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Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC)

Topics Covered: Conservation and pollution related issues.

Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC)

What to study?

For Prelims: About HCFC- 141 b- uses and environmental concerns.

For Mains: Significance of the move and other measures necessary.

Context: India has successfully achieved the complete phase out of hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-141 b, claims the ministry of environment, forest and climate change.

 About HCFC- 141 b:

  • It is a chemical used by foam manufacturers.
  • It is used mainly as a blowing agent in the production of rigid polyurethane (PU) foams.
  • It is one of the most potent ozone depleting chemical after Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Background:

On 31 December 2019, as part of the move towards environment friendly technologies, the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) also brought out a Gazette notification prohibiting the issuance of import licence for HCFC-141b from 1 January 2020 under Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Amendment Rules, 2019 issued under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

Significance:

Nearly, 50% of the consumption of ozone depleting chemicals in the country was attributable to HCFC-141 b in the foam sector.

India has now emerged as one among the few countries globally and a pioneer in some cases in the use of technologies, which are non-Ozone Depleting and have a low Global Warming Potential (GWP).

Montreal Protocol:

The complete phase out of HCFC 141 b from the country in foam sector is among the first at this scale in Article 5 parties (developing countries) under the Montreal Protocol.

Benefits of this move:

The phase out of HCFC-141b from the country has twin environmental benefits, viz, assisting the healing of the stratospheric ozone layer, and towards climate change mitigation due to transitioning of foam manufacturing enterprises at this scale under HPMP to low global warming potential alternative technologies.

What are HCFCs?

Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) are a large group of compounds, whose structure is very close to that of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), but including one or more hydrogen atoms.

  1. Under normal conditions, HCFCs are gases or liquids which evaporate easily. They are generally fairly stable and unreactive.
  2. HCFCs do not usually dissolve in water, but do dissolve in organic (carbon-containing) solvents.
  3. HCFCs are chemically similar to Hydrobromofluorocarbons (HBFCs), Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Halons and therefore display some similar properties, though they are much less stable and persistent.
  4. HCFCs are also part of a group of chemicals known as the volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

How might it affect the environment?

HCFCs are unlikely to have any impact on the environment in the immediate vicinity of their release.

  1. As VOCs, they may be slightly involved in reactions to produce ozone, which can cause damage to plants and materials on a local scale.
  2. At a global level however, releases of HCFCs have serious environmental consequences. Although not as stable and therefore not so persistent in the atmosphere as CFCs, HBFCs or Halons, they can still end up in the higher atmopshere (stratosphere) where they can destroy the ozone layer, thus reducing the protection it offers the earth from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
  3. HCFCs also contribute to Global Warming (through “the Greenhouse Effect”). Although the amounts emitted are relatively small, they have a powerful warming effect (a very high “Global Warming Potential”).

 Sources: the Hindu.