Emissions and supply of fluorinated greenhouse gases

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-354-en
Also known as: CSI 044 , CLIM 048
Created 07 May 2019 Last modified 29 May 2019
20 min read

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Fluorinated greenhouse gases reported under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change accounted for approximately 3 % of overall greenhouse gas emissions expressed in tonnes CO 2  equivalent in the EU in 2016. Hydrofluorocarbons account for more than 90 % of fluorinated greenhouse gas emissions. Remaining emissions are accounted for by perfluorinated greenhouse gases, i.e. perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride. The year 2015 was the first year of declining fluorinated greenhouse emissions (3 %) in the EU in 15 years. In 2016, total fluorinated greenhouse gas emissions rose by 0.6 % due to increases in perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride, while hydrofluorocarbons decreased further by 0.1 %. For most applications of fluorinated greenhouse gases, there is a significant time lag between the supply of these gases for industrial use and emissions: emissions mainly occur through the leakage of gases contained in products or equipment, or at the end of the product or equipment lifetime if fluorinated greenhouse gases are not fully recovered and destroyed or re-used. The supply of fluorinated greenhouse gases to the EU, measured in CO 2 equivalents, has been decreasing since 2010, with the exception of 2014, which saw extraordinarily high levels of hydrofluorocarbon imports prior to the EU-wide hydrofluorocarbon phase-down, coming into effect in 2015 under the EU F-gas Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 517/2014). Hydrofluorocarbons account for 80 % of present fluorinated greenhouse gas supply and are used primarily as refrigerants in refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment. Other important uses of hydrofluorocarbons include as foam-blowing agents and in aerosols. Perfluorinated greenhouse gases (20 % of supply in 2016) are mainly used as protective gases in electrical equipment and as etching agents in electronics manufacture. The supply of unsaturated hydrofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons that have low global warming potential approximately doubled each year from 2014 to 2017, replacing hydrofluorocarbons that have high global warming potential. Trends in the use of non-halogenated refrigerants, however, which can also substitute hydrofluorocarbons, are not covered by statistics. The EU is on track to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons, in terms of both complying, since 2015, with its internal targets under the EU F-Gas Regulation and reaching the hydrofluorocarbon consumption limit, coming into effect in 2019, under the Montreal Protocol.

Key messages

Fluorinated greenhouse gases reported under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change accounted for approximately 3 % of overall greenhouse gas emissions expressed in tonnes COequivalent in the EU in 2016. Hydrofluorocarbons account for more than 90 % of fluorinated greenhouse gas emissions. Remaining emissions are accounted for by perfluorinated greenhouse gases, i.e. perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride.

The year 2015 was the first year of declining fluorinated greenhouse emissions (3 %) in the EU in 15 years. In 2016, total fluorinated greenhouse gas emissions rose by 0.6 % due to increases in perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride, while hydrofluorocarbons decreased further by 0.1 %.

For most applications of fluorinated greenhouse gases, there is a significant time lag between the supply of these gases for industrial use and emissions: emissions mainly occur through the leakage of gases contained in products or equipment, or at the end of the product or equipment lifetime if fluorinated greenhouse gases are not fully recovered and destroyed or re-used.

The supply of fluorinated greenhouse gases to the EU, measured in CO2 equivalents, has been decreasing since 2010, with the exception of 2014, which saw extraordinarily high levels of hydrofluorocarbon imports prior to the EU-wide hydrofluorocarbon phase-down, coming into effect in 2015 under the EU F-gas Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 517/2014). Hydrofluorocarbons account for 80 % of present fluorinated greenhouse gas supply and are used primarily as refrigerants in refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment. Other important uses of hydrofluorocarbons include as foam-blowing agents and in aerosols. Perfluorinated greenhouse gases (20 % of supply in 2016) are mainly used as protective gases in electrical equipment and as etching agents in electronics manufacture.

The supply of unsaturated hydrofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons that have low global warming potential approximately doubled each year from 2014 to 2017, replacing hydrofluorocarbons that have high global warming potential. Trends in the use of non-halogenated refrigerants, however, which can also substitute hydrofluorocarbons, are not covered by statistics.

The EU is on track to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons, in terms of both complying, since 2015, with its internal targets under the EU F-Gas Regulation and reaching the hydrofluorocarbon consumption limit, coming into effect in 2019, under the Montreal Protocol.

What progress is being made towards reducing emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases?

Emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases)

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Following 13 years of increases in fluorinated greenhouse gas (F-gas) emissions in the EU, reported under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), 2015 was the first year to see a decrease (Fig. 1). In 2016, total F-gas emissions rose by 0.6 % due to increases in perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), while hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) decreased further by 0.1 %. At present, HFCs account for more than 90 % of CO2 equivalent F-gas emissions, weighted by their respective global warming potentials (GWPs). Remaining F-gas emissions are accounted for by perfluorinated gases, i.e. PFCs, SF6 and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).

Total emissions of F-gases saw an overall increase between 1990 and 2014, by about 70 %. A brief downturn from 1998 reflects a significant drop in emissions of the HFC-23 that occurs as a by-product of the production of the refrigerant HCFC-22, which is an ozone-depleting substance (ODS) controlled under the Montreal Protocol, following the installation of abatement systems and a decrease in HCFC-22 production. HFC emissions have more than tripled since 1990, with the proportion of total F-gas emissions accounted for by HFCs rising from 41 % in 1990 to 90 % in 2016. The overall growth in total HFC emissions had two main drivers. First, the substitution of ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) with HFCs in applications such as refrigeration and air conditioning, and, second, the growth of the refrigeration and air conditioning sector as a whole. The demand for cooling and air conditioning has been increasing, especially in retail sector refrigeration and building and vehicle air conditioning. The drop in HFC emissions observed since 2015 is the result of EU-wide policies and measures, in particular the EU F-Gas Regulations (Regulations No 842/2006 and No 517/2014) and complementary Member State action, aimed at reducing HFC leakage from refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, encouraging the recovery of gases at the end of equipment lifetime, promoting the shift to non-HFC refrigerants, banning the use of HFCs for a few specific applications and capping the EU-wide HFC supply starting in 2015. In addition to the F-gas Regulations, EU Directive 2006/40/EC on mobile air conditioning (the MAC Directive) contributed to the decrease in HFC emissions by effectively limiting the use of high-GWP refrigerants in new vehicles.

In contrast to the rising trend in F-gas emissions as a whole, emissions of PFCs and SF6 have decreased by 84 % and 38 %, respectively, since 1990. NF3 emissions represent approximately 0.05 % of total F-gas emissions.

Note that other fluorinated gases such as unsaturated HFCs and HCFCs or hydrofluoroethers (HFEs), which are covered in Annex II to the EU F-gas Regulation (No 517/2014), are not subject to emissions reporting under the UNFCCC.

How is the supply of fluorinated greenhouse gases to the EU market developing?

EU supply of fluorinated greenhouse gases

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Statistics on the supply of F-gases, measured in tonnes CO2 equivalent, reveal declining trends for bulk supply for the period 2010-2013 and for total supply (including equipment imports) since 2014 (Fig. 2). The year 2014 was characterised by extraordinarily high levels of bulk HFC imports. This was the last year before the EU-wide HFC cap came into effect under the HFC phase-down established by the F-gas Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 517/2014).

The rise in imports of HFCs in equipment since 2014 primarily reflects more complete reporting by importing companies following the introduction of a reporting obligation. The levels of HFCs in imported refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump (RACHP) equipment were not limited by the HFC phase-down before 2017. In 2017, HFCs accounted for 80 % of the GWP-weighted supply of F-gases, while perfluorinated gases (PFCs, SF6 and NF3) accounted for 20 %. In comparison with 2016, the total HFC supply was 7 % lower in 2017, while the supply of perfluorinated gases was 26 % higher.

Note that the scope of gases covered in Fig. 2 is consistent with emissions, as shown in Fig. 1, and does not include other fluorinated gases reported by companies under the F-gas Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 517/2014). Among those, unsaturated HFCs and HCFCs are of particular relevance as low-GWP substitutes for HFCs. The EU supply of unsaturated HFCs approximately doubled each year from 2014 to 2017. The use of non-halogenated refrigerants, which also serve as HFC substitutes, is not covered by reporting under the F-gas Regulation.

For most applications of F-gases, there is a significant time lag between the supply of these gases for industrial uses and emissions. Emissions mainly occur through the leakage of gases contained in products or equipment, or at the end of the product or equipment lifetime if the F-gases are not fully recovered and destroyed or re-used.

In which sectors are fluorinated greenhouse gases used?

Intended applications of fluorinated greenhouse gases supplied to the EU in 2017

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The use of F-gases as refrigerants in RACHP equipment accounted for more than two thirds of EU, GWP-weighted F-gas supply in 2017 (Fig. 3). Other relevant uses are in foams, aerosols, electrical equipment and semiconductor photovoltaics, as well as in the manufacture of other electronics.

