HFOs & CO2 to Power 2022 Olympics

It was announced today that the 2022 Olympics that will be held in Beijing will be using a combination of R-744 Carbon Dioxide refrigerant and an HFO refrigerant known as R-449A. In both instances this will be the first time that China has used these alternative more environmentally friendly refrigerants. R-744 will be used for the speed skating, figure skating, short track venues, and ice hockey training areas. The HFO refrigerant R-449A from Chemours will be used in the ice hockey and curling arenas.

This decision was made due to careful collaboration between the city of Beijing, the International Sports Federations, and the International Olympic Committee. Along with this decision Beijing has also announced that they will be joining the United Nation Sports for Climate Action Framework. This organization was launched by the United Nations in December of 2018 and aims to set a clear set of goals for sports communities around the world to follow.

While other sports organizations have signed up like the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024, it is a great achievement to have China on board with using these climate friendly refrigerants. In the past China has been reluctant to change. This may be the first step towards progress.

As you all know, R-744 has a Global Warming Potential of one and zero Ozone Depletion Potential. It is in essence a climate neutral refrigerant. The HFO refrigerant, also known as Opteon XP40, is a blended HFO refrigerant comprised of HF R-32, HFC R-125, HFC R-134a, and HFO R-1234yf.

It is far from a climate neutral refrigerant as it has a Global Warming Potential of fourteen-hundred. While yes, this number seems high, it is substantially lower GWP then some of the HFC alternatives out there like R-404A and R-507.For example, the HFC R-404A has a GWP of nearly four-thousand. Just by making this switch there is a significant savings to the climate.


Many folks are excited about this news as it shows some of the first steps towards the Chinese market moving away from climate damaging HFC refrigerants. China, just like the United States, has NOT ratified the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol. This amendment aimed at phasing down HFC refrigerants over a staggered year period. It is very similar to the original Montreal Protocol steps that were used to phase out CFC and HCFC refrigerants. So far there have been seventy-three countries that have ratified the Kigali agreement.

An optimist may claim that this could be a sign that China will be ratifying the Kigali Amendment soon. If you were to ask me though I would say that it is not likely to happen for quite some time. Even if China does ratify the Kigali would they even honor the agreement?

Late last year and this year it was found that China was in defiance of the original Montreal Protocol. China had been found to be producing R-11, a CFC, in large quantities. Their government denied knowledge of the events and stated that it was rogue companies creating and distributing these refrigerants.

If the Kigali Amendment gets ratified would we see these behind the scenes tactics arise again?  It could be that this gesture towards the Olympic Committee is being made for temporary appeasement just so that China can host the games. Or, it could be genuine. There is just no good way to tell.