The Global Warming Potential is an index that exclusively concerns the quantity of gas dispersed into the atmosphere, therefore it measures the direct emissions and their damage, but it does not consider the chapter of indirect emissions and all that heats the air, in virtue of the necessary primary energy production to operate refrigeration plants and heat pumps.
In the desire to sow doubts, one comes up and we put it on the table for a spirit of reflection: if today the total, direct and indirect, emissions of a plant that can be achieved by using state-of-the-art fluorinated gases were inferior to those obtainable by using alternative gases, wouldn’t this be a more efficacious way to practice the ecologic transition?
The provocation could be badly interpreted by someone, but we pose it in an even more polite way: it is a question, which has not a predefined and standardized answer …
TEWI, Total Equivalent Warming Index is what more approaches to reasoning in refrigeration ambit while complying with Eco Design principles, that is to say considering the overall impact of a product on the environment in the course of its lifecycle and in its design and manufacturing dimension, as well as of its life end. This greatly approaches the circular economy matter, which however opens also another reflection front, on which, with great discretion, we daresay the legislator still has to prove himself: we speak of the life end, precisely, and of the disposal.
After the scrapping …
We are retiring a generation of gases and at the same time also a generation of plants: the idea of retrofitting existing plants with alternative gases openly clashes with any criterion of common sense and safety, therefore – as we have already said – let us get ready to scrapping.
This expression, which we are not judging whether it is happy or unhappy, however leaves us with an unsolved question to be fully developed, in both its organizational model and in its economic and environmental consequences.
The business model is the first relevant item of the question: the recovery of the fluorinated gas currently in plants is functional to making available gases of those typologies no longer admitted, owing to “excessive” GWP, for old plants’ maintenances.
Well, if the regulation forbids the use of fluorinated gases, recovering the refrigerant to reuse it has no longer a technical meaning, therefore just the obligation remains of correctly disposing the refrigerant recovered to prevent its release into the atmosphere, which worsens the global warming situation.
However, given that, the disposal is a pure cost, a burden that is further charged to that customer who is already making the calculations in his pocket for having had to install a new plant: but, at this point, might the disposal end up being an economic burden that, in the absence of controls, will push many to release the gas into the atmosphere rather than to pay the price of an activity that previously might have seemed useful for filling and maintenance activities, but now it has nothing more than the form of a legal obligation charged to the plant owner?
The scenario is further complicated by the organizational difficulty that already today is met by the recovery activity: creating collection points, decreasing logistic transport and management costs, making regeneration activities, and also disposal ones, efficient is not an easy task, which currently is precisely supported by the opportunity of reusing gases in recycled or regenerated form, but tomorrow, when all this will be pure cost, will there be economic convenience in managing these systems?
The question is open to whatever answer, but once more the circular economy proves to be a mechanism that needs much sharing, not only ideal but also operational, and great attention to refining the business model to create positive reasons to join this philosophy.