Recent use patterns of F-gases differ strongly between HFCs and perfluorinated gases (PFCs, SF6 and NF3). HFCs are mainly used as refrigerants and, to a lesser extent, as foam-blowing agents and in aerosols. Perfluorinated gases freshly supplied to the EU are mainly used as protective gases in electrical equipment and as etching agents in electronics manufacture.

What progress is the EU making towards hydrofluorocarbon phase-down?

Progress under the EU-wide hydrofluorocarbon phase-down set out in the F-gas Regulation

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EU progress towards the worldwide hydrofluorocarbon consumption phase-down under the Montreal Protocol

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Phase-down schemes for HFCs were first established in the EU under the F-gas Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 517/2014) and later globally under the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

The hydrofluorocarbon phase-down under the EU F-gas Regulation

The EU is on track to meet the targets of the F-gas Regulation HFC phase-down (Fig. 4). HFCs placed on the market are well below the maximum quantity since the phase-down started in 2015. For 2015, an overachievement of 8 % can be observed. For 2016, this figure was close to 4 %. In 2017, the margin was 0.4 % (based on preliminary data).

Under the F-gas Regulation phase-down, the level of HFCs that can be placed annually on the EU market is capped. The HFC quota is then progressively reduced, hence the term 'phase-down'. Companies that deal in HFCs receive quotas annually that are transferrable under certain conditions, but, unlike emissions allowances under the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), they are not freely tradable. To legally place HFC bulk gases on the EU market, companies must hold sufficient quotas. Quotas are expressed in tonnes CO2 equivalent, rather than physical tonnes of gases, to create an incentive to use gases with lower GWPs. From 2017 onwards, HFCs contained in RACHP equipment have also been covered by the F-gas Regulation quota mechanism. To import such equipment, importers must acquire authorisations to use quotas from quota-holding companies. Notably, it is the sale of authorisations by the quota holder and not the actual import of RACHP equipment by the authorised party that counts as 'placing on the market' (POM). Thus, equipment imports can physically occur in a later year, while the sale of authorisations must be covered by quotas for the year of the sale. Contrary to authorisations, quotas are time-stamped for a specific year and unused quotas cannot be carried over to the following year.

EU progress towards the worldwide hydrofluorocarbon phase-down under the Montreal Protocol

The EU is on track to comply with its obligations under the Montreal Protocol HFC consumption phase-down, coming into effect in 2019. Despite a 3 % rise compared with 2016, EU HFC consumption in 2017 was 12 % below the amount allowed for 2019 (Fig. 5). EU consumption of HFCs covered under the Montreal Protocol has been declining since 2010 with the exception of 2014, where high HFC consumption levels reflect the situation observed for HFC supply.

The Montreal Protocol was amended to regulate HFCs in October 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda (the 'Kigali Amendment'). Both developed and developing countries have taken on mandatory commitments to reduce the production and consumption of HFCs in the next three decades. Under the amended protocol, for the EU and other developed countries, HFC consumption is limited to 90 % of the baseline, starting in 2019, with further reduction steps until a 15 % level is reached from 2036 onwards.

Indicator specification and metadata

Indicator definition

This indicator tracks trends since 1990 in anthropogenic emissions of the F-gases listed below. The indicator also tracks trends since 2007 in the supply of F-gases. Furthermore, the shares of major intended applications of EU supply are given for the latest available reporting year.

EU supply is a parameter derived from company reporting under the F-gas Regulation that provides information on the actual use of F-gases by EU industries. It focuses on potentially emission-relevant supplies of gases to EU industries and thus does not cover supplies intended for feedstock use or destruction.

The lists of gases covered in the supply part of the indicator differ between the period 2007-2013 and the period starting in 2014. For the period 2007-2013, data on only supply in bulk are available. (The term 'bulk' refers to shipments of gases contained in gas containers of all sizes, ranging from large ISO containers of several tonnes to small gas bottles of a few grams.) Since 2014, supply within products and equipment has been recorded. Both of these add up to total EU supply.

Bulk supply is calculated by first adding reported amounts for:

  • production
  • bulk imports
  • reclamation
  • stocks from own production or imports held on 1 January of the reporting year

and then subtracting the following reported amounts:

  • bulk exports
  • amounts used as feedstock
  • amounts imported for destruction
  • amounts from own production sent for destruction before sales
  • stocks from own production or imports held on 31 December of the reporting year.

Gas supplies in products and equipment are the gas contents of products and equipment imported and placed on the EU market.

