Whilst the major greenhouse gas (GHG) is carbon dioxide (CO2), the basket of greenhouse gases controlled by the Kyoto Protocol includes, among others, the so-called F-Gases: HydroFluoroCarbons (HFCs), PerFluoroCarbons (PFCs) and Sulphur hexaFluoride (SF6).
The objective of the F-Gases Regulation (EC) No 842/2006 is to reduce emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol, helping the EU and the Member States to meet their objectives through:
- Better containment and recovery
- Training and certification of personnel involved
- Reporting of production
- Import and export data
- Labelling of certain products and equipment containing those gases and for some applications and uses where containment and recovery is impracticable
- The prohibition of marketing and use respectively
In 1989, the European aerosol industry voluntarily ceased the use of ChloroFluoroCarbons (CFCs) which have both Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) and Global Warming Potential (GWP). Thus it no longer contributes to the creation of the so-called ‘ozone hole’.
Additionally, the aerosol industry has decreased its greenhouse impact related to Climate Change by 99% compared to the period prior to 1989 (yet, this goes unrecognised in the Kyoto Protocol which uses 1990 as a reference year).
Today, the aerosol industry has primarily shifted to flammable liquefied propellants (hydrocarbons and dimethyl ether) but still uses HydroFluoroCarbons (HFCs) for a small range of products.
These third generation fluorinated gases are less hazardous but remain greenhouse gases. Currently, the only widely available liquefied propellant which is non-flammable is HFC-134a (no other non-flammable liquefied propellant is currently widely available).
In 2002, FEA introduced a Code of Practice on HFC Use in Aerosols which voluntarily restricts the use of HFCs where there are no other [safe, practical, economic or environmentally] acceptable alternatives. The code is annually updated to include the latest results of the FEA voluntary scheme to monitor HFC use in production.
In 2009, HFC emissions from all sources accounted for 1.8 % of total EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions; an increase of 157 % between 1990 and 2009 (Source: EEA).
In contrast, based on the FEA voluntary survey (which does not include PU foams and pharmaceutical aerosols), the total consumption of HFCs for aerosols has decreased by 34% between 2002 and 2009 and represents less than 0.1% of total EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions in 2009.
A fourth generation of fluorinated products with lower GWP is emerging, the HydroFluoroOlefins (HFO).
To provide a suitable propellant for the aerosol industry, this new generation must:
- have a low GWP
- be a liquefied gas with an adequate vapour pressure
- allow formulation of non flammable aerosols
- be safe for health (suitable toxicological profile)
- be widely commercially available
From research programmes, one fluorinated substance has emerged: the HFO-1234ze.