1Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA
2Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
3Center for Global Change Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
4Eindhoven Centre for Sustainability, Technical University Eindhoven, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
5Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Aspendale, Victoria, Australia
6School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
7School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Abstract. HFC-23 (also known as CHF3, fluoroform or trifluoromethane) is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG), with a global warming potential (GWP) of 14 800 for a 100-year time horizon. It is an unavoidable by-product of HCFC-22 (CHClF2, chlorodifluoromethane) production. HCFC-22, an ozone depleting substance (ODS), is used extensively in commercial refrigeration and air conditioning, in the extruded polystyrene (XPS) foam industries (dispersive applications) and also as a feedstock in fluoropolymer manufacture (a non-dispersive use). Aside from small markets in specialty uses, HFC-23 has historically been considered a waste gas that was, and often still is, simply vented to the atmosphere. Efforts have been made in the past two decades to reduce HFC-23 emissions, including destruction (incineration) in facilities in developing countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC) Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and by process optimization and/or voluntary incineration by most producers in developed countries.
We present observations of lower-tropospheric mole fractions of HFC-23 measured by "Medusa" GC/MSD instruments from ambient air sampled in situ at the Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE) network of five remote sites and in Cape Grim air archive (CGAA) samples (1978–2009) from Tasmania, Australia. These observations are used with the AGAGE 2-D atmospheric 12-box model and an inverse method to produce model mole fractions and a "top-down" HFC-23 emission history. The model 2009 annual mean global lower-tropospheric background abundance is 22.8 (±0.2) pmol mol−1. The derived HFC-23 emissions show a "plateau" during 1997–2003, followed by a rapid ~50% increase to a peak of 15.0 (+1.3/−1.2) Gg/yr in 2006. Following this peak, emissions of HFC-23 declined rapidly to 8.6 (+0.9/−1.0) Gg/yr in 2009, the lowest annual emission of the past 15 years.
We derive a 1990–2008 "bottom-up" HFC-23 emission history using data from the United Nations Environment Programme and the UNFCCC. Comparison with the top-down HFC-23 emission history shows agreement within the stated uncertainties. In the 1990s, HFC-23 emissions from developed countries dominated all other sources, then began to decline and eventually became fairly constant during 2003–2008. From the beginning of that plateau, the major factor determining the annual dynamics of global HFC-23 emissions became the historical rise of HCFC-22 production for dispersive uses in developing countries to a peak in 2007. Thereafter in 2007–2009, incineration through CDM projects became a larger factor, reducing global HFC-23 emissions despite rapidly rising HCFC-22 feedstock production in developing countries.