Coloured containers containing hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)

US chemical giant accused by EIA of spreading disinformation to prolong the use of harmful refrigerants

EIA Climate campaigners today (6 December) accused US chemical giant Chemours of peddling spurious claims and disinformation to prevent the adoption of ambitious EU climate legislation that will further restrict the use of fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases), a prominent part of the company’s portfolio.

Chemours’ paid-for advertorial F-gas solutions are critical to achieve our biggest environmental goals appeared in the highly influential digital newspaper Politico, which reports on the political affairs of the European Union (EU).

The EU is currently looking to strengthen climate legislation dealing with super polluting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and other F-gases used widely in refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pumps.

“The article is toxic greenwashing, full of spurious claims and misdirection, aimed at persuading European policymakers there are no alternatives to F-gases and deterring them from supporting an ambitious strengthening of the EU F-Gas Regulation,” said EIA UK Climate Campaign Leader Clare Perry.

The advertorial written by Alisha Bellezza, President of Thermal & Specialized Solutions at Chemours, argued that, among other things, F-gases are “superior alternatives for thermal management as they offer a unique combination of sustainability, safety and performance in critical applications.”

“That’s simply not true,” countered Perry. “The ‘superior alternatives’ offered by Chemours, known as hydrofluoro-olefins (HFOs), are not only energy- and resource-intensive to produce, they are prohibitively expensive for developing countries to use and contribute to emissions of by-product super greenhouse gases such as HFC-23.”

Ironically, the article’s publication coincides with the release of a ‘worst of the worst’ list of American industrial greenhouse gas emitters during 2021, the year in which Chemours recorded revenues of $6.3 billion.

The Chemours plant in Louisville, Kentucky was number four in the top seven worst offenders due to its emissions of HFC-23, a by-product from the manufacture of other F-gases.

According to the data from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the plant emitted the equivalent of 2,664,089 tonnes of CO2 –the estimated greenhouse gas emissions from more than half a million gasoline-powered cars being driven for a year.

Capturing and destroying HFC-23, based on proven technologies that have been available for decades, costs as little as a $0.2 per tonne of CO2e; preventing Chemours’ 2021 emissions would cost about $530,000, a mere 0.00008 per cent of its revenue.

Ms Bellezza also claimed that “the European Commission stated in its own assessment that propane is not a viable replacement for F-gases”.

“Well, the opposite is true,” said Perry. “The European Commission’s impact assessment states “today there are suitable alternatives to the use of F-gases with a very low climate impact in most sectors and applications. These include the so-called natural alternatives such as hydrocarbons (e.g. propane, butane, cyclopentane), ammonia, C02 or water”.”

Perry also took issue with Ms Bellezza resorting to scare tactics. In the advertorial, she detailed the “significant health risks” of using ammonia in cooling. However, the Chemours executive failed to acknowledge that ammonia is, and has been for decades, widely used as a highly efficient refrigerant in industrial refrigeration.

“Chemours and its former parent company Dupont have made a significant contribution to the hole in our ozone layer and to global warming through their invention of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other fluorochemicals. It can’t seem to get it right – its new so-called climate-friendly HFOs are anything but – their continued HFC-23 emissions are proof of that. And many of them are PFAS, the group of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances that several EU governments are looking to ban as they’re toxic ‘forever’ chemicals,” added Perry.

“Chemours claims that its gases help us to meet our climate and sustainability goals to secure a better tomorrow – but a better tomorrow is one that rapidly phases out F-gases.”

EIA asked Chemours how it squared Ms Bellezza extolling the virtues of F-gases in Politico with the emissions data reported by the US EPA, but has received no response to date.