Nonetheless, the US-based company believes that its plans to build a manufacturing plant for non-ozone depleting refrigerant products in Shanghai, China, makes good business sense.
"China ranked as the sixth largest economy by nominal gross domestic product in 2002," said Dr. James Yuann, president, Asia for Honeywell SpecialtyMaterials.
"Honeywell views China as a major opportunity for its core growth businesses and will continue to invest resources to support customers through increased speed of delivery and localisation."
The investment also suggests that China is becoming more aware that with rapid industrialisation comes responsibility. The new facility, expected to be operational in November 2004, will serve as the production and service center in Asia for HFC refrigerants such as R-410A, R-407C and R-404A.
These are environmentally friendlier alternatives to hydro chlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) and chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants being phased out globally as partof the 1990 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
Europe however is moving increasingly away from using HFCs as an industrial refrigerant. The European Council's recent decision to reduce HFC emissions is designed to ensure that the EU will succeed in cutting its greenhouse gas emissions to 8 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012, as required by the Kyoto agreement.
Fluorinated gases such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) currently account for 2 per cent of total EU greenhouse gas emissions. However, their global warming potential is high and many of them have long atmospheric lifetimes.
The food industry has already anticipated this trend. Unilever's ice cream division for example claims that it is committed to buying only HFC-free freezers from 2005. The freezers have already been introduced in Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the UK, and the company claims it will have around 15,000 HFC-free cabinets in its fleet by the end of 2004.
The new freezers use hydrocarbon propane as refrigerant, and do not contribute to global warming as HFCs do.
But Honeywell is confident of expansion. Indeed, the new facility is part of an overall Honeywell Specialty Materials plan for growth in the Asia Pacific region, especially China.
This expansion follows Honeywell's recent increase in HFC chemical manufacturing capacity in the United States, which included more than $200 million in new capital investment. The US and Chinese facilities together will expand Honeywell's globally integrated supply system for refrigerants, with facilities in the United States providing some of the source materials for the Chinese facility.
Honeywell claims that R -410A, a technological innovation with improved heat-carrying properties, allows equipment manufacturers to meet increasingly higher energy efficiency standards for their equipment, in addition to eliminating the use of ozone-depleting chemistry.
"The availability and use of ozone-depleting products worldwide continues to shrink because of environmental regulation," said Richard Preziotti, vicepresident and general manager for Honeywell Chemicals.
"Demand for environmentally friendlier HFC-based refrigerant blends, blowing agents, and other products is increasing in Asia due to domestic growth, regionalenvironmental regulations, and the growing number of equipment manufacturers expanding or relocating production of their products in China and throughoutSoutheast Asia."
The company recently signed a supply agreement with China's Haier Group, one of the world's leading appliance manufacturers, for a variety of products including refrigerant R-410A. It will open a world-class research and development facility in Shanghai in October 2004.
The company also recently acquired manufacturingoperations in Thailand to support the semiconductor industry.