Advancing towards the Elimination of Fluorinated Gases
In the Kigali Amendment of 2016 to the Montreal Protocol, strict new deadlines were established to eliminate the use of various fluorinated gases. These gases – widely used in refrigeration systems, air conditioning and insulation, and other uses – have a very high global warming potential (GWP) that cannot be accepted within the current scenario of accelerated climate change the world is undergoing.
This situation calls for urgent action to drastically reduce these emissions. A short-term alternative, while new formulations with lower GWP are sought, consists of recycling existing mixtures and avoiding new productions in line with the principles of the Circular Economy. Unfortunately, there are currently no efficient technologies to recover and separate these gases into pure compounds, and they almost always end up incinerated as the final treatment. Thus, the current model is very damaging from an environmental point of view and urgent measures are required to modify it. In this sense, European legislation on fluorinated gases is very strict, with established quotas both for their import and for their production, which will be reduced in upcoming years.
The Environmental Processes Engineering and Simulation Group (GESPA) at the IQS School of Engineering has been working for some time on the development of techniques that enable the separation of fluorinated gases for recovery. Specifically, this group has been part of the recently concluded European KET4F-GAS project, a consortium made up of technology centres, foundations, governmental entities, and universities in southern Europe, where two fluorinated gas recovery technologies (based on membranes and adsorption) and two prototypes have been built with these technologies to be used in plants that handle these types of gases.
New STOP-F-GAS project
Along these lines, IQS researchers led by Dr Rafael Gonzalez and Dr Oriol Pou are working on the new STOP-F-GAS project in which they are studying the development of new technologies for absorbing fluorinated gases for reuse within the framework of the circular economy. The project, which is being conducted in collaboration with Dr Félix Llovell at Rovira i Virgili University, is financed within the state R&D&i programme aimed at Society’s Challenges within the National Plan of the Ministry of Science and Innovation – State Research Agency. Specifically, STOP-F-GAS is included in the Challenge “Climate change and the use of natural resources and raw materials”.
STOP-F-GAS has two fundamental objectives:
- The first objective is to develop new technologies for the separation of fluorinated gases through the use of Deep Eutectic Solvents (DESs), a new category of “green” solvents. These solvents can be chemically modified to absorb different compounds selectively, in addition to having a strong electrolytic character. Together with the high polarity of the F-gases, these characteristics enable their absorption, thus offering new alternatives for their recovery and reuse that will be tested through experimentation and process simulation.
- In addition, the project proposes the reuse of recovered fluorinated gases by mixing them with gases that have lower GWP, such as hydrofluoroolefins or CO2, in order to find new refrigerant products that are more sustainable
Through this project, and the experience in chemical engineering, thermodynamics, process simulation, and life cycle analysis of both teams of researchers, they expect to provide answers and solutions to the serious environmental problems produced by the use of fluorinated gases, within the framework of the principles of the circular economy.