Technical Note

Technical Note: What Are the Environmental Benefits of Refrigerant Reclamation?

June 11, 2024

In this paper, we challenge current assumptions about the climate benefits of refrigerant reclamation and discuss the complexity of crediting reclamation on the carbon markets.

Refrigerant reclamation – the process of restoring used refrigerant to virgin purity standards – underpins the circular economy for cooling. But today, reclamation isn't happening at large scale because of low demand for reclaimed gases and high costs associated with recovering and reclaiming HFCs.

These potential benefits of reclamation have left policymakers and industry in a tricky scenario. Today, reclaimed refrigerant must compete on equal price grounds with virgin refrigerant, the latter which is often cheaper to produce. How, then, do you favorably change the incentives for refrigerant reclamation?

So far, reclamation has been incentivized with a mix of approaches, from procurement policy and regulation to carbon markets. But there is still significant disagreement in the lifecycle refrigerant management community about which approach is best.

One challenge in determining the proper incentives for reclamation is overcoming disagreement among stakeholders about what the benefits of reclamation actually are. In this paper, we interrogate several potential climate benefits of reclamation, including the concept that selling reclaimed refrigerant displaces production of virgin refrigerant. We argue that displacement may not be occurring at the level previously assumed, but that reclamation still has clear climate benefits that justify strong policy incentives. However, carbon crediting for reclamation, which relies on displacement, is not high integrity.

Readers are welcome to engage with us in future discussion. Please see corresponding authors listed in the technical note.

Read the paper

Technical Note: What Are the Environmental Benefits of Refrigerant Reclamation?


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