Washington, DC: A new report, F-Gases at the Fenceline: Exposing the Fluorochemical Production Sector’s Undisclosed Emissions by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released today, shows a suite of climate-damaging and ozone-depleting gases being emitted from two major fluorochemical companies in the United States. EIA investigators used a cutting-edge infrared detection device at the fencelines of two production facilities operated by Honeywell and Chemours in Baton Rouge, LA and Corpus Christi, TX, respectively. This revealed the emissions of various fluorinated gases (F-gases) including different types of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs). These substances pose serious concerns given their high climate warming impact, ozone depletion, and/or breakdown into persistent degradation by-products.
“Our evidence is damning: fluorochemical production continues to spew significant avoidable emissions, often undisclosed, despite control measures. This industry, culpable for creating a hole in our ozone layer, continues to profit at a massive cost to our climate. It behooves companies to step up, contain their chemicals leaking into our atmosphere or step out of this industry,” said Avipsa Mahapatra, Climate Campaign Director at EIA US. “We have only scratched the surface of a colossal global problem of unaccounted emissions, equivalent to annual emissions of 200 coal plants, that has vexed the scientific community and the Montreal Protocol, now striving to improve global attribution of these gases.”
EIA identified several potent greenhouse gases, including HFCs and CFCs, that have not been previously declared in recent years of mandatory emissions reporting to the EPA. The fact that the gases were detectable at parts per million levels at distances at least several hundred feet from the source of emissions indicates that the actual volumes are likely to be substantial. Analysis of reported emissions also showed rising levels of CFC emissions from the facilities in recent years.
“It is imperative that the United States and global community take action to avoid industrial emissions from fluorochemical production. We must enhance monitoring and reporting and expand Montreal Protocol and domestic control measures to address production emissions,” said Christina Starr, Senior Manager, EIA US. “Otherwise this chemical nightmare threatens the success of the treaty and our climate goals.”
EIA’s report is published on the heels of the U.S. EPA’s announcement on actions to continue implementing the HFC phase-down and an agreement in the European Union to strengthen the EU F-gas regulations. Domestic regulatory actions on HFCs and other F-gases should be enhanced to more comprehensively tackle production sector emissions of these substances.
- Multiple substances detected in this case study are associated with rising global emissions identified in recent atmospheric studies that link fluorochemical production and/or illegal production and use as the primary source of approximately 870 million tonnes CO2 equivalent in emissions on an annual basis.
- Several chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were detected at one production facility operated by Honeywell in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. CFCs are ozone depleting substances with high global warming potentials (GWPs) 6,520 to 16,200 higher than CO2, that are banned globally, except for their uses to produce other fluorochemicals. Findings included CFC-13, for which the facility reported zero emissions from 2019-2021, as well as CFC-113 and CFC-114. Rising CFC emissions have been reported by the facility in recent years.
- A suite of HFCs were also detected at the Honeywell, Baton Rouge facility including HFC-32, HFC-125, HFC-143a, and HFC-134a, some of which were not reported by the facility in mandatory greenhouse gas reporting from 2018-2022 (US GHGRP). HFC-125 and HFC-143a, detected by EIA in 2022, were not reported by the facility in 2022. HFC-32 and HFC-134a, detected in 2023, were not reported in earlier years of reporting from 2018-2022. It is not clear why these chemicals are being detected yet absent from facility reporting.
- Several HFOs and a hydrochlorofluorolefin (HCFO) were detected: HFO-1234yf was detected at a facility operated by Chemours near Corpus Christi, Texas. HCFO-1233zd and HFO-1234ze were detected at the Honeywell facility; in each case these are end products manufactured at the respective facilities. While HFOs, which are produced using HCFC-22, have low direct climate impacts, they are considered per- and poly- fluoralkyl substances (PFAS) and can degrade into persistent by-products. HFO-1234yf in particular produces high yields of trifluoroacetic acid, which is a strong acid that can be toxic to aquatic organisms, plants, and humans.
CONTACTS FOR MEDIA
Avipsa Mahapatra, EIA US Climate Campaign Lead, via [email protected] or +1 (347) 931 0129
Denise M. Stilley, EIA US Head of Communications, via [email protected] or +1 (928) 225-7315