Lists of gases 

All gases listed have been tracked for emissions since 1990. Gases in bold have not been tracked for supply in all years since 2007. Gases beyond the supply scope only for 2007-2013 are given in italics.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)

Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)

Other perfluorinated gases

HFC-23

PFC-14 (CF4)

SF6

HFC-32

PFC-116 (C2F6)

NF3

HFC-41

PFC-218 (C3F8)

 

HFC-43-10mee

PFC-3-1-10 (C4F10)

 

HFC-125

PFC-318 (c-C4F8)

 

HFC-134

PFC-4-1-12 (C5F12)

 

HFC-134a

PFC-5-1-14 (C6F14)

 

HFC-143

PFC-9-1-18 (C10F18)

 

HFC-143a

PFC-216 (c-C3F6)

 

HFC-152

 

 

HFC-152a

 

 

HFC-161

 

 

HFC-227ea

 

 

HFC-236cb

 

 

HFC-236ea

 

 

HFC-236fa

 

 

HFC-245ca

 

 

HFC-245fa

 

 

HFC-365mfc

 

 

Where the abovementioned gases are used or emitted as part of a mixture of gases, the corresponding proportions are accounted for. For tracking HFC consumption under the Montreal Protocol, only the proportions of HFCs in HFC-containing mixtures are accounted for. HFC-161 is excluded from the scope of the Montreal Protocol.

Units

The units used in this indicator are Mt CO2 equivalent (GWP AR4) , that is, million tonnes COequivalent calculated with the GWPs given in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report.

For tracking progress under the HFC phase-down of the EU F-gas Regulation, mixtures containing HFCs are included in the scope of the phase-down. The GWP of a mixture includes the GWP of non-HFC constituent gases according to Annex IV to Regulation (EU) No 517/2014 (the F-gas Regulation).

Intended applications. Percentages based on GWP AR4 weighted tonnage.


Policy context and targets

Context description

Fluorinated gases contribute to global warming, and emissions of fluorinated gases, which are not covered by the Montreal Protocol, are included under the UNFCCC. Since 2015, emission reporting for the full time series since 1990 has been carried out in accordance with the 2006 IPCC guidelines and uses the GWPs of the Fourth IPCC Assessment Report (AR4). For a list of fluorinated gases reportable under the UNFCCC, please refer to the indicator definition. Companies reporting under the 'old' EU F-gas Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 842/2006, applicable 2007-2014) and under the revised, ‘new’, F-gas Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 517/2014, applicable since 2015) must cover an extended list of fluorinated gases. To ensure consistency, in this indicator the supplies of only those fluorinated gases that are also reportable under the UNFCCC are tracked.

At European level, two key legislative instruments focus on fluorinated gases:

  1. Regulation No 517/2014 on fluorinated greenhouse gases and repealing Regulation No 842/2006 (F-gas Regulation);
  2. Directive 2006/40/EC relating to emissions from air-conditioning systems in motor vehicles (MAC Directive).

The F-gas Regulation follows several tracks:

  • It aims to improve the 'leak-tightness' of equipment containing F-gases. Related measures comprise labelling equipment containing fluorinated gases, the training and certification of personnel and companies that handle these types of gases, the containment of gases within equipment and the proper recovery of gases from equipment that is no longer in use.
  • It promotes avoiding the use of fluorinated gases in applications for which more environmentally superior alternatives are cost effective. Related measures include restrictions on the use and marketing of fluorinated gases in such cases.
  • Large reductions in F-gas use and emissions are expected to result from a new measure that will progressively cap allowed sales of HFCs on the EU market ('phase-down').

The MAC Directive requires the gradual phase-out of F-gases with a GWP of > 150 in new systems in the period 2011-2017 in the EU.

At global level, the Montreal Protocol was amended to regulate HFCs in October 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda (the 'Kigali Amendment'). Both developed and developing countries have taken on mandatory commitments to reduce the production and consumption of HFCs in the next three decades. Under the amended protocol, for the EU and other developed countries, HFC consumption is limited to 90 % of the baseline starting in 2019, with further reduction steps planned until 15 % of baseline is reached from 2036 onwards.

Targets

Under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, no separate targets for F-gases have been specified.

In the EU context, the revised, 'new', F-gas Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 517/2014) aims to reduce emissions by two thirds of the 2010 level by 2030.

