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Drop the pressure
One more f-gas for the road - Tyre inflators...
In the last edition I was hoping to rattle your mind a little. By exploring the use of refrigerants in mining blast bags. You can check it out here.
This week something a little less explosive, but nonetheless probably unknown to many.
If you’ve been following the #wherethefgashides sections, you may recall I’ve covered the use of f-gas in propellants previously (what some refer to as aerosols). Silly string being a good example of one pointless way to pollute the atmosphere.
There are loads of uses in fact. Pick any of the spray can applications you can think of, and chances are, at some point in time it has used, or is still using an f-gas (CFC, HFC or HFO) for the propellant.
We’ve got climate warming or water contaminating gases being directly released with each spray. Maybe that’s why I’m.
Flat tyres (tires for the US folks) is something I know a little bit about. In my (relatively short) lifetime I’ve changed lots of them. It was one of the certainties of competing in motorsport. Driving at speed on gravel roads, meant there were lots of them to change.
To the extent, that my co-driver and I would practice changing wheels between events to minimize potential time loss. Carefully choreographing the moves between us to ensure the fastest possible change. Often the replacement was done on the side of the road, far from the service crews. It was often amongst clog-your-nostrils dust, or coat-everything mud; but we had it down to a fine art.
If you’re new here and perhaps wondering if you’re in the wrong place. Don’t worry. I’ve since squared the circle of my distant motorsport past with my current environmental efforts. If curious, you can read my personal reflections on it here.
For the general motorist, flat tyres are likely to be somewhat less frequent. There are occassions however, to find that the spare tyre is also flat, or even missing (been there). In which case it may be tempting to reach for the handy ‘tire inflator’ in a can. Like this here example.
As you probably guessed by now, many of these contain f-gases. In the not-too-distant past these were HFCs. Just like the mining blast bags in the last edition, the f-gas HFC-134a (also very common in air-conditioning) was popular for use in canned tyre inflators.
The problem being that when it came to do the permanent repair, or to fit a new tyre, the gas would be released straight to atmosphere. As a reminder, HFC-134a has a global warming potential of 1530. Far more potent than CO2.
Fortunately HFCs are being replaced. Unfortunately some manufacturers are choosing to use HFOs. A trend I’ve noticed across many of the traditional HFC applications (i.e. hiding places).
In the case of tyre inflating, you can now find the f-gas HFO-1234ze being used. You have to dig around the Safety Data Sheet to find it. But there it is by its other name – 1,3,3,3-Tetrafluoropropene. The one touted as eco-friendly.
Which, while having a lower GWP, also happens to carry other environmental side effects. It’s worth repeating that several countries have labelled a number of the HFO refrigerants as PFAS (including the one above). That is, a chemical that, “are, or ultimately transform into, persistent substances, leading to irreversible environmental exposure and accumulation.”
All good then.
There are other ways to solve the problem with pesky deflations. One obvious one includes reducing the hulking size of today’s vehicles. Smaller vehicles = smaller and lighter spare wheels = easier to access and check pressures regulary.
In that rare case when the spare is also flat, then there are a multitude of options including handheld battery operated pumps. On more than one occasion I’ve also used an old-school foot pump to inflate a car tyre.
Takes a bit longer granted. But I got some exercise, and no polluting f-gases were needed.
Right, that’s all for this week and ‘till next time
p.s. the title track for the last edition – Blow your mind – was by Jamiroquai lifted from my Hangover Cure compilation circa 2001
Fixed stuff here for newcomers
There is lots of news every week from the cooling industry and plenty of newsletters that cover it well. The intention is to keep this newsletter focused on the most prominent f-gases (fluorinated greenhouse gases), the most common of which are refrigerants and importantly their environmental impact. That’s the lane I’ve chosen - I’ll do my best to stick to it.
Below are the seven formal greenhouse gases that countries and companies should track, report and hopefully reduce.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6)
Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3)
Plus the still circulating, ozone damaging chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and the ‘new-generation’ hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs).
Hopefully you can spot the pattern.
Emissions from f-gases and refrigerants have been the fastest growing greenhouse gases over the past decade (more than CO2 and methane - check out IPCC WG3 summary for policy makers). They are also classed as super pollutants given their outsized global warming and other environmental impacts.
Some useful permalinks
The scale of the climate challenge can often feel daunting. This piece helps me take a step back and understand where we need to focus first - recommend a read.
There are plenty of technology solutions available to address the cooling and refrigerant challenge. You can find many of them here
Beware when the same entities who have contributed to the current f-gas problem propose you new solutions… This is a good place to get up to speed.