Fluorinated greenhouse gases 2011

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Greenhouse gases covered by the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol include amongst others, three groups of fluorinated greenhouse gases (the so-called 'F-gases'): hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). These F-gases typically have very long lifetimes in the atmosphere and high global warming potentials (GWPs).

The European Union Regulation (EC) No 842/2006 on certain fluorinated greenhouse gases (the 'F-Gas Regulation') introduced a requirement for each producer, importer and exporter of more than one tonne of F-gases to report to the European Commission on the quantities produced, imported and exported in each calendar year, and provide related data such as the main intended applications of the F-gases. This report summarises the most recent data reported under the F-Gas Regulation. Imports and exports of F-gases contained in products or equipment are not covered by the report.

The year 2011 was the fifth reporting year under the F-Gas Regulation. Companies were required to submit F-gas reports covering 2011 by 31 March 2012. For the reporting year 2011 and onward, the European Environment Agency (EEA) has taken over the collection, data storage and quality control, and analysis of the companies' reports as well as responsibility for the provision of support to the reporting companies. Data submitted by companies are commercially confidential. For this reason, only aggregated data are provided in this summary.

In total, 120 companies submitted reports for the year 2011; the number of companies that reported data for 2011 was 12 % higher than for the previous year. An increase was observed for data reported in all categories, i.e. for producers, importers and exporters. A number of quality checks were also performed on the reported data to ensure completeness and consistency. These checks showed more than 50 % of the initial reports were incomplete or inconsistent in some way. The main problems observed were: missing or inconsistent data in the reported information concerning the intended applications of F-gases placed on the EU market; inconsistency in stocks data compared to the previous year's reporting; other internal inconsistencies; and wrong use of units (e.g. reporting data in kilograms instead of tonnes).

The assessment of trends is dependent upon the unit used to express the amounts of F-gases, i.e. physical metric tonnes or GWP-weighted tonnes (CO2-equivalents). A statistic in metric tonnes reflects the use patterns of F-gases in absolute terms, while F-gas usage statistics expressed as CO2-equivalents also reflects the potential relevance for climate change policy. When expressed in metric tonnes, data for the reporting year 2011 show a decrease in production (5 %), import (6 %) and intra-EU sales (12 %) of F-gases (see Figure 1) compared to the previous year. In contrast, exports increased by 5 %.

Due to the large differencies between the GWP values for certain F-gases, when data are expressed in CO2-equivalents (1) however (see Figure 2), the interpretation of certain trends differs. An increase is still observed for exported F-gases (+ 12 %) but now also for production (+ 1 %), while a decrease is still observed for both imports (8 %) and sales (11 %). This can mainly be attributed to a strong decrease in HFC sales (13 % when expressed in metric tonnes, 17 % when expressed in CO2-equivalents). By contrast, EU sales and exports of SF6 both increased, by 17 % and 16 % respectively. SF6 is mainly used for electrical equipment. While export levels expressed in CO2-equivalents are higher compared to the preceding years, EU sales dropped in 2011 to levels similar to those observed in the 'financial crisis' year of 2009. Imports generally increased over the period 2007–2011, while EU production appears to have stabilised at levels that are around 20 % lower than those reported in 2007.

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