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Are The F-Gas Regulations Working?
Posted by: Richard Firth on: 13 April 2021
Handling of F-Gases in the refrigeration and air conditioning sector is considered essential and is therefore regulated. For this reason, there are measures in place to manage the processes involved for safe handling.
European member states agreed to set some measures to regulate F-Gas. However, people continue to turn a blind eye to strict adherence to the rules. Reports from various companies and organizations show that the effects of F-Gas continue to be felt even as the regulations are in place. Global warming and other climatic issues threaten the world in a big way and there is a need for everyone to work together to improve the climatic conditions. There have been great strides made in Europe to help deal with global warming. The measures include the F-Gas regulations and the HFC strategic timetable.
While these measures are good and welcomed, failure to have them fully enforced is a setback for the main goal. The EU often reports that the F-Gases regulations are working well and that they are effective. It is encouraging to hear of these reports but there are varying opinions from other agencies on the implementation of F-Gas regulations. The 2018 phase-down target by the EU was largely achieved by a 1% margin. This is according to the European Environment Agency demonstrating the effectiveness of the F-gas laws.
There are very many setbacks, however, that face the implementation of these guidelines. There are large sales of refrigerants and not all are legal.
Illegally sold refrigerants are brought into the UK and EU illegally in disposable cylinders. Since they are being sold and bought, it tells that there are still many people who work in the refrigerant sectors and do not follow the set guidelines.
It is also an unfortunate turn of events that the customs officials all over the European region were unaware of the illegal importation and selling of the refrigerants. This is especially at a time when the European countries are pushing for better enforcement of the F-Gases rules.
The European Commission including member states is mandated to ascertain that the customs officials understand the set F-Gas guidelines well. Those who deal with the illegal cylinders do so fully aware that it is illegal. Following stringent measures by the relevant authorities in this region, the selling of the illegal disposable cylinders containing refrigerants has been highly reduced. This is especially online where this trade was happening quite a lot. This is seen as a step towards proper implementation of guidelines by the relevant bodies. However, it is still obvious that a lot needs to be done.
According to the F-Gas regulations, those who fail to abide should undergo strict policing repercussions. The Environment Agency is authorized to immediately impose fines of as much as £200,000 on-the-spot. This is a good move to make people shy away from abusing the guidelines on F-Gas. Many people went unpunished or without being fined before but this has since changed.
The refrigerant market in the UK has, therefore, changed as seen in the Milan Mostra Convegno exhibition. Most of the refrigeration and air conditioning manufacturers have since moved their systems to R32.
According to the UK F-gas regulations under Article 10, fluorinated greenhouse gases should be sold to and bought by activities that recognize the relevant accreditations according to what is stipulated in Article 10 or events where those who hold a certificate or relevant training accreditation get employed, according to Article 10(2) and (5). However, these regulations of Article 10 are not fully complied with and this is a huge setback to the F-Gas regulations in the UK. The F-Gases regulations also state that the importation of HFC refrigerant into the EU should only be done by people with the quota allowance that is needed. This is another regulation that is not being fully adhered to, meaning that the F-gases regulations still have some loopholes that should be looked into.
As per reports in the UK, air conditioning equipment that is not hermetically sealed is often sold to people and companies that are not F-gas certified. In the UK, this is an illegal practice that authorities need to look into. Otherwise, the F-Gases regulations will not be helping to ensure safe gases in the environment when they are not fully followed. These non-hermetically sealed appliances under Article 11 (5) are charged with fluorinated greenhouses. It is stated that these appliances should only be sold to end-users when there is proof that the installation will be handled by a practicing certified as per the Article 10 stipulations.
However, a lot of sales take place without sellers checking on the accreditations. This means that the equipment can be owned and operated by people who are not certified or trained. In a big way, this affects the implementation of the F-Gases regulations.
Another guideline concerning the F-Gas regulations is that all the member states of the EU are required by law to have penalties set for those who break the F-Gases regulations. Every country, including the UK, decides independently on the level of penalties to impose. The penalties are required to be effective, proportionate, and dissuasive. In the UK, according to the set penalties, an offender can be fined €1,120 to €225,000. In some countries, however, the fines are not much. The main setback with the imposed fines is that they are not being imposed. Countries such as the UK have high fines for F-Gas regulations offenders, yet the fines are not imposed. This makes it easy for people and companies to evade the F-Gas regulations and they will get away with it. With proper enforcement of the regulations that are in place currently, the F-Gases sector can be managed well. It would not be necessary to have strict measures written down and are not being enforced. Enforcement is what makes the regulations effective and not only having them in the record.
The UK still has many F-Gas cases that escape unaddressed. More agencies and organizations continue to team up to ensure the F-Gas regulations are followed and that people understand why the guidelines are important. These partnerships have been welcomed by many industry shareholders and this is a positive move towards achieving proper use and management of F-gases.
