2019 marks an important milestone in the Kigali Amendment and the Montreal Protocol, in phasing down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in many industries, including fire protection. The newly amended Montreal Protocol will require richer economies like the European Union and the United States to start cutting HFC use by 2019. It is also the year in which the Kigali Amendment comes into force.
What is the Kigali Amendment?
The Kigali Amendment is a binding international commitment for all countries to phase down the production and use of HFCs by more than 80 per cent over the coming 30 years. It updates the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty that has governed the phase-out of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) since the 1980s. In fire extinguishing, the Montreal Protocol drove the phase-out of halon 1301 and halon 1211.
What are HFCs and why are they being phased out?
HFCs (Hydrofluorocarbons) were developed in the 1990s to replace halons and other ozone-depleting substances. HFCs are considered powerful greenhouse gases used in sectors such as refrigeration, air-conditioning and fire suppression. While, unlike their predecessors, they have low ozone depletion potential, they have high global warming potentials (GWPs), meaning their continued growth would make them a major contributor to climate change. For example, one ton of an HFC fire extinguishing clean agent like HFC-227ea has the same impact on global warming as more than 3,000 tons of carbon dioxide.
Although HFCs represent a small fraction of the current total of all greenhouse gases, their emissions are projected to increase nearly twentyfold in the coming decades. The global HFC phasedown seeks to address this and is expected to reduce global warming by up to 0.5°C by the end of the century, 25 per cent of the 2°C warming that nations hope to avoid.
The impact of the Kigali Amendment on the fire protection industry:
Well known fire suppression clean agents such as HFC-227ea and HFC-125 are HFCs. As a result of government actions to meet their commitments under the Kigali Amendment, these agents will face increasing barriers to production and consumption beginning in 2019. Although certain regions including the Middle East are not affected under the Kigali Agreement until 2028, nations may undertake local actions such as reviewing key HFC-using industries and promoting or compelling transition to alternatives.
Some manufacturers have also identified benefits in getting ahead of the phasedown and supporting sustainable fire suppression. In October 2018, marine fire suppression systems manufacturer Sea-Fire Europe announced that it would be ceasing distribution of fire suppression equipment using HFC-based agents. According to their press release, Sea-Fire Europe “believes that it is the responsible action to take, given the adverse impact [HFCs] have on the environment,” as well as projecting that the cost of HFC-227 as an agent may double within the next 18 months. Indeed, based on industry experience with the halon phase-out, as HFC production declines, the cost per pound is expected to increase: between 2016 and 2018, the cost per pound of halon reportedly increased more than 500 per cent, from $6 to $35.
As the phase-down begins, specifying engineers and end users are likely to assess the risks involved in installing new HFC-based fire extinguishing systems. Although owners of existing systems will not necessarily be required to decommission existing systems, it will likely become more expensive to refill and maintain them. When installing new systems, end users may wish to install HFC alternatives such as Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid from 3M, which avoids the potential for regulatory risk, as covered by the global 20-year Blue Sky Warranty from 3M.
When does this Kigali Amendment come into force?
The Kigali Amendment was adopted at the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on 15 October 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda. Because more than 20 countries have already ratified it, it will enter into force on 1 January 2019. Countries that ratify the Amendment after January 1 will immediately also be bound by it.
In summary for the fire protection industry:
The fire protection sector offers all nations an immediate opportunity to make substantial progress towards their commitments. Sustainable clean agents are already widely available and have been sold into many of those countries signing the agreement for the past 15 years, including those with high ambient temperatures. High ambient temperatures do not represent a barrier for agent transition in fire extinguishing. The transition of these countries away from halons and HFCs have already substantially reduced HFC use and emissions from the fire suppression sector.
For more information, go to 3m.ae/novec