Honeywell and key suppliers will invest approximately $300 million to increase production capacity for HFO-1234yf, its low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant for mobile air conditioning (MAC) systems in automobiles. (Earlier post.) GWP is a relative measure of how much heat a greenhouse gas traps in the atmosphere, with carbon dioxide setting the comparison with a GWP of 1. HFO-1234yf’s GWP is 99.9% lower than that of HFC-134a, the current refrigerant in use (GWP = 1,300).
Among these investments, Honeywell will construct a high-volume manufacturing plant using new process technology at the company’s existing Geismar, Louisiana, refrigerants manufacturing site, which is expected to be fully operational in 2016. The exact size of the plant will depend on supply agreements that Honeywell is putting in place with major customers.
Demand for HFO-1234yf is increasing around the world in response to concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and the need to comply with the Mobile Air Conditioning (MAC) Directive in Europe and Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations in the US. A significant portion of European demand for the current automobile refrigerant, HFC-134a, is currently supplied from the US, so our new production plant in Louisiana will mirror this arrangement. However, Honeywell is also looking at the possibility of building a plant in Europe, but this will be driven by demand and the requirements of that market.—Andreas Kramvis, president and CEO of Honeywell Performance Materials and Technologies
HFO-1234yf is being adopted by automakers in part to meet the EU MAC Directive, which requires that refrigerants in all new vehicle types sold in Europe after 1 Jan. 2013 have a GWP below 150. All cars sold in Europe after 2017 must meet the new GWP requirement of less than 150.
|Comparison of Greenhouse Impact: HFO-1234yf vs. HFC-134a vs. CO2|
|Refrigerant||Atmospheric Lifetime||GWP||Fuel efficiency compared with HFC-134a|
|HFO-1234yf||10.5 days||< 1||Same|
|CO2||Ranges from 5 to 200 years||1||Worse (adoption of CO2 as a refrigerant in Europe alone would result in annual consumption increase of 3 billion liters of fuel at a cost of more than €4 billion to European car drivers)|
Automakers in the US are also adopting HFO-1234yf to help comply with CAFE and vehicle greenhouse gas standards, which aim to improve the average fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with cars and light trucks. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows automakers to receive credits for using HFO-1234yf.
Nearly half a million cars are on the road today are already using HFO-1234yf. Third-party data shows that HFO-1234yf’s widespread adoption globally would have the greenhouse gas equivalent of permanently removing more than 30 million cars from the road worldwide, or about 3% of the total global fleet.
Earlier this year, Honeywell announced the launch of packaging operations for HFO-1234yf in Japan to better serve the market in Asia.