Among the most important international environmental protection agreements regarding the use of fluorochemicals are the Montreal and Kyoto Protocols. The Montreal Protocol regarding substances degrading the ozone layer has been signed by all UN member states. Binding requirements for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as specified in the Kyoto Protocol, on the other hand, are applicable in certain countries only. The largest emitter, the USA, did not ratify the Protocol and no binding emission quotas have been agreed to by China, either. In 2006, the European Union implemented regulation No 842/2006 on certain fluorinated greenhouse gases, which banned additional substances for certain uses.
The prohibition of hydrochlorofluorocarbons according to the Montreal Protocol forces manufacturers and consumers to switch to alternatives. Hydrofluorocarbons such as R134a are thus becoming increasingly important. As hydrofluorocarbons, however, act as greenhouse gases, they are to be replaced by other substances on the long term.
Derivatives of the hydrofluorocarbon group of elements are hydrofluoric olefins (HFO) that have a lower global warming potential. HFO have not been completely researched yet and are only utilized to a very limited degree so far. Their high flammability is a severe disadvantage. Other alternatives, depending on the application in question, include non-fluoric substances such as carbon dioxide, butane, propane or ammonia.
Fluorochemicals such as hydrochlorofluorocarbons and hydrofluorocarbons are mainly used as refrigerants. Demand is increasing in Asia-Pacific in particular, where the general diet is changing due to a rise of prosperity and a higher meat consumption is increasing demand for refrigerators. Also, the number of air conditioners in vehicles and buildings is rising. The dominating application in China, however, remains the production of aluminum. This light metal is predominantly used for transport vehicles.
As energy efficiency becomes more and more important in the construction sector, demand for blowing agents in the foaming of plastics such as polyurethane (PUR) and extruded polystyrene foams (XPS), used for building insulation, increases. Demand for fluorochemicals in this segment is likely to increase by almost 5% p.a. until 2021.
First report on fluorochemicals