High-Global Warming Potential F‑gas Emissions in California: Comparison of Ambient-Based versus Inventory-Based Emission Estimates, and Implications of Refined Estimates

To provide information for greenhouse gas reduction policies, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) inventories annual emissions of high-global-warming potential (GWP) fluorinated gases, the fastest growing sector of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally. Baseline 2008 F-gas emissions estimates for selected chlorofluorocarbons (CFC-12), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC-22), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFC-134a) made with an inventory-based methodology were compared to emissions estimates made by ambient-based measurements. Significant discrepancies were found, with the inventory-based emissions methodology resulting in a systematic 42% under-estimation of CFC-12 emissions from older refrigeration equipment and older vehicles, and a systematic 114% overestimation of emissions for HFC-134a, a refrigerant substitute for phased-out CFCs. Initial, inventory-based estimates for all F-gas emissions had assumed that equipment is no longer in service once it reaches its average lifetime of use. Revised emission estimates using improved models for equipment age at end-of-life, inventories, and leak rates specific to California resulted in F-gas emissions estimates in closer agreement to ambient-based measurements. The discrepancies between inventory-based estimates and ambient-based measurements were reduced from −42% to −6% for CFC-12, and from +114% to +9% for HFC-134a.