regulated.

Download PDF