11 January 2011

New process reclaims refrigerants to their original components

A US company has devised a process to reclaim refrigerants to their original chemical constituents. The system, if successful, would enable hydrogen fluoride (HF), an increasingly scarce key chemical component of fluorocarbon refrigerants to be reused.
The only method currently available to deal with the millions of tons of ozone depleting substances in use worldwide is incineration - hugely energy-intensive and costly process. HFCs will also need to be dealt with in the future if, as expected, they also become subject to a phase-down.

Midwest Refrigerants' CTC Refri-Green process converts or transforms fluorocarbon refrigerants into their original component chemicals for re-use.

One of the primary components released by the process is hydrogen fluoride which is derived from the mineral fluorspar, an increasingly scarce commodity and one of 14 raw materials recently identified by the EC as being on the 'critical' supply list. Hydrogen chloride is also reclaimed and carbon dioxide and/or carbon monoxide waste gases are captured from the process for further re-use.

The technology has been approved for use in the US and Midwest Refrigerants is awaiting final approval from the United Nations Environmental Programme's Technology and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP) to be listed as an approved ODS destruction (Conversion) technology.

The process has been four years in development and Midwest Refrigerants' president Lew Steinberg expects the system to be up and running before the end of this year. There are plans to licence the technology worldwide and UK companies have already shown interest.

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