Refrigerant is a fluid used in air conditioners and refrigerators. The function of a refrigerant is to absorb the heat from the contents of the refrigerator or the room (in case of ACs) and to release it into the atmosphere. A typical refrigerant undergoes a phase change from liquid to gaseous upon absorption of heat and back to liquid when the compressor compresses it. Various types of refrigerants are available such as Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), Hydro Fluro Carbons (HFC), and Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC). Suitable application of a refrigerant depends on its thermodynamic properties, non-corrosive nature, and other properties such as non-toxicity and non-flammability.
R134A falls under the hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) category and is predominantly used as a refrigerant in air conditioning systems. It is presently being used as a substitute for R-12 CFC refrigerant in the area of centrifugal, rotary screw, scroll, and reciprocating compressors. R134A is a clear, colorless liquid or gas that is relatively nontoxic and nonflammable. It is the primary refrigerant used in automotive air conditioning systems. R134A is also used in domestic and commercial refrigeration as a propellant in aerosol cans for foam?blowing of building insulation and in pharmaceutical applications such as asthma inhalers. Furthermore, it is used as a hydrofluorocarbon blend to manufacture other refrigerants.
Over a period of time, the usage of refrigerant and its impact on the environment causing depletion of ozone layer has been a matter of constant discussion. Prior to the 1990s, the common refrigerant used was the R-12 (CFC), manufactured by Dupont under the brand name, Freon. However, during 1990s and 2000s, CFCs were replaced by HCFCs, the common among them was the R-22. HCFC refrigerants contained chlorine which led to depletion of the ozone layer, and thus, was banned and phased out. Usage of R-22 was outlawed in new units in 2010. The phasing out of HCFC has been planned with the U.S. slated to terminate its supply of HCFC by the year 2020. In emerging economies such as India, 50%-60% of the ACs uses HCFCs, which according to the Government, will be phased out of India by 2030.
In order to remove chlorine content from refrigerants, manufacturers created another set of refrigerants called Hydro Fluoro Carbon (HFC). Although HFCs have the potential to cause global warming, they are better than HCFCs as they do not deplete the ozone layer. The common type of HFC in use is the R134A, which is energy-efficient and does not harm the ozone layer, though it causes global warming.
A key driver of the demand for R134A is the absence of its substitutes in the market as most of the refrigeration systems use R134A as a refrigerant and are designed to integrate R134A only. If the refrigerant is to be changed, the entire system has to be redesigned and rebooted before it can be operated with any other refrigerant, which means incurring of additional cost. There are multiple methods for producing R134A, all of which involve reacting hydrogen fluoride with a compound containing carbon and chlorine. The primary raw material used in the production of R134A is hydrogen fluoride, made from fluorspar and trichloroethylene or perchloroethylene.
R134A refrigerants, with a GWP of 1300, have higher potential to cause global warming than other HFCs, such as R152a. This has led the European Union ban the usage of R-134A in new vehicles, which became effective in 2011. In July 2015, it was announced that the United States Environmental Protection Agency was planning to phase out certain HFC refrigerants, such as R134A. Moreover, the emergence of environment-friendly set of Hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants, such as R-290 and R-600A, due to their halogen-free nature, no ozone depletion potential, and lower global warming potential is projected to limit the demand for R134A refrigerant in the near future.
On the basis of application, the R134A refrigerant market can be bifurcated into foam-blowing agent, refrigerant blend, propellant, and others. In terms of end use, the R134A refrigerant market can be broadly categorized into air conditioner (automotive, domestic, and commercial), industrial, pharmaceutical, refrigerator, and chillers. Air conditioner application segment is projected to expand rapidly during the forecast period. Asia Pacific is expected to lead the R134A refrigerant market during the forecast period due to the growing automotive industry in the region, which is a major application area of R134A refrigerant.
The global R134A refrigerant market can be segmented, by geography, as North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, and Middle East & Africa. Asia Pacific was the dominant market for R134A refrigerant in 2016. Growth in population and infrastructural development in the region have led to an increase in the usage of refrigerants for various applications such as refrigerators and air conditioners. Furthermore, industry alliances are expected to support the growth of the R134A refrigerant market in the region during the forecast period.
Key players operating in R-134A refrigerant market are Daikin, Chemours, Arkema, Dongyue Group, and Sinochem Group, among others.
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