It is important for industry players to clearly understand the difference between counterfeit refrigerants and illegally imported refrigerants. According to the OLAF, this understanding will help people to know how to choose legal items in the sector.
The UK F-gas regulations were adapted to support the goal of the European Community to reduce the use of harmful F-gases. The gases include the HFCs and PFCs and their impact on the ozone layer. The implementation of these rules needs proper follow-up to ensure people understand and adhere to them. The refrigerant and air conditioning sector has various gases, processes, and devices that users need to understand. This requires training and accreditation. Those handling equipment and processes need theory and practical knowledge.
When it comes to global warming potential, F-Gases are about 20,000 times more powerful than CO2. This makes these gases quite dangerous and they need to be handled with utmost care. The GWP mode of calculation was reviewed in the 2015 F-gas regulations. In the new GWP way of calculation, the equal measure tonnes of CO2 are reflected on particular HFCs.
In every two variant specifications and size, therefore, the GWP might be different based on the particular HFC that was used. For proper regulation, therefore, it is important to check to correct HFC used in every device or equipment. This, in other words, means that one HFC does not mean that a device is under guidelines but it can be charged if there is another HFC in the device. When the asset register is large, therefore, there is likely to be more confusion mainly if the devices were purchased a long time in the past. This also happens when the ownership of equipment has been changed, making devices hard to verify.
Under the 2015 F-Gas guidelines, the minimum inspection programs in the sector are well explained in the CO2 equivalent units. This, however, changes when there is a system for detecting fixed leaks or maybe a hermetically sealed kit. These factors should be well verified preferably through physical inspection.
Professionals in facilities’ management need to ensure clarity on who the operator of an AC unit really is. It should also be clear on the one responsible for well-maintained record keeping. Even when you have a contractor who has decided to offer record-keeping services for your company and devices, this information is very important and you need to have records on the same. The operator should always verify the records and ensure their safe storage in a way that they can easily be retrieved. If an operator depends on fixed leak detention appliances, progressing reliability and planned maintenance of the devices needs to be approved by a qualified contractor.
The REFCOM way of having air conditioning contractors approved will be well be recognized by many companies and individuals. However, F-gas technicians require unique training and accreditation and the process of accreditation is still not fully harmonized. This is because there are still various entities that offer training and certification on F-gases. A centralized process in handling F-gas technicians’ accreditation will go a long way in boosting the implementation of the outlined F-gas guidelines.
It should be easy and straightforward for people and companies to comply with the F-gas guidelines. The regulations are, however, still being embraced and implementation is yet to fully be achieved in the UK. The aspects of high voltage and clean agent fire suppression systems, and also some electrical when it comes to F-gases are easily overlooked.
This suppression is specified where damage is likely to occur in the protected area and where firewater can be harmful. Such areas include the server rooms, catering appliances for commercial use, and electrical switchgear. It is not in every clean agent system where gases are used as the means of fire suppression. Another important factor to note is that not all the gases used in fire suppression are F-gases and the gases can be verified by a professional contractor. Verification may be complex since there can be more than one gas being used in the system. It can also be complicated because other countries elsewhere may hold varying opinions on an exclusive clean agent product being associated with F-gases. For systems based in the UK, however, verification is mandatory. This helps in the implementation of all F-gas regulations in the UK.
In some cases especially when the site or company is big, more than one clean agent system might exist. One might be located in the cooker hood and another in the server room. It is not definite that the two systems will have a similar suppression platform. The initial details for each of the systems may be different and so could the suppression media. Another reason for a firm to have more than one system is when one of the systems is inefficient for all necessary functions.
Should there be F-gas deployed in a clean agent system, the F-gas guidelines should be enforced.
This means that technicians also need accreditation and approval to keep operating. Note that with F-gas, it is a different kind of approval as per the UK regulations. The guidelines state that personnel should be trained to handle F-gases when it comes to fire protection. A fire protection contractor should also get verification from REFCOM.
The regulations for F-Gases were enforced on January 1, 2015. These laws were put in place to curb the emission of fluorinated greenhouse gases to ensure a safer environment. It is important to understand the F-Gas regulations for better implementation. Compliance with the regulations also requires proper knowledge of the different appliances that might contain F-gases. Understanding the different accreditations for contractors and technicians and how they are regulated also helps in the proper implementation of F-gas regulations.
The advantages of embracing and implementing the F-gas guidelines are diverse and cut across the procurement chain in the sector and more. Additionally, if a company is sustainable, effective, and efficient in the sector, it can use AC as a way to manage energy and this can be boosted with leak detection strategies and frequent inspections. Companies need to accept and adapt the F-gas regulation measures as they can be valuable later in policy outcomes.