Operators everywhere are seeking refrigerant solutions that benefit the environment without breaking the bank. That’s why many operators are laser-focused on finding low-GWP (low-global warming potential) solutions. But, how important is GWP as a metric? 

In An Expert’s Take on So-Called “Naturals”, globalFACT executive director Jordan Smith met with refrigeration expert Dr. Richard Powell to discuss the importance of GWP: 

An Expert’s Take on So-Called “Naturals”

globalFACT: Is GWP the ultimate indicator when considering environmental sustainability? 

Dr. Powell: GWP is a simplification. It has technical limitations. GWP is OK for comparing the emissions of the contributing gases, CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorine-containing fluids on a common basis, expressed as mTe CO2 equivalent.


But the major contribution to global warming from all cooling and heat pumping technologies, including hazardous “natural” refrigerants, arises from their consumption of energy. Improving the energy efficiency of fridge and A/C units can make a significant reduction on global warming. This is quantified by the ‘Total Equivalent Warming Impact’ (TEWI) concept that combines the direct and indirect contributions of a cooling technology to global warming, a parameter that is more scientifically sophisticated than GWP.

Although GWP has been adopted by governments to regulate the phase-down of HFCs, it grossly exaggerates the differences between “natural” refrigerants and other options compared to TEWI.