Related policy documents

  • Directive 2006/40/EC
    Directive 2006/40/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2006 relating to emissions from air-conditioning systems in motor vehicles and amending Council Directive 70/156/EEC
  • Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
    Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; adopted at COP3 in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997
  • Regulation (EC) No 842/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2006 on certain fluorinated greenhouse gases
    The 'old' F-gases regulation follows two tracks of action: Improving the prevention of leaks from equipment containing F-gases. Measures comprise: containment of gases and proper recovery of equipment; training and certification of personnel and of companies handling these gases; labeling of equipment containing F-gases; reporting on imports, exports and production of F-gases.  Avoiding F-gases in some applications where environmentally superior alternatives are cost-effective. Measures include restrictions on the marketing and use of certain products and equipment containing F-gases. The Regulation has been supplemented by 10 implementing acts or 'Commission Regulations' (see Documentation tab above). Furthermore, reporting provisions have been introduced to facilitate monitoring of the Regulation's measures and ensure that its objectives are being met.
  • Regulation (EU) No 517/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 on fluorinated greenhouse gases and repealing Regulation (EC) No 842/2006
    The 'new' F-Gas Regulation 517/2014 maintains many measures of the 'old' F-Gas Regulation 842/2006, in particular related to leak prevention, recovery, certification of technicians and selected restrictions on the use and marketing of F-gases. Large reductions in F-gas use and emissions are expected from a new measure, which will progressively cap allowed sales of HFCs on the EU market ('phase-down'). Reductions are also expected from bans of F-gases with a high Global Warming Potential (GWP).
  • The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer
    The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer: The  Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

This indicator presents GWP-weighted emissions of fluorinated gases as officially reported by the 28 EU Member States.

Furthermore, the indicator presents aggregated EU supply in units of Mt CO2 equivalent, which is the physical amount of gases supplied, multiplied by their respective GWP. Data are based on company reporting under Article 6 of the 'old' F-gas Regulation (No 842/2006) and Article 19 of the ‘new’ F-gas Regulation (No 517/2014).

For the period 2007-2013 (reporting under the ‘old’ F-gas Regulation, No 842/2006), data on only supply in bulk are available. Since 2014 (reporting under the ‘new’ F-gas Regulation, No 517/2014), supplies within products and equipment have been recorded as well, and both add up to total EU supply.

Bulk supply is calculated by first adding reported amounts for:

  • production
  • bulk imports
  • reclamation
  • stocks from own production or imports held on 1 January of the reporting year

and then subtracting the following reported amounts:

  • bulk exports
  • amounts used as feedstock
  • amounts imported for destruction
  • amounts from own production sent for destruction before sales
  • stocks from own production or imports held on 31 December of the reporting year.

Gas supplies in products and equipment are the gas contents of products and equipment imported and placed on the EU market.

For progress under the EU HFC-phase-down, POM is calculated as follows for all HFCs and mixtures containing HFCs, with physical mass converted into CO2 equivalents using the GWPs of AR4:

  • quota-relevant POM = quota-relevant physical POM + issued authorisations + imported RACHP equipment, where not covered by quota authorisations held by the importer, and where:
    • quota-relevant physical POM (relevant starting 2015) = physical POM as given in section 4M of the reporting questionnaire – exempted quantities as given in section 5J of the reporting questionnaire;
    • issued authorisations (relevant starting 2015) are those given in section 9A of the reporting questionnaire;
    • imported RACHP equipment, where not covered by quota authorisations held by the importer (relevant starting 2017) = calculated amount of imported HFCs in need of authorisation to use HFC quota (as given in section 13D of the reporting questionnaire) - available authorisations, including delegations of authorisations (as given in section 13A of the reporting questionnaire).

Under the Montreal Protocol, the HFC phase-down is framed for consumption of HFCs. Consumption is calculated as production + bulk imports – bulk exports – destruction – feedstock use of HFCs.

All information provided to the European Commission and the European Environment Agency (EEA) on transactions of F-gases in the EU is treated as strictly confidential. The Commission and the EEA have established procedures to ensure that all of the data relating to individual companies will be kept strictly confidential. No company-specific information is disclosed to the public; all company data are aggregated before publication. These procedures limit the release of data that might significantly rely on reports from less than three company groups. To this end, company groups that contribute less than 5 % do not count towards the 'three-company rule'. Concerns over confidentiality can be addressed to the European Commission or to the entity designated by the European Commission.

Methodology for gap filling

No methodology for gap filling has been specified. Probably this info has been added together with indicator calculation.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sets uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sources

Metadata

Topics:

information.png Tags:
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DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Policy-effectiveness indicator (Type D)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 044
  • CLIM 048
Temporal coverage:

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year

EEA Contact Info

Peder Gabrielsen
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