Honeywell opens $300 million automotive refrigerant plant

Honeywell said the Solstice production line created 55 new jobs at the Louisiana plant. Photo credit: Honeywell

Amid growing global demand for eco-friendly automotive air conditioners, Honeywell International Inc. said it launched production of its Solstice yf refrigerant in its new $300 million plant in Geismar, La.

"Half the cars manufactured in the U.S. today are using this product and that will convert to 100 percent by 2021," Honeywell Vice President Ken Gayer told TV station WAFB in Baton Rouge.

Demand for green refrigerants surged in 2013, when the European Union began requiring refrigerants with a "global warming potential" of less than 150, meaning that the refrigerants must be less than 150 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Starting this year, the mandate was to expand to all new passenger cars. In 2013, only half a million vehicles on the road worldwide used the eco-friendly refrigerants.

Honeywell says the old refrigerant it produced, R-134a, has a global warming potential of 1,300. Solstice yf, meanwhile, has a global warming potential of less than 1 and breaks down in the atmosphere within days, the company says.

Now, more than 20 million cars contain eco-friendly refrigerants and Honeywell says the number will surpass 40 million this year.

Europe isn't alone in looking for greener refrigerants. Honeywell has supply agreements for Solstice yf in Japan, China and India. Korea has adopted corporate average fuel economy standards similar to those of the EU, and Turkey plans its own standard in 2018, according to Honeywell.

Japan has adopted voluntary regulations to phase out old refrigerants beginning in 2023, and many Canadian cars will be converted to yf when carmakers convert their U.S. models.

Honeywell employs around 450 people at the Geismar plant, including 55 jobs created by the Solstice production line.

You can reach Jackie Charniga at jcharniga@crain.com

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