Global Emissions of Refrigerants HCFC-22 and HFC-134a: Unforeseen Seasonal Contributions

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 11:20 AM
Bin Xiang1, Prabir Kumar Patra2, Stephen A Montzka3, Scot M Miller1, James W Elkins4, Fred Moore5, Elliot L Atlas6, Benjamin R Miller7, Ronald G Prinn8 and Steven C Wofsy9, (1)Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, United States, (2)Res. Inst. for Global Change, Yokohama, Japan, (3)NOAA OAR ESRL GMD, Boulder, CO, United States, (4)NOAA, Boulder, CO, United States, (5)NOAA/ESRL, Boulder, CO, United States, (6)University Miami, Miami, FL, United States, (7)Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Boulder, CO, United States, (8)MIT, Cambridge, MA, United States, (9)Harvard Univ, Cambridge, MA, United States
HCFC-22 (CHClF2) and HFC-134a (CH2FCF3) are two major gases currently used worldwide in domestic and commercial refrigeration and air conditioning. HCFC-22 contributes to stratospheric ozone depletion and both species are potent greenhouse gases, and their global emissions continue to rise at the present. In this work, we study aircraft based in-situ observations of HCFC-22 and HFC-134a over the Pacific Ocean in a three-year span (HIaper Pole-to-Pole Observation of carbon cycle and greenhouse gases study, HIPPO 2009-2011) and combine these data with long-term observations from global surface sites (NOAA and AGAGE networks). We find a steady increase in global annual emissions of HCFC-22 and HFC-134a for the past two decades (on average 3% and 4% per year, respectively). Emissions of HFC-134a since 2000 are consistently higher, with 60% more in recent years (2009-2011), compared to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) inventory. Using both HIPPO and surface data, we quantify and verify enhanced summertime emissions of HFC-134a and HCFC-22 that are about three times those in the wintertime. This unforeseen large seasonal contribution indicates unaccounted mechanisms controlling refrigerant gas emissions, missing in the existing inventory estimates. Possible mechanisms for greater refrigerant leakages in the summer are: 1) higher vapor pressure in the sealed compartment of the system at summer high temperatures (saturated vapor pressure is ~ 3 times at 303 K compared to that at 273 K for both species), and 2) more frequent use of refrigeration and air conditioners in the summer (vapor pressure in the compressor line is higher when in use than not in use). Our results suggest that the engineering of the refrigeration and air conditioning systems can greatly influence the release of these two species to the atmosphere.