Alternative Refrigerant Essay Example
Alternative Refrigerant Essay Example

Alternative Refrigerant Essay Example

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  • Pages: 7 (1751 words)
  • Published: November 26, 2017
  • Type: Case Study
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"Greenfreeze" is a tale about the collaboration between Greenpeace and DKK Scharfenstein, an East German company with a long-standing production of refrigerators. In the spring of 1992, the two parties combined efforts, bringing together scientists specialized in propane and butane refrigerants. At that point, DKK Scharfenstein was facing perilous financial difficulties and was on the brink of bankruptcy. This joint effort led to the creation of 'Greenfreeze' technology for household refrigeration. The Greenfreeze device uses hydrocarbons for both insulating foam and refrigerants, rendering it devoid of ozone-depleting agents and environmentally hazardous compounds causing global warming.

Greenpeace successfully rallied tens of thousands of environmentally conscious consumers in Germany, who pre-ordered DKK Scharfenstein's "Greenfreeze" refrigerator, enabling the company to obtain the capital necessary for production and saving the jobs of its workers. Initially, major manufacturers who had invested in HFC-134a refrigeration techn


ology claimed that the Greenfreeze concept was ineffective. However, with the realization that the first completely CFC, HCFC and HFC-free refrigerator was about to hit the market and recognizing the market appeal of eco-friendliness, Bosch, Siemens, Liebherr and Miele ended their resistance to hydrocarbon technology, introducing their line of "Greenfreeze" models in spring 1993. The popularity of Greenfreeze spread rapidly throughout Europe and worldwide, with many models available for purchase in Germany, Austria, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Britain.

All major European companies such as Bosch, Siemens, Electrolux, Liebherr, Miele, Quelle, Vestfrost, Bauknecht, Foron, and AEG promote Greenfreeze technology-based refrigerators. The Environmental Ministers of Britain, Denmark, and the Netherlands have endorsed Greenfreeze refrigerators by purchasing them. Greenfreeze technology has expanded to other continents and soon will be manufactured in Argentina.

There is notable enthusiasm among Indian companies t

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switch to hydrocarbons. Two such companies, Godrej-GE and Voltas Ltd., are in the process of advancing to a pilot plant phase for converting to cyclopentane foam blowing. Their efforts are being made in partnership with the ECOFRIG project based in Switzerland and Germany. At the same time, ECOZONE from the Netherlands has been conducting a training course on hydrocarbon technology for refrigerator technicians in Peshawar as part of the Pakistan Holland Metal Project (PHMP).

Thanks to Greenpeace's efforts in China, Qingdao company intends to launch its Greenfreeze models by February 1995. Other Chinese companies are anticipated to follow suit, supported by bilateral agreements with the German government within the context of the Montreal Protocol. In April 1993, more than 600 representatives from Japanese and South Korean businesses attended a Greenpeace exhibition in Tokyo. In Kenya, the Climate Action Network (CAN) Africa is partnering with the National Environment Secretariat and the National Refrigeration Demonstration Centre of the Kenyan Polytechnic to implement hydrocarbon technology demonstrations. Despite having received training from the World Bank on HFC-134a conversion, Ghana's National Refrigeration Workers Association is hesitant to switch to this expensive chemical.

Together with Friends of the Earth Ghana, a training course is being planned to convert existing refrigerators in Ghana to run on hydrocarbons. Currently, 80% of the domestic refrigerators in the country are second-hand ones from Europe. The Netherlands, one of the countries that ship 200,000 of these fridges each year to West Africa, began converting them to propane in order to avoid being accused of chemical dumping. The project's goal is to build retrofitting capacity within Ghana itself. As of January 1, 1995, it will be illegal in

Germany to trade in refrigerators that contain CFCs. In the meantime, companies such as Matsushita and Sharp in Japan have taken a half-step forward by converting to pentane blown insulation foam.

Similarly, Fisher & Paykel and E-Mail are utilizing cyclopentane to produce foam in Australia. E-Mail is planning to introduce the Greenfreeze bar refrigerator to the market by 1995. This technology uses a refrigerant mixture of propane (R290) and isobutane (R60Oa) or pure isobutane. Greenfreeze technology replaces ozone-destroying chemicals that are currently utilized in refrigeration systems around the world. Due to the technical and thermodynamic characteristics of hydrocarbons, the required filling quantities are around two-thirds less than those necessary for HFC-134a and CFC-12.

It is possible to obtain propane and butane, natural gases, freely and without licenses in many parts of the world. When purified, these gases are available at prices comparable to those of CFCs. The efficiency of refrigerators that use propane or butane have been proven to be just as good as refrigerators cooled with CFCs or HFC-134a. Some refrigerators, such as "Greenfreeze", use isobutane and consume up to 38% less energy than identical refrigerators using HFC-134a. According to Bosch-Siemens' 1993 annual report, Greenfreeze leads to a 50% energy savings. Furthermore, Greenfreeze refrigerators are insulated with cyclopentane blown polyurethane foam.

Replacing the current CFC- or HCFC-blown insulation foams used in refrigerators, cyclopentane offers a better alternative. With no ozone depletion potential (ODP) and a negligible effect on global warming, it compares favorably to CFC-11 blown foam in terms of insulation value. The UNEP has recognized that cyclopentane is the most promising zero Ozone Depleting Potential (ODP) replacement for CFC-11 in rigid insulation foam, cementing its position

as a viable blowing agent.

