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Halocarbons

Environmental regulation that provides an improved framework for managing halocarbons

April 16, 2020 marked the adoption of the Regulation Amending the Regulation respecting halocarbons . The reinforced regulation aims to reduce the release of halocarbons into the air in order to protect the ozone layer and minimize the growth of the greenhouse effect.

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The Regulation respecting halocarbons

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What are halocarbons?

Halocarbons are man-made synthetic halogenated compounds not found in nature. They include the following ozone-depleting substances:

  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
  • Bromofluorocarbons, also called halons
  • Methyl chloroform (1,1,1-trichloroethane)
  • Tetrachlolromethane (CCl4)
  • Methyl bromide (CH3Br)

They also include the following replacement products:

  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
  • Hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs)
  • Hydrochlorofluoroolefins (HCFOs)

The environmental issues at stake

Halocarbons mainly contribute to depletion of the ozone layer and climate change.

Ozone-depleting products are relatively stable, enabling them to migrate up to the stratosphere. The chlorine and bromine they contain react photochemically with stratospheric ozone and compromise the latter’s regeneration. Ozone-depleting products are among the highest in their capacity to retain heat–thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide (CO2), which is the main greenhouse gas (GHG). In addition, ozone-depleting products have very long life spans. Emitting them amplifies the natural greenhouse effect and, as such, they are a major source of climate change. As an example, the emission of one tonne of ozone-depleting products across the world could equate (depending on their type) to 1,000 tonnes or more of CO2. Ozone-depleting products therefore greatly affect atmospheric temperature, the rain cycle in some areas of the planet, as well as ocean currents. In particular, they impair crop growth.

Replacements for ozone-depleting products like HFCs and PFCs have no effect on the ozone layer. However, they are greenhouse gases and some have a very high potential for global warming. This is why both are targeted in the Kyoto Protocol. The following table illustrates the ozone-depleting and global warming potentials of the most common halocarbons in use. The Regulation includes a non-exhaustive list.

Ozone-depleting and global warming potential of the principal halocarbons

Product family Product name Ozone-depleting
potential1
Global warming
potential2
CFCs R-12 1 10,900
R-11 1 4,750
R-115 0.6 7,370
Halons R-12B1 3 1,890
R-13B1 10 7,140
HCFCs R-123 0.02 77
R-124 0.022 609
R-142b 0.065 2,310
R-22 0.055 1,810
HFCs R-125 0 3,500
R-134a 0 1,430
R-143a 0 4,470
R-152a 0 124
R-227ea 0 3,220
R-23 0 14,800
R-245fa 0 1,030
R-32 0 675
HFOs R-1234yf 0 4
PFCs R-116 0 12,200
R-14 0 7,390
R-218 0 8,830
R-318c 0 10,300

(1) Compared to CFC-11, whose potential is defined as 1
(2) Compared to CO2, whose potential is defined as 1

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Where are halocarbons used?

Halocarbons are mainly used in the following sectors:

  • Refrigeration and air conditioning
  • Plastic foam manufacturing
  • Fire protection
  • Solvent manufacturing
  • Aerosol manufacturing

The measures set out in the Regulation respecting halocarbons mainly target the first three of the above sectors.

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The principal halocarbon regulatory framework measures

Taken together, the provisions of the Regulation respecting halocarbons enable improved halocarbon management in Québec. Specifically, the Regulation:

  • Oversees all ozone-depleting substances targeted by the Montréal Protocol and their replacement products, i.e. hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), hydrochlorofluoroolefins (HCFOs) and hydrofluoroolefins (HFO)
  • Bans all use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons throughout Québec
  • Prohibits the installation of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment that use hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
  • Progressively prohibits installing refrigeration equipment that uses any halocarbon with elevated global warming potential
  • Makes mandatory the recovery or confinement of all halocarbons in refrigeration and air conditioning installations, as well as in fire extinction systems (both fixed or portable) during repairs
  • Compels wholesalers and distributors to accept used halocarbons brought to their sales locations by clients unable to process or reuse recovered substances
  • Requires gaseous refrigerants to be sold in rechargeable pressurized containers
  • Makes it mandatory for all users of halocarbons to be environmentally qualified
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