The Big Chill: Blowing Agents and Refrigerants Legislation

Just got notification of an interesting discussion related to refrigerants-looks like it could be open to broader participation…

Seattle Building Enclosure Council
Thursday, April 16, 20205:30 PM - 7:30 PM PDT

By engineering the use of alternate chemicals, humanity has successfully been addressing the problem of ozone depletion. Following in these footsteps, effort is being made to significantly reduce the impact of global warming caused by two categories of chemicals regularly used in the building industry: refrigerants and blowing agents. The scientific community has determined that this step alone can reduce potential global warming by 0.5 degrees C.

Washington State, along with California, New York, and a handful of additional states, as well as all of Canada, is enacting regulations which will define limits on the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of the chemicals used for these components; components which are an integral part of any mechanical systems and insulation products we use in our buildings.

During this presentation, Dan Whitmore and Ari Anderson with RDH Building Science Inc. (RDH) will review the underlying logic behind these new regulations, the impact on the available blowing agents and refrigerants, and critically, the effect on the products we will have available for use in our construction projects starting on January 1, 2021. Dan and Ari will be joined by Emily Bruns, Senior Environmental Technical Specialist with the Washington State Department of Ecology, and Paul Lewandowski, Director of Regulatory Law for Owens-Corning to present a panel discussion.

The GPW of refrigerants is certainly a priority to address, #1 in Drawdown.
Carbon diozide is being used in a very specific heat pump hot water heater and that is gaining acceptance in the building world, although slowly.
I understand that a major ASHP manufacturer for space conditioning heat pumps is testing CO2 as refrigerant in its machines.

Yes, it was a very informative presentation.
Lots of good information about HFCs as refrigerants and as blowing agents, about current legislation, and about North American XPS production past, present, and future.
Many thanks to the folks at RDH, Abbey Brown from WA Dept of Ecology, and Paul from Owens Corning.

This was a great presentation.
Did anyone get to a conclusion on insulation decisions? I’m glad to see Owens Corning working so diligently at their blowing agents, but I was a little confused by if all their products will switch to match Seattle/Washington and BuyClean CA standards, or if these products will be a stepping stone until all areas implement similar regulations.

This is what I gathered, which I think addresses your question (but let me know if it doesn’t)…

By the end of 2020, O-C will switch over two of their four US/Canada manufacturing facilities to produce the new XPS products (no HFC134a blowing agent).

And they hope in the next few years to switch over all four plants. But that is, as far as I can tell, a loose goal and voluntary.

So in the interim, there will be two product types available - the old (with HFC134a) and the new. (Including initially in WA and elsewhere with the new laws, as there will still be a stock of the old product in those places that hasn’t yet been purchased/installed.)

And O-C also aims to have a much lower GWP blowing agent (maybe even zero) within this decade.

I did not hear anything during the presentation about O-C’s fifth North American plant in Mexico.

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This is great, and does address the question. Thanks, Brook!

Owens Corning released its 2019 Sustainability Report today.
On page 106, one of the short-term strategies to meet the 2030 GHG emissions goals is the conversion of blowing agent in the manufacturing of XPS foam.