GE's Decatur Plant Begins Using Cyclopentane as Blowing Agent
Apr 29, 2011
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GE Appliances & Lighting's Decatur, AL plant us currently making the transition to using cyclopentane as its foam-blowing agent in top-freezer refrigerators in 16-, 17-, and 18-cubic-foot sizes. The change will make GE the first full-line appliance OEM to use cyclopentane as an insulation foam-blowing agent in residential refrigerators.

Cyclopentane is a hydrocarbon (HC) with significant environmental benefits – it has zero ozone depletion potential (ODP) and very low global warming potential (GWP). It is widely used as a foam-blowing agent in refrigerators outside the United States. GE said turning to cyclopentane will reduce the Decatur plant's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the foam-blowing process by 99%.

GE had been using HFC-134a as a blowing agent. HFC-134a and other hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) have zero ODP but many are still considered environmentally harmful because of a high GWP.

"GE Appliances & Lighting is looking at every aspect of environmental stewardship for our appliances — from manufacturing processes to more responsible product end-of-life management,” said Paul Surowiec, general manager, refrigeration, GE Appliances & Lighting.

GE estimates that the change will reduce Decatur plant GHG emissions from the foam-insulating process by more than 400,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent annually. GE said this was equal to the annual emissions of 78,000 cars on U.S. roads. GE said it is also about the same as the annual CO2 absorbed by more than 100,000 acres of southeastern U.S. forest.

This reduction will actually reduce the GHG emissions of the entire Decatur manufacturing facility by more than 80%.

Initial GE tests indicate the new blowing agent increases the efficiency of the insulating foam compared to the previously used HFC-134a.

The photo, from the GE Decatur plant, shows a robotic arm spraying insulating foam.

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