Action Guide

Understand Sources of Refrigerants and Industrial Gases

Environmental Defense Fund

Refrigerants and industrial gases are a significant source of industrial emissions. Implementing basic strategies to reduce leakage and improve efficiencies can help your company reduce its environmental impact and operating costs.

Refrigerants are chemicals used in cooling systems to transfer heat and keep spaces or products at lower temperatures. Industrial gases are used in various industrial applications, such as welding, manufacturing, and chemical processing. Common industrial gases include Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), and Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).

Despite their importance in commercial and industrial operations, refrigerants and industrial gases can have a significant negative impact on the environment as these are powerful greenhouse gases (GHGs). The release of these substances can lead to ozone depletion, increased global temperatures, and other negative environmental impacts. These effects are felt most acutely by the most vulnerable communities.

Refrigerant and Industrial Gas Solutions

A number of specific actions can help you reduce the effects – and costs – of refrigerants and industrial gases on your operations and the planet. Below are some of the most common and effective. In addition to these steps, consider investing in innovation to reduce dependencies on the worst of these gases and gain competitive advantage.

Leak Detection and Repair

Leak detection and repair programs are an essential part of reducing emissions in commercial operations. Leak detection can be performed using various methods, including visual inspection, ultrasonic testing, and using electronic leak detectors. If any leaks are detected, you can quickly repair them to reduce waste and lower emissions. Additionally, implementing a preventive maintenance program can help identify and address potential leaks before they occur.

Retrofitting and Upgrading Equipment

Retrofitting and upgrading industrial equipment can significantly reduce emissions of refrigerants and industrial gases. Older equipment may use outdated refrigerants that are no longer allowed under current regulations. Upgrading to newer, more efficient equipment that uses alternative refrigerants, such as refrigerant gas with zero ozone depletion potential (ODP) and low global warming potential (GWP), can reduce emissions. Additionally, newer equipment is often more energy-efficient, which can further reduce emissions and lead to cost savings over time. Retrofitting can also improve the efficiency of existing equipment by taking actions such as installing variable frequency drives or improving insulation.

Proper Maintenance and Operation

Proper maintenance and operation of your equipment is crucial for reducing emissions of refrigerants and industrial gases. Regular cleaning and maintenance can improve equipment efficiency and prevent leaks. Proper operation of equipment can also reduce the need for frequent repairs and replacements. Additionally, training employees on proper equipment operation and maintenance can improve equipment performance and longevity, while also reducing emissions.

Recovery and Recycling

When equipment is retired or replaced, industrial gases can often be recovered and recycled for use in other systems. Recycling can reduce the need for new refrigerants and industrial gases, which can be costly. Additionally, proper disposal of refrigerants can prevent their release into the environment. Implementing a recovery and recycling program can help your company reduce its emissions and minimize waste.

Innovations in Refrigerants

Because of the significant negative effects of refrigerants on the environment, there has been a recent push to make refrigerants more climate friendly. This includes using synthetic substitutes, such as hydrofluoroolefins, and natural alternatives such as air, water, ammonia, and carbon dioxide. While these technologies also come with challenges, they present a cost-effective and sustainable solution to one of the core challenges facing industry today.