The flammability and safety standards for hydrocarbons are crucial due to their direct global warming potential. CO2, CFC-11, CFC-12, HCFC-141b, HFC-134a, cyclopentane, propane, and isobutane all contribute to this potential. However, the risk of explosion can be minimized through safety measures in production and design. For example, the amount of propane or butane in a Greenfreeze refrigerator is equivalent to that of two cigarette lighters, making the risk of explosion minimal. Specific levels of between 17 g/cubic meter and 39 g/cubic meter are required to create an explosive mixture.

The possibility of an explosion resulting from refrigerant leakage outside the refrigerator is highly unlikely. Even if there is complete leakage of refrigerant into the cabinet, the likelihood of an explosion is still low as ignition sources like light switches and evaporators are now in the foam insulation. The hydrocarbon refrigerant is also absorbed up to 50% by the lubricating oil in the system. The 'Greenfreeze' Models have been approved as "safe and tested" by the German safety and standards institution, Technischer Ueberwachungsverein (TUEV), which states that there are no risks associated with the use, transport, and storage of this refrigerator due to its use as a cooling agent. The potential for propane and butane to ignite and explode inside the refrigerator is almost non-existent. The safety-sign for this model is valid for the entire European Community market, with upcoming legislation allowing for up to one kilogram of inflammable refrigerant with no restrictions.

Underwriters Laboratory in the US has approved cyclopentane for insulation foam blowing and up to 113 g of hydrocarbons for refrigerant. The use of hydrocarbons in domestic

refrigeration predated the invention of CFCs in the early '30s. In the mid '30s, out of 60 different refrigerator brands, 11 used isobutane as a refrigerant, with an estimated charge of approximately 1.5 kg (1500 grams), as seen in the movie 'Back To The Future'.

When compared to modern hydrocarbon refrigerators, which have hermetically sealed compressor systems, the amount of refrigerant used in propane refrigerators is much larger. Propane refrigerators use around 3lbs of isobutane, while hydrocarbon refrigerators use 30 to 70 grams of refrigerant depending on their size. Therefore, hydrocarbon refrigerators are much safer and use between 20-50 times less refrigerant. The emergence of hydrocarbon technology in domestic refrigeration represents a positive technological advancement that has taken a step "back to the future".

With the aim of securing the future, a connection to the past is necessary. German refrigerator manufacturers such as Foron, Bosch, Siemens and Liebherr are open to partnering with refrigeration companies in developing nations on various levels such as component sales and distribution, technology transfer, retrofitting of existing facilities, and delivery of new machines and relevant components. The Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol has funds available to finance CFC-free technology in developing countries. In 1994, the German ministries for economic cooperation and environmental affairs agreed to allocate several million US dollars for the transfer of hydrocarbon refrigeration technology to such countries.

Greenfreeze technology is an ideal solution for future household refrigeration growth-markets in Asia, Latin-America, Africa, and Eastern Europe. This technology is easy to handle, requires no expensive high-tech equipment, and does not create any dependency on pricey licenses or substances. By the end of 1994, all major European companies will have adopted

this hydrocarbon "Greenfreeze" technology for their domestic refrigerators. Unfortunately, the American refrigeration industry is resistant to adopting this inevitable change due to environmental and economic myopia. This reluctance puts the American industry at risk of losing its competitive edge and deprives consumers of accessing a safer appliance.

It appears that American industry is hesitant to adopt Greenfreeze technology due to a focus on short-term investment and profits instead of thinking about long-term industrial strategy and environmental issues. Although many European manufacturers promote Greenfreeze, some have hesitated to do so in the American market because they believe the hydrocarbon technology is incompatible with the larger size and automatic defrost features of American refrigerators. Nevertheless, these concerns can be easily resolved.

According to tests, a large American style refrigerator/freezer can be efficiently cooled with no more than 70g of hydrocarbon refrigerants, which is within the 113g limit recommended by Underwriters Laboratory. The technological obstacles related to automatic defrost have been overcome, as demonstrated by Liebherr Company's announcement in September 1994 regarding their plan to launch a 'no-frost' refrigerator/freezer model in 1995. Additionally, American manufacturers can make an immediate move towards a more environmentally friendly refrigerator by using cyclopentane instead of HCFC-141b to blow the insulation foam. Greenpeace anticipates a thaw in North America for Greenfreeze despite certain challenges.

Despite the reluctance of the American industry to adopt the 'Greenfreeze' technology, Greenpeace remains positive about its future prospects in the market. This is due to the environmental and technological benefits of hydrocarbon refrigeration which surpass those of HCFC and HFC based technologies. The latter's market potential is limited due to their negative impact on the environment, as

well as their higher cost and lower efficiency when compared to hydrocarbons.

Despite vested interests promoting HCFC and HFC technologies, American manufacturers are showing considerable interest in Greenfreeze technology on a research level. Greenpeace predicts that it won't be long before this technology penetrates North America, with the company that makes the first move likely to gain the greatest commercial benefits. Ultimately, the future of Greenfreeze in North America rests with consumers who are just as sophisticated and environmentally conscious as their European counterparts. Major manufacturers will soon realize the huge market potential of domestic Greenfreeze refrigerators in North America.

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