Ozone Depletion and Global Warming Potential of Thermal Insulation

21 July 2016 Kingspan Insulation Middle East
Understanding the ODP vs GWP of PIR Insulation

Whilst assisting to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions of a building, thermal insulation and pre-insulated panels can impact on climate change and ozone depletion if they are not manufactured in a responsible way.

CFCs, HFCs, HCFCs & PIR Insulation

Blowing agents are typically used to enhance the thermal performance of PIR insulation, by filling the cells within the insulation with a low thermal conductivity gas. This gas can be released into the atmosphere through various channels, such as during the manufacture of the product, during transit or after the product is ceased to be used. 

Blowing agents used in the manufacture of PIR insulation products, such as CFCs HCFCs and HFCs, can accelerate climate change and ozone depletion if they are released into the atmosphere. 
A blowing agents’ impact on ozone depletion and climate change is characterised by its Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) or Global Warming Potential (GWP). 

What is Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP)?

Ozone Depletion Potential Logo
CFCs, HCFCs and other substances released into the atmosphere can react with the ozone layer in a negative way. A molecule of chlorine can react with the ozone and catalyse the conversion of ozone molecules into oxygen. One chlorine atom has the potential to destroy more than 100,000 ozone molecules! This is the process of ozone depletion and has already caused a substantial amount of damage to the ozone layer.

ODP is the ratio of ability of a substance to degrade ozone, to that of chlorofluorocarbon-11 (CFC-11), which therefore, has a value of 1. HCFC-141b has an ODP of 0.11,10 times less degrading than CFC-11. Other substances, such as Pentane, have an ODP of zero., i.e. they do no harm to the ozone layer.

What is Global Warming Potential (GWP)?

Global Warming Potential Logo
GWP is the ratio of ability of a substance to trap heat in the atmosphere, to that of carbon dioxide. The more heat the gas traps, the bigger its potential to contribute to global warming. A GWP is calculated over a specific time interval, commonly 20, 100 or 500 years. CFC-11 has a GWP, over 100 years, of 4,250, HCFC-141b has a GWP of 725, HFCs have a GWP of up to 1,640 and Pentane has a GWP of below 5.

The Montreal Protocol

The Vienna Convention, which took place over 30 years ago, enabled international co-operation in researching the effects of ozone depleting substances (ODSs) on the ozone layer, and was the basis on which the Montreal Protocol was produced in September, 1987. At the time, twenty four countries and the European Economic Community signed the Protocol, which requires the reduction and eventual phasing out of CFCs and other ODSs, such as HCFCs. 
In 1989, Article 5 of the Montreal Protocol was developed. This allowed developing countries to become part of the action against ozone depletion, by setting different, but attainable, targets for these countries to meet. Article 5 countries within the GCC include U.A.E., Qatar and Oman. 
CFCs should now have been phased out by all countries that signed the Montreal Protocol. HCFCs have only been completely phased out by Non-Article 5 countries, but their complete phase out in Article 5 countries is imminent. 
As such, many PIR insulation manufacturers in U.A.E., Qatar and Oman may have turned to HCFCs or HFCs as an interim blowing agent. However, this product has a high GWP and could impact negatively on climate change. 

Following the recent 28th meeting in Rwanda in October 2016, the Montreal Protocol was amended to not only include Ozone Depleting Substances, but also substances deemed to have a high Global Warming Potential. This led to the subsequent agreement that HFCs would also be phased out under the Montreal Protocol. 

The dates agreed are different for Article 5 and Non-article 5 countries, with Article 5 countries further being split into two groups. The U.A.E, Qatar and Oman have committed to creating a baseline between 2020 – 2022, with a freeze in 2024 and phase out by 2045.

Measuring CFC/HCFC content

The facts surrounding the impact of CFCs and HCFCs are well known by manufacturers with many claiming that their products are ‘CFC/HCFC-free’. However, following some recent tests, undertaken at All Futtaim Exova LLC, Kingspan Insulation has discovered that some U.A.E. manufactured products continue to contain both CFCs and HCFCs. The results are shown in the table below. 

One method of measuring CFC, HCFC and HFC content of any cellular foam, is to perform a cell gas analysis. This can be performed using static headspace gas chromatography (GC). 

During this process, a headspace extractor is used to take a sample of the blowing agent (gas) from inside the cells of the foam material. These samples of the insulation are placed in a glass vial and sealed. The glass vials are heated, which causes the blowing agent to dissipate once the temperature reaches a certain point. A needled syringe is then pushed through the seal to extract a sample of the blowing agent. The sample is injected into the chromatograph and analysed. This determines the composition of the blowing agents inside the material.
Sample Claim CFC Detected HCFC Detected
Sample from U.A.E. Manufacturer 1 CFC/HCFC-free None HCFC 141b
Sample from U.A.E. Manufacturer 2 CFC/HCFC-free CFC-11 HCFC 141b
Sample from U.A.E. Manufacturer 3 CFC/HCFC-free None HCFC 141b
Sample from U.A.E. Manufacturer 4 CFC/HCFC-free CFC-11 HCFC 141b
Kingspan PalDuct Hydro Panel CFC/HCFC-free None None


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Contact Information

Kingspan Insulation Middle East

Kingspan Insulation operates across the Middle East, Africa and Indian Subcontinent. Contact us to find your local representative. For any inquiries send an email to info@kingspaninsulation.ae

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