Application domains and emission reduction

Fluorinated greenhouse gases, which are used as refrigerants, blowing agents, propellants, fire extinguishing agents and solvents, contribute to global warming. This has prompted the development of numerous alternative solutions.

Application domains and possible substitutes

Fluorinated greenhouse gases include partly fluorinated hydrocarbons (HFC), fully fluorinated hydrocarbons (PFC), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).

HFCs are mainly used in closed systems (e.g. as refrigerants), in open systems (e.g. as propellants), and as process gas e.g. for semiconductor manufacturing. Please use the navigation on the right hand side for further information on their use in supermarkets, heat pumps, building air-conditioning, mobile air conditioning in cars, buses, and railway vehicles.

PFCs are mainly used as an etching gas for semiconductor manufacturing; they also originate as byproducts of aluminum manufacturing.

SF6 has been in use since the late 1960s for myriad purposes such as a soundproofing gas in insulating glass, as an insulation and extinguishing gas in electrical equipment, and as a protective gas for magnesium casting.

Emission data and emission projections can be found here

Halogen-free alternatives are used in many of the above-mentioned applications  such as solvents, cleaning agents, refrigerants, fire extinguishing agents and for numerous foam product applications. It is only in recent years that certain processes and products that use halogen-free substances have reached an ecologically and economically acceptable state of technical advancement. This applies to the use of CO2 as a refrigerant and to halogen-free blowing agents for foam products. These technologies are now poised to replace the fluorinated gas-based products and processes.

Within the framework of the Advisory Assistance Programme (AAP), other countries, such as Bulgaria or the Ukraine, are supported with advice on the introduction of alternatives. More information can be found in the AAP database.

Studies and reports

Here we only present some of our general studies and reports. Further reports can be found on our pages dedicated to certain applications.

Avoiding Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases – Prospects for Phasing Out

The UBA’s updated report Avoiding Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases – Prospects for Phasing Out (2010) shows that measures aimed at avoiding the use of F-gases and replacing them with more eco-friendly solutions are well within the realm of possibility and to some extent have already been implemented. The report contains information concerning emissions, the technical status of various application domains, substitute substances and processes, and emission abatement measures.

Based on this report the UBA has prepared fact sheets on supermarket refrigeration, mobile air conditioning solutions, and fire extinguishers. An additional fact sheet lists the UBA’s proposed classifications for substitute substances, based on their global warming potential, and discusses both these proposed solutions and other proposals that have been made in this domain.

Risks and Benefits of Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases in Processes and Products under Special Consideration of the Properties Intrinsic to the Substance

The study titled Risks and Benefits of Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases in Processes and Products under Special Consideration of the Properties Intrinsic to the Substance (2004) investigated the environmental impact of fluorinated greenhouse gases and evaluated their use for insulation and for supermarket refrigeration units.

Safe use of hydrocarbon-based refrigerants – Development of a strategy to increase the use of hydrocarbon-based refrigerants as a contribution to the German climate target taking into account the energy target 2050

Using hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants in air conditioning and refrigeration instead of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) can contribute to protecting the climate. In comparison to conventionally used HFCs, hydrocarbon refrigerants have various advantages including a low global warming potential (GWP). Furthermore, hydrocarbon systems often reveal improved energy efficiency. As a result, both direct emissions (from refrigerant) and indirect emissions (due to the generation of operating power, e.g. electricity) can be reduced by using hydrocarbon refrigerants. A negative aspect of HCs is their flammability. This often requires additional safety measures, depending on the system type and installation site.

This study presents a strategic plan for a broader use of hydrocarbon refrigerants in Germany. Therefore, four main applications were chosen from the various applications of the air conditioning and refrigeration sectors. In particular, technology was considered that is generally marketable with a low demand for research and development, but which has not been established yet. The four chosen main applications are room air conditioners, household heat pumps (for heating), refrigerated trucks and chillers (up to 1 MW). This study shows emission scenarios up to the year 2050 for these four applications and the resulting contribution hydrocarbon refrigerants could have to the German climate protection target. The scenarios cover both direct and indirect emissions. Two scenarios were created, the reference scenario (RS) and the hydrocarbon scenario (KWS).

The emission reduction potential of direct emissions is generally higher compared to indirect emissions, independent of the scenario. From all examined appliances, room air conditioning reveals the highest reduction potential of direct emissions (1,760 kt CO2-eq) by 2050, followed by household heat pumps (1,200 kt CO2-eq), chillers (350 kt CO2-eq) and transport refrigeration (280 kt CO2-eq). 

Apart from variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems with 59 €/tonne CO2-eq, marginal abatement costs are negative for room air conditioners and transport refrigeration units. Abatement costs are positive for heat pumps (20 €/tone CO2-eq). Because abatement costs for the majority of appliances are negative, the hydrocarbon appliances should be given preference from an economic viewpoint as well.


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 fluorinated greenhouse gases  F-gases  EU climate policy  refrigerant  air conditioning