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New Factsheet Guides Ice Arenas in Choosing Future-Proof Refrigerants

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Brussels, Belgium (December 2, 2021)ATMOsphere’s ‘Refrigerant Factsheet for Ice Rink Owners’ explains the differences between natural refrigerants and HFO blends, such as R513A, to combat misinformation and help end users identify the best investment going forward.

As common refrigerants become increasingly restricted because of their proven detrimental environmental impacts, ice rink owners are now left with two choices for their refrigeration systems: either a fluorinated gas like R513A, or a natural refrigerant like ammonia (NH3/R717) or carbon dioxide (CO2/R744).

Ammonia is a natural refrigerant with a long history of successful use in ice rink refrigeration, and CO2 systems are growing in popularity too. However, in recent years R513A and other HFO blends (like R448A and R449A) have been heavily marketed by chemical manufacturers as “sustainable” alternatives despite having a significantly higher global warming potential (GWP) than natural refrigerants.

The ATMOsphere factsheet is available for download here and aims to assist ice-rink owners in making an informed choice to protect their current, and future, investments.

Threat warnings increasing

The new four-page factsheet looks at R513A (or “HFO-513A”) specifically, as it is one of the most popular fluorinated alternative refrigerants currently being pushed for ice arenas. However, this “new” refrigerant blend is in fact just HFC-134a mixed with HFO-1234yf. R134a has been proven to be environmentally damaging and is consequently being phased down globally, while R1234yf comes with its own growing list of concerns.

The factsheet shares research showing that if leaked, R1234yf breaks down into trifluoroacetic acid (TFA) in the atmosphere within 10-12 days, which can then be brought to Earth in rainfall (acid rain). TFA also belongs to the category of highly durable “forever chemicals” known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). PFAS have increasingly been shown to be bad for the environment, with multiple governments considering restrictions.

A growing number of peer-reviewed studies are questioning the longevity of this HFO and its blends. The factsheet shares a lengthy bibliography citing these studies from around the world in attempt to combat the misinformation end users often receive from biased sources.

Who (and what) should you believe?

The factsheet includes a timeline of the chemical industry’s statements on fluorinated gases dating back to 1975, when it assured the public that CFCs did not damage the ozone layer. This was later proved to be untrue, and CFCs were phased out.

Each new generation of fluorinated chemicals were promoted as environmentally friendly, only to be subsequently phased out or down: from CFCs to HCFCs and now to HFCs. The last generation that remains is HFOs and their blends. However, with the rising concerns around these refrigerants, just how future-proof they are remains to be seen. Even the chemical industry referred to it as a “transitional refrigerant” themselves, as shown in the timeline included in the factsheet.

“The only real future-proof refrigerant is a natural refrigerant,” said Ilana Koegelenberg, Co-Founder of ATMOsphere and Market Intelligence Manager. “These natural systems have been tried and tested in ice arenas all around the world with suitable technology and skills readily available. Why put in another chemical refrigerant system and risk having to replace it once more restrictive regulation inevitably comes into play?”

Download the factsheet for more information.

Controversy around NHL using HFO blends

The issue of refrigerants used in ice arenas is very topical. In a hard-hitting exposé, U.S.-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) attacked the environmental claims made by the National Hockey League (NHL) and chemical producer Chemours about HFO blends used in ice rink refrigeration systems.

EIA’s report, called “On Thin Ice: How the NHL is Cheating the Climate,” looks at how Chemours paid the NHL to promote its Opteon blends (including R513A) over the more sustainable ammonia option NHL previously touted to members.

EIA calculated that replacing ammonia with products such as R513A “in ice rinks and beyond” could contribute to billions of metric tons of additional CO2e emissions over the next two decades – equivalent to annual emissions from 1,500 coal-fired power plants.

That is why the ATMOsphere factsheet promotes the use of natural refrigerants over fluorinated alternatives.

Coming 2022: free guide for arena owners

ATMOsphere is also working on a comprehensive guide to inform the ice arena industry, particularly in North America. The “North American Buyer’s Guide to Natural Refrigerants in Ice Arenas” will be a free downloadable publication and is expected in Q1 of 2022. Watch this space.

About ATMOsphere

shecco has repositioned itself as ATMOsphere to adapt to the new post-pandemic reality, updating its offering to better address the global need for scaling up the clean cooling economy.

Founded in 2007, shecco is a global, independent market accelerator for clean cooling and natural refrigerant solutions. The company boasts more than 50 years of industry experience among its global team located in offices in Europe, Japan, and the U.S.

Traditionally, shecco’s business included events, market development and media activities – an offer that has been significantly expanded to adapt and excel in the new reality companies find themselves in since 2020. Today, the ATMOsphere umbrella brand offers a one-stop solution for investors, end users, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and others who want to scale up and clean up cooling solutions.

The power of the ATMOsphere brand is amplified by its extensive network. It spans the whole globe and includes more than 50,000 industry stakeholders – from policymakers and end users to academia, manufacturers, and everyone in between. Nearly a 1,000 of these members are now part of ATMOsphere Connect, a Slack-based community for the industry where likeminded stakeholders can engage to further the market. It is this network of experts that informs ATMOsphere’s factsheets and research activities.

Contact us

Ilana Koegelenberg Co-Founder, Market Intelligence Manager  Marc Chasserot Founder, Group CEO