Greenpeace: NHL skating on thin ice

By Michael Garry, Feb 11, 2019, 19:38 3 minute reading

Greenpeace’s Janos Maté believes that the National Hockey League should favor natural refrigerants, not HFO blends.

The following is a letter to the editor from Janos Maté, senior consultant for Greenpeace International, which was published in the January 2019 issue of Accelerate America magazine. (shecco is the publisher of both the magazine and this website). It refers to “Ice Rinks: Which Refrigerant is Best?” the cover story in the November-December 2018 issue of Accelerate America.

The cover story “Ice Rinks: Which Refrigerant is Best?" presents a comprehensive overview of the available replacements  for the currently used R22 and R134a refrigerants in ice rinks.

The article is especially poignant when placed in the context of rapidly approaching climate tipping points, which will entirely remove humanity’s capacity to reverse course.   There is now scientific agreement that 21st Century temperature rises must be kept below 1.5OC in order to avert full-scale climate catastrophes. Computermodeling by authoritative climate scientists estimate that currently we are on a trajectory towards a 4OC increase by 2100.

HCFCs and HFCs are powerful greenhouse gases.  The Global Warming Potential (GWP) of the most commonly used HCFC, R22, is 1810. The GWP of the most commonly used HFC, R134a, is 1,430. 

HCFCs, and HFCs, are slated to be phased-out under the terms of the Montreal Protocol. What refrigerants will replace HCFCs and HFCs for ice making and air-conditioning is a vital question facing the National Hockey League (NHL).  Obviously their replacements should have very low or zero global warming potential, and be benign to the environment.

According to the NHL, the league aspires to use “innovative technologies to transform our business” and to inspire “our communities and partners to lower emissions, conserve water, reduce waste and more.”

These are worthy aspirations, but the NHL is on thin ice in partnering with Chemours Company to achieve these goals. Chemours is a spin-off of DuPont, the inventor and largest producer of CFCs and the largest corporate contributor to ozone-layer depletion.

When scientists first discovered that CFCs were destroying the ozone layer, DuPont vigorously denied the danger their product was posing to life on earth, and campaigned to delay any governmental regulations to reduce the use of CFCs. The company then maneuvered to maintain its domination over the refrigerants market with new generations of fluorocarbons, HCFCs and HFCs. Together with other fluorocarbon manufacturers, they strove to block the uptake of natural refrigerants.

Today, Chemours is following DuPont’s game plan. Chemours markets HFOs as the refrigerants of the future, as the sustainable replacements for HCFCs  and HFCs. In fact, as the Accelerate Americaarticle pinpoints, Chemour’s HFO products, Opteon XP40 (R449A) with a GWP of 1,282, and Opteon XP10 (R513A) with a GWP of 573, are potent global-warming substances, nearly on par with the climate-destroying chemicals they are to replace. How is that sustainable?

Similarly, just as DuPont for years denied the harm that CFCs caused to the ozone layer, Chemours today denies the potential danger to the environment from the accumulation of trifluoroacetic acid (TFA), derived from some of their major HFO products. 

To date, DuPont and its corporate counterparts, never took any fiscal or legal responsibility for the extensive human health and property damage their fluorocarbon refrigerants wrought worldwide. Will Chemours assume liability for the future damage from HFOs?

Fortunately, as the Accelerate America article concludes, natural refrigerants (COand ammonia) are well poised to “become the de facto future proof alternatives for ice rinks.”

The NHL acknowledges hockey’s historic connection to the natural environment. The league could take immediate steps towards corporate environmental stewardship by suspending its partnership with Chemours, and embracing the use of natural refrigerants in all new and retrofitted arenas. Indeed, as the NHL states,  “When your sport is so much more than a game, you have to play it forward.”

Chemours today denies the potential danger to the environment from the accumulation of trifluoroacetic acid (TFA), derived from some of their major HFO products. “
– Janos Maté, Greenpeace International 

By Michael Garry

Feb 11, 2019, 19:38

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