GHG Protocol adds NF3 to reporting guidelines: What is it and why does it matter?

The GHG Protocol comes with many questions. Do you know how to handle it?

The GHG Protocol tool is one of the most widely used methods to identify, quantify, and manage greenhouse gas emissions. Used by governments and the commercial sector the GHG Protocol provides an accepted accounting methodology for emissions calculations. At Carbon Clear we regularly select the methodology for calculating our clients’ emission footprints. If you measure your organisation’s footprint, you may well use it too. 

The Protocol has been amended to include the chemical Nitrogen Trifluoride (NF3). NF3 is an inorganic chemical that is used in plasma etching of silicon wafers and a small number of related high-tech industrial processes. Although often broken down in production, NF3 can be released in the manufacturing of:

  • Semiconductors.
  • LCD panels.
  • Some solar panels.
  • Chemical lasers.

In the past 15 years, silicon chips have become embedded in a vast number of devices: computers, phones, vehicles, and appliances.  At the same time, the falling price of renewable energy technologies and government incentives like the Feed-in Tariff have led to an explosion in the number of solar panels installed around the world. Increased production of these goods means that there is inevitably a higher release of NF3.

Until recently it has not been possible to measure NF3 in the atmosphere and scientists assumed that the release of NF3 in industrial processes was negligible. However, new methods of atmospheric testing have resulted in the conclusion that levels of NF3 in the atmosphere are actually much higher than previously believed. This is important as NF3 is a particularly potent greenhouse gas which is 17,200 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping atmospheric heat over a 100-year time span.

The GHG Protocol reporting guidelines now include NF3 in the accounting methodology under the Corporate Standard, Value Chain (Scope 3) Standard, and Product Standard, reflecting the inclusion of NF3 in the second Kyoto compliance period beginning in 2012.  If your company manufactures products that emit NF3 or the products are made in your value chain, they must be accounted for in future carbon footprints to ensure compliance with GHG Protocol standards.