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F-gas – a work in progress

We can work this out, says Scott Gleed, director at Ceilite Airconditioning

Given the chance the F-gas regulations can work.

We already have data available from an Enviros report, which states: “STEK has been highly successful in the Netherlands in both minimising average leakage rates and in virtually eliminating ‘rogue traders’, reducing equipment leakage rates to 4.5 per cent per annum compared to a European average of 15 per cent, with the greatest leakages now in the industrial sector.

“STEK’s own research indicates that 92 per cent of the installations had no emissions at all in the reference year, 1999.

“The potential emission reductions achievable in 2012 through the implementation of STEK on a country by country basis in tonnes CO2 equivalent shows that emissions are expected to be 35.1m tonnes CO2 equivalent across the EU in 2012 and that a reduction of around 15m tonnes CO2 equivalent is achievable through STEK.

“STEK provides additional benefits to industry through improved energy efficiency and improved process and quality control”.

There are areas in which the F-gas regulations differ to STEK, in particular STEK did not allow any flare nuts on systems, and there was a requirement for registration for equipment over 500 watts of compressor power output.

The industry here is already looking at the removal of flare nuts and how this will affect the warranty on systems and the Air conditioning and Refrigeration European Association AREA is looking at advising on a reduction of the F-Gas 3kg limit.

According to AREA its members felt that the need for regulation of F-gases in refrigeration and Air conditioning is ‘self evident’.

At a recent AREA meeting, it was agreed that the F-gas 3kg rules need revising; however, the 3kg limit is mentioned throughout the F-gas regulations. The background to this is that the 3kg limit is inherited from STEK, when CFCs were being used.

But, we have now jumped past HCFCs to HFCs, and it is estimated that between HFCs and CFCs, the former is 35 per cent more efficient; and, between CFCs and HCFCs the former in this instance is approximately 25 per cent more efficient – and therefore we should look at getting the 3kg rule down to between 1kg and 1.5kg.

It must be remembered that F-gas can be part of a solution to manage climate change if the regulations are policed correctly.

On the 17th December 2008, the European Parliament’s Plenary Session adopted a compromise agreement on the new EU Directive for the Promotion of Renewable Energy Sources with an overwhelming majority of 635 votes.

For the first time under EU legislation, heat pumps are now recognised as a renewable energy technology, alongside wind turbines and solar panels.

Some air source heat pumps have recently been approved under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS). As certified products under MCS, they will qualify for grant aid and householders can apply for a grant of up to £900 under the Low Carbon Building Programme (Phase 1).

With regards to the F-gas regulations in Great Britain the mandatory Refcom scheme was due to go live on Monday 9th March 2009, but Refcom has been involved in protracted contractual discussions with various government departments and it is now completed.

However, we have only 21 days to go, and all businesses should be registered by 4th July 2009 as this date cannot be extended.

I would get longer to pay a parking ticket than Refcom will get to register an estimated 7,500 companies.

Historically, many stationary refrigeration systems gave rise to significant F-gas and ODS emissions through leakage during normal use and venting during maintenance or at end of life. The F-gas Regulations are intended to improve containment, so preventing emissions, by ensuring that leakage rates are reduced and that all refrigerant is recovered during maintenance and at end of plant life. Better plant design, construction and maintenance should enable emission rates to fall significantly.

The F-gas Regulation requires a mandatory register of businesses engaged in the static SRAC sector - this includes any and all refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment where activities include installation, commissioