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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

Phase-out of refrigerants in the Middle East to drive double growth: Honeywell

Arabian Gulf states are some of the most heavily climate-controlled regions of the world with air-conditioning demand rising during peak summer

A giant screen featuring information related to global warming at the COP23 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany. Patrik Stollarz/AFP
A giant screen featuring information related to global warming at the COP23 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany. Patrik Stollarz/AFP

The American multinational Honeywell expects its advanced materials segment to grow by double digits in the Middle East, as the region prepares to phase in more energy-efficient technology as part of diversification efforts.

“Our growth in the next five or seven-year period is expected to be double digit because we expect a rapid adoption of new refrigerant technologies,” George Koutsaftes, president of Honeywell Advanced Materials told The National.

“Today in the Middle East, there is a diminishing use of HCFCs [hydrochlorofluorocarbons] that are harmful for the ozone and we’re seeing a transition away from those, which is good, so the region is using less refrigerants that are harming the ozone layer. But they’re still using a lot of HFCs that are global warmers. From an emissions point of view, it will remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years,” he said.

HCFCs - which have been commonly use in cooling systems and chillers around the world - are blamed for the creation of a hole in the earth’s protective ozone layer. Since the discovery of their harmful nature, the United Nations ratified a treaty called the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in 1987 to phase out their use.

Speaking at last month's UN climate change conference in Bonn (COP23), Walter Steinmeier, Germany's president, called for urgent action on climate change following last year's Paris Agreement climate accord within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020.

“The Paris Agreement will only have been a real breakthrough if the agreement is followed up with real action. Constructive, multilateral work under the umbrella of the UN the only way forward,” the German president said.

Equally harmful greenhouse gas-generating HFCs have since started to be replaced in countries that heavily use refrigerants, such as in the Middle East. The Gulf states remain some of the most heavily climate-controlled regions of the world with air-conditioning demand rising during peak summer. At a meeting last year in the Rwandan capital Kigali, an amendment was incorporated to eliminate the use of HFCs as well.

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The amendment calls for developed nations to slash their HFC consumption levels by at least 85 per cent of their annual average values of the period 2011-2013, while countries in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will be required to phase them out by the same proportion based on their annual averages between 2024 and 2026 by the year 2047.

The region’s gradual reduction of energy subsidies is likely to drive future growth in an emerging segment for efficient and environmentally-friendly energy consumption, said Mr Koutsaftes.

“The phase out of subsidies is a key driver for the appetite that the industry has for the solutions that are reducing energy consumption,” he said.

"Adopting the new refrigerants comes part and parcel with it being designed into new equipment that are much more efficient in their energy consumption profile and this is what the region needs. It absolutely needs this to achieve its ability to rollback subsidies and reduce energy consumption,” he added.

In the region, Honeywell presently works with the Dublin-based air-conditioning equipment and systems manufacturer Trane to deploy more energy-efficient technology and with Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City as well as in Al Ain, where it deploys environmentally-friendly insulation in buildings.

The firm is currently eyeing projects in Saudi Arabia and is looking to develop local manufacturing capabilities to support future demand for less ozone-depleting refrigerants.

“We’re having multiple conversations with several participants. What we want to do is to ensure that we enable the region to achieve its objectives and if that means that the demand supports the need for investment, then we’ll make that work,” added Mr Koutsaftes.

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