A 100 per cent hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) blend, the US firm said Leonidas had selected the fluid for the conversion of existing equipment running on R-22, a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) generation refrigerant fluid.
According to US firm Arkema, the equipment "in question, a refrigeration tunnel maintained at –4°C, is used in the end-process of the chocolate’ manufacture."
The retrofit in April 2008 by Leonidas anticipates the ban on virgin HCFC 22 refrigerant fluid for refrigeration equipment maintenance coming into force on 31 December 2009, as directed by European regulation 2037/2000. Under the rules, from 1 January 2015 all HCFCs will be prohibited from use in the maintenance and servicing of refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment.
Arkema stated that, "on the strength of the refit success, Leonidas subsequently retrofitted a further two items of equipment at its plant, one used for the air-conditioning of the zone and the other for the packaging plant."
Leonidas is also planning further retrofit operations using forane 427A at the plant "in order to comply with the HCFC ban timetable." The chocolate maker will be taking steps to retrofit the refrigeration equipment at all its Belgian plants by the end of the year.
The growth in the market for more environmentally friendly alternatives to HCFC and chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants has marched in tune to the global understanding that HCFCs and CFCs, now being phased out globally, are detrimental to the fragile ozone layer.
This is underpinned by the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer treaty, signed by 191 global parties and designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of a number of substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion.
Europe is also committed to reducing HFC emissions, and part of the EU's aim is to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 8 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012, as required by the Kyoto agreement.
Fluorinated gases such as HFCs currently account for 2 per cent of total EU greenhouse gas emissions. However, their global warming potential is high and many of them have long atmospheric lifetimes.
Consequently, HFCs used as alternatives to HCFCs have been criticized by environmental campaigners. Environmental group Greenpeace claimed in a recent position paper that they are "potent global warming gases".
"The Protocol sanctions and promotes the wide scale use of HFCs, since HFCs do not contribute to ozone depletion, the Protocol does not have the mandate to legally control them. Still, the Protocol encourages their wide scale use and therefore shares in the moral responsibility for their ultimate impact upon the environment," states Greenpeace.
Meanwhile, market analyst Freedonia Group estimates the global fluorochemical industry, worth $13.3 billion, will grow by 3.1 per cent annually until 2011.
Value gains "will be aided by the positive outlook for higher value products such as HFCs and fluoropolymers. " Most volume growth is slated to occur in emerging markets, such as China, where fluorocarbon use is less regulated, reports Freedonia.