This is the use of fluorinated gases in the agri-food industry

Unlike other greenhouse gases, fluorinated gases They have no natural sources and come only from human-related activities. They are emitted when used as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances and through various industrial processes such as aluminum and semiconductor production.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, many fluorinated gases have Global warming potentials (Global Warming Potential, GWP) very high compared to other greenhouse gases.

For this reason, even a low concentration in the atmosphere can have disproportionately large effects on global temperatures.

Currently, most companies in the agri-food sector are opting for refrigeration systems with a high atmospheric warming potential, given that the current alternatives through CO2 or glycol systems represent a higher economic cost than most of our commercial structures composed of SMEs can assume .

Fluorinated gases in the agricultural and food sector

From the moment of harvest, fruits and vegetables must be kept cold, which includes transport in refrigerators for their transfer to different markets.

After reaching their destination, many of these products are kept in cold rooms in warehouses and on supermarket shelves. They must also maintain the temperature inside and use air conditioning or heating.

Fluorinated gases, which are used for cooling, have no natural sources and come only from human activities. Many of them have a very high global warming potential (GWP) compared to other greenhouse gases, remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years and are dispersed around the world.

One of the categories of fluorinated gases is that of hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), whose main source of emissions is their use as a refrigerant. These chemicals were developed as replacements for substances that destroy the ozone layer and are being phased out internationally, in accordance with the Montreal Protocol.

Fluorinated gases are used in applications such as refrigerants, fire extinguishers, solvents and for the production of insulating foams.
Use of more efficient and less polluting gases within the framework of the European decarbonisation strategy. Photo: Freepik

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Regulatory review

The review of legislation on the restriction of the use of fluorinated gases in the European Union (EU) has put the food industry and distribution on alert due to the difficulties of adaptation they face due to the lack of cost-effective and safe alternatives.

On March 30, the European Parliament established its negotiating position and requested a faster removal of what the European Commission has proposed for hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a category of fluorinated gases, until their production and consumption are phased out in 2050.

Among the restrictions, the plenary voted an amendment to ban from 2024 the maintenance of air conditioning and refrigeration equipment with fluorinated gases that have a GWP level of at least 2500, and from 2030 when this potential is equal to or greater than 150.

The European Parliament thus extended that period until 2030 compared to the previous criteria of its Committee on the Environment, which set it for 2024 and which sounded the alarm. alarms in the agricultural and food sector.

Alternatives to fluorinated gases

According to experts, new techniques and possible industrial substitutes for natural sources have recently appeared. But they are not always suitable for different uses in the agri-food sector and require special training to guarantee their safety.

For example, ammonia is poisonous and very powerful, which is why it is used in industry, but not in stores, because it can harm people’s health and extreme controls must be taken. Propane is highly flammable and explosive; and carbon dioxide It is handled under very high pressure which makes it dangerous.

In conclusion, the use of more efficient and less polluting gases within the framework of the European decarbonisation strategy, especially in the context of the war in Ukraine and the need not to depend on Russia for the supply of fossil fuels.

fluorinated gases
These chemicals were developed as a replacement for substances that destroy the ozone layer. Photo: Freepik

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