Published February 2014
As a result of the Montreal Protocol and Kyoto Protocol and subsequent amendments and ratification by individual countries, there are current and proposed regulations limiting the production, consumption and trade of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Since the mid-1970s, the global fluorocarbons market has undergone a number of major transitions toward greater use of non-ozone-depleting HFCs and non-global-warming fluorocarbons and nonfluorocarbon alternatives in emissive applications.
Consumption in the largest market segment, refrigeration and air-conditioning, has been negatively impacted by the following requirements:
- Prevention of fluorocarbon escape from refrigeration and air-conditioning systems
- Bans on fluorocarbon venting during system maintenance
- Reuse (recycling) of fluorocarbons
- Use of nonfluorocarbon alternatives in refrigeration such as ammonia and hydrocarbons
The following pie chart shows world consumption of fluorocarbons:
The refrigeration and air-conditioning market is undergoing a shift to greater use of HFC products, especially those with low global warming potentials, fluorocarbon blends, and nonfluorocarbon alternatives (such as hydrocarbons in Europe and Japan); an overall reduction in leakage; and the capture and reuse of refrigerants during equipment servicing and disposal.
The refrigeration and air-conditioning segment has many alternatives with both fluorocarbons (including HCFCs, HFCs and HFOs) and nonfluorocarbon alternatives. Non-fluorocarbon-based products, such as hydrofluoroolefin hydrocarbons, have been introduced and are now the established standard in Europe and Japan for automobiles and home refrigeration, respectively, replacing HFC-134a. Developing countries have effectively completed the transition to HFC-134a from CFC-12 and some countries may leapfrog directly to HFO-1234yf in mobile air-conditioning.
HFCs, which replace CFCs and HCFCs, do not contain chlorine and/or bromine and do not deplete the ozone layer. However, they, along with CFCs and HCFCs, are considered greenhouse gases. The extent to which some HFC fluorocarbons, particularly HFC-134a, contribute to climatic change or global warming has become the subject of significant environmental concern, particularly in Europe, and raises questions on the continued use of these ODP-free CFC-replacement chemicals.
In marked contrast to other fluorocarbon segments, polymer precursors have shown strong growth since 1990. The use of fluorocarbons for solvent cleaning and flexible polyurethane foam, as well as the very large Western European aerosol market, was virtually eliminated in the 1990s during a transition to not-in-kind replacement processes and chemicals.
From 2012 to 2018, global consumption will increase at a 2.6% average annual rate. North American consumption will increase at 2.7%, Western Europe is expected to grow at about 3% per year, and Japanese consumption will decline at 0.5% per year. Chinas consumption of fluorocarbons, once the fastest growing in the world, is expected to slow to about 2% per year through 2018, as it phases out the use of HCFCs and transitions to the use of HFCs. More specifically, Chinas consumption of HCFCs is expected to be flat to slightly declining, while the market for HFCs grows at 8.5% per year.