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Datamyne Blog

Covering trade & transport, with tips on using import-export data to advantage

Looking for Cool

Category: Trade Data

Top product searches of our import data focus on refrigerants

The most frequent product search of Datamyne’s US import data in December was for R134a (a.k.a. hydrofluorocarbon-134A, or HFC-134a, or 1,1,1,2–tetrafluoroethane), a refrigerant used in most car air conditioning units … until now.

In 2006, the European Union set 2011 as the deadline for phasing out R134A in new model cars. All new cars must use an alternative by 2017. This because R134a’s global warming potential (GWP) is 1430 (1430 times the heat-trapping power of the same amount of carbon dioxide). The EU’s new limit is <150 GWP.

One potential replacement, endorsed by SAE International, the global association of technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial-vehicle industries, is HFO-1234yf (or 2,3,3,3-tetrafluoroprop-1-ene), which  has a GWP of 4. Chemicals companies are jockeying for position in what could be the auto AC refrigerant of global choice – perhaps a bit too aggressively. In December, the European Commission launched an investigation into whether agreements between Honeywell International and DuPont anticompetitively limit access to the alternative technology. French chemicals group Arkema filed the complaint that triggered the investigation.

R134a has other applications as the refrigerant in refrigerators/freezers and as a foam blowing agent, as a cleaning solvent and as a propellant in inhalers and aerosols. The HFC was advanced as a substitute for the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) banned in the 1970s because they were depleting the ozone. It wasn’t long before environmentalists were pointing out that, while R134a might not damage the ozone, it was a contributor to the greenhouse effect.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has had R134a on its SNAP (Significant New Alternatives Policy) list of acceptable substitutes for ozone-depleting substances (ODS) since 1995. Environmentalists such as the Natural Resources Defense Council contend it’s time to strike R134a from the SNAP list, which now includes better alternatives such as HFO-1234yf (approved last March) and  R152a (HFC-152a or 1,1- difluoroethane), a 2008 addition with a GWP of 140.

Interestingly, alternative R152a was among Datamyne’s top 10 product searches in September, October and November (when it was number 1).

Datamyne publishes its top country, company and product searches each month on our homepage.

Date posted: January 18, 2012

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