Trane Technologies: Eliminating Fugitive Emissions from Tracer Gas Losses

Background

Trane Technologies’ Clarksville plant manufactures commercial HVAC units ranging in size from 12.5 tons to 175 tons of cooling capacity. Leak testing of the units’ refrigerant circuits before the final fill of refrigerant and shipment is an important part of the manufacturing process and one that was traditionally a source of significant fugitive emissions at the plant. The Clarksville factory has traditionally used Refrigerant R410A as a tracer gas to test for leaks in their manufactured HVAC finished goods. 

The goal of this project was to eliminate fugitive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with using R410A by shifting to an industrial gas mixture consisting of 95% Nitrogen and 5% Hydrogen (95/5 Mixture). Shifting to a 95/5 Mixture and updating the dispensing system delivered an annual reduction of 50,000 Metric Tons of Scope 1 GHG emissions for the Clarksville site—equating to more than a 40% reduction in Clarksville’s absolute Scope 1 GHG emissions compared to recent operating years. Eliminating R410A, which has a global warming potential (GWP) of 1,924 vs carbon dioxide not only reduces Trane Technologies’ Scope 1 emissions but also their Scope 3 carbon emissions associated with the operation of their HVAC products. The tracer gas project reduced Trane Technologies’ annual Scope 1 emissions by nearly 12%.

Solutions

Trane Technologies determined that fugitive GHG emissions from the leak testing process can be eliminated by partnering with its industrial gas and equipment suppliers. Trane Technologies identified many areas of risk to releasing additional tracer gas and engaged the internal Design and Operations staff to investigate safe, low-carbon alternatives. The team identified the “95/5 Mixture” (95% Nitrogen/5% Hydrogen) as a technically feasible, carbon-free, and cost-effective solution. The GWP for the 95/5 Mixture is zero and switching the tracer gas stations to the 95/5 Mixture was essential to reducing GHG emissions at the plant. Downtime for the lines, engineering time, and cost were the only barriers to this project. These were overcome with careful planning and scheduling and capital funding approval through multiple years of Annual Operations Planning.

The project team was able to complete the project after site preparation efforts and ancillary equipment installation, including new supply and return lines, utility lines (water, electricity, control wires, etc.), and control boxes and control logic. The new equipment addressed fugitive tracer gas losses that used to occur each time the charge hose was decoupled. Since the refrigerant dispensing system was at an advanced age, it was experiencing fugitive losses from the existing transfer lines, hoses, and relief valves. The improvement in performance and elimination of refrigerants translated to annual cost savings of $14,000 and a 58,000-pound reduction in refrigerant usage per year for the Clarksville plant. 

Relief Valve Indicator

Other Benefits

The Clarksville factory is a key operation within Trane Technologies’ Commercial Americas Business Unit and this project had a big impact on overall emissions reductions. The Business Unit exceeded its 5 percent emissions reduction goal for 2021 by reducing GHG emissions by 17 percent and achieving a 48 percent reduction in refrigerant releases. Additionally, the new upgrades addressed equipment reliability issues, and operating procedures were updated in line with the company’s Lean manufacturing principles. The upgrades streamlined equipment maintenance requirements and had a positive impact on the site’s cost of goods sold. 

The tracer gas project at Clarksville is now used as a showcase project for a multi-functional team effort to decarbonize a manufacturing process operation. This single project delivered more than a 40% reduction in Clarksville’s absolute Scope 1 GHG emissions compared to recent operating years and reduced Trane Technologies’ 2021 Scope 1 refrigerant GHG emissions by nearly 12 percent. Trane Technologies is driving towards a low-carbon refrigerant operating model that embraces low-leak or leakless technologies that reduce industrial gas losses and improve financial productivity. 

 

Trane's Clarksville TN factory

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Relief Valve Leak Indicator

Relief Valve Leak Indicator

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(Source : Refrigerant R410A)

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EMISSIONS SAVINGS: 34%

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COST SAVINGS: $14,000 USD

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