Refrigerants are used as a heat transfer agent in refrigeration systems or heat pumps. With respect to refrigerants, a distinction is made between natural and synthetic refrigerants.
Synthetic refrigerants are substances that do not occur naturally in our environment, but have been developed by mankind for industrial purposes. Synthetic refrigerants include (H)CFCs and HFCs. These are governed by immediately binding European regulations aimed at protecting the environment.
(H)CFCs are chlorinated fluorocarbons. These substances have a harmful effect on the ozone layer. This group can be subdivided into soft HCFCs and hard CFCs. Soft HCFCs contain a hydrogen atom instead of a chlorine atom. CFCs degrade less easily and therefore inflict twenty to fifty times more damage on the ozone layer than HCFCs. (H)CFCs are subject to the European Ozone Regulation.
HFCs are hydrofluorocarbons: an organic compound consisting of carbon, hydrogen and fluorine that contains up to six carbon atoms per molecule. These substances contribute to the greenhouse effect. The share of HFCs in the greenhouse effect is 124 to 22,800 times higher than that of CO2. HFCs are subject to the European F-gas Regulation.
Natural refrigerants are naturally found in the environment, for example:
- CO2 (R744)
- NH3 (R717)
- Hydrocarbons such as ethane (R170), propane (R290), propylene (R1270), butane (R600) and isobutane (R600a)
Regulations on natural refrigerants in refrigeration systems are set out in the 'Activity decision' (Activiteitenbesluit) and contain safety regulations. When the quantity of refrigerant exceeds 1,500 kg of ammonia and 100 kg of propane and/or butane, a refrigeration unit is subject to authorisation, the requirements for which are set out in the permit. Refrigeration systems using carbon dioxide as a refrigerant are never subject to a permit.
Natural or synthetic refrigerants?
Natural refrigerants contribute far less to the greenhouse effect in the event of leakage. The contribution of HFCs to the greenhouse effect is 124 to 22,800 times higher than that of CO2; in the case of ammonia, it is even zero. From an environmental point of view, natural refrigerants are therefore a better alternative. When using natural refrigerants, safety should be a concern.
Natural refrigerants will not be phased out. The heavier HFCs will be phased out in accordance with the F-gas Regulation. HFCs will therefore only become scarcer and therefore more expensive. As a result, it will not be profitable in the long run to be completely dependent on conventional HFCs.
Overview of all refrigerants
This table provides an overview of the number of each refrigerant. The group to which a particular refrigerant belongs, is also mentioned. Some refrigerants are mixtures of other refrigerants. This table is not exhaustive.
GWP of refrigerants
The Global Warming Potential (GWP) is a relative measure that compares the global warming potential of a greenhouse gas with that of carbon dioxide (CO2). It is customary to use the 100-year GWP: the global warming potential of 1 kg of a gas compared to 1 kg of CO2 over a 100-year period.
Appendix 1 to the F-gas Regulation provides an overview of the 100-year GWP of the substances covered by the Regulation. Appendix 4 to this Regulation shows how the GWP can be calculated, if it is a mixture.