Hydrocarbons are an environmentally friendly, non-toxic, non-ozone-depleting replacement for obsolete Chlorofluorocarbons CFCs importation and production of which were banned from December 31, 1995. Hydrocarbon refrigerants are naturally occurring substances obtained when oil and gas are produced and are:

  • Safe to use with proper handling.
  • Highly efficient, reducing energy use in refrigeration and air conditioning systems.
  • Able to replace CFC R 12; CFC R22, and HFC R 134a refrigerants in existing, systems without components or oils having to be changed.
  • Economical - low purchase price as well as lower system running costs.

Hydrocarbon refrigerants have been in use since 1867, and, in conjunction with ammonia, were the most widely used refrigerants prior to the introduction of chemical refrigerants in the 1930s. Australia is a major producer of hydrocarbons, which are processed for a wide range of applications, such as fuels, lubricants, plastics and chemicals. Hydrocarbon gases are used extensively as pressure pack propellants: for portable and static energy purposes: and now as replacements for chemical refrigerants.

Hydrocarbon Refrigerant Safety

Like many commonly used commodities such as petrol, natural gas and electricity, the use of HC refrigerants requires common sense and observance of adequate safety procedures. It is important to understand the volume of hydrocarbon refrigerant involved m motor vehicle air conditioning and refrigeration system applications. A typical car air conditioning system contains about a coffee cup full of liquid refrigerant, and a small refrigerator contains about an eggcup full.

Australian Standard AS 1596 - 1989 (LP Gas Storage and Handling) established safety guidelines for storage and handling of liquefied petroleum gas products, which include hydrocarbon refrigerants. Australian Standard AS 1677 (Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Safety), recently, completed and soon to be released, includes comprehensive procedures for the use of all refrigerants, including Hydrocarbons.  In all applications hydrocarbon refrigerants are much safer for the consumer than chemical refrigerants, most of which degrade producing toxic by products following accidental release in the presence of an adequate heat source.  Research by International risk assessment engineers, the Arthur D. Little Group indicates an extremely low risk to motor vehicle occupants from accidental release of hydrocarbon refrigerant.  The School of Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering, University of N.S.W., is a world leader in the application of these products, and have documented* the safety and efficiency of HC refri2erants in motor vehicle air conditioners. There is also overwhelming evidence of the environmental benefits and safety of HC refrigerants.

The most significant point to be made is that there is a total lack of technical evidence to refute the case for hydrocarbon refrigerants.

Australia is particularly vulnerable to the effects of Global Warming and the degradation of the Ozone layer. At this time the supply of CFC refrigerants is practically exhausted. HCFC (hydrochlorofluorocarbon refrigerants) do less damage to the Ozone Layer than CFCs but are still detrimental and a cause of global warming. Currently it is intended that HCFCs be phased out by the year 2015, or sooner. Several European countries have decided on an earlier phase out period for HCFCS. EFC refrigerants (of which R134a is one of the more common types) have not been a universal success. Apart from having a very high Global Warming Potential, they have proved to be excessive energy consumers in most applications; poor performers in high ambient conditions- and are particularly dangerous when exposed to moisture or a heat source causing degradation. CFC, HCFC and HFC refrigerants are easily replaced with a hydrocarbon product.

All major refrigerator manufacturers in Europe have universally adopted hydrocarbon refrigerants. The refrigeration systems of four out of five of the largest UK supermarket chains have been - converted over to HC refrigerants with the obvious advantages of being recognized as environmentally I conscious, while energy savings have been outstanding. Chinese refrigerator design and manufacture is being geared to hydrocarbon technology instead of the American HFC chemical refrigerants.

The first Australian hydrocarbon refrigerator, using  'Greenfreeze' technology was produced by Email in February 1995. Email was promptly presented with a Federal award for their contribution to the protection of the environment. Greenpeace also commended the occasion. Email will be providing the latest hydrocarbon technology refrigerators for the Olympic villa-e at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Greenfreeze has become the dominant technology in Europe. Many models of 'Greenfreeze' refrigerators are now on sale in Germany, Austria, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Britain. All of the major European companies, Bosch, Siemens, Electrolux. Liebherr, Miele, Quelle, Vestfrost, Whirlpool, Bauknecht, Foron, and AEG are marketing Greenfreeze technology based refrigerators. 100 percent of the German market has converted to Greenfreeze technology.


In Australia, many tonnes of HR12 and HR22 were distributed since late 1995, (enough refrigerant to charge the systems of hundreds and thousands of motor vehicles), and not one safety or flammability incident has been reported.  However, since 1996, four car air conditioning fires have been reported – all four vehicles were charged with fluorocarbon refrigerant – one with CFC R12 and three with HFC R134A, supposedly non flammable refrigerants!  The point to be noted here is that all refrigerants become flammable due to the oil vapour content of the gases when being discharged of the system.