A quick guide to the impact of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol’s HFC phasedown on fire suppression.
The Kigali Amendment is a binding international commitment for all countries to phase down the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by more than 80% over the coming 30 years.
It updates the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty that has governed the phaseout of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) since the 1980s. In fire suppression, the Montreal Protocol drove the phaseout of halon 1301, halon 1211, and HCFCs, such as HCFC-123.
HFCs are considered powerful greenhouse gases used in sectors such as refrigeration, air-conditioning and fire suppression. For example, 1 ton of an HFC fire suppression clean agent like HFC-227ea has the same impact on global warming as more than 3,000 tons of carbon dioxide. The global HFC phasedown is expected to reduce global warming by up to 0.5°C by the end of the century, fully 25% of the 2°C warming that nations hope to avoid.
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. 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 a press release (PDF, 95 KB), 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. In addition, based on industry experience with the halon phaseout, 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%, from $6 to $35.
As the phasedown begins, specifying engineers and end users are likely to assess the risks involved in installing new HFC-based fire suppression systems. Although owners of existing systems will not likely be required to decommission existing systems, it will likely become more expensive to refill and maintain those systems. When installing new systems, end users may wish to install HFC alternatives such as 3M™ Novec™ 1230 Fire Protection Fluid that reduce or avoid the potential for regulatory risk. In fact, because we are so confident that Novec 1230 fluid will not be subject to any future environmental regulations, 3M offers a global 20-year 3M™ Blue Sky℠ Warranty against regulatory action to ensure protection and provide end users with peace of mind about their fire suppression system buying decisions.
The Kigali Amendment was adopted at the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on October 15, 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda. Because over 20 countries have already ratified it, it will enter into force on January 1, 2019. Countries that ratify the Amendment after January 1 will immediately also be bound by it.
The US has not yet ratified the Kigali Amendment, but voluntary industry actions have had an impact on reducing consumption of potent greenhouse gases.
55 parties to the Montreal Protocol have ratified the Kigali Amendment as of September 30, 2018. Because the treaty comes into force in January 2019 and developed countries will have reduction commitments starting in 2019, a substantial number of the remaining 142 countries are expected to ratify the Kigali Amendment between now and the end of 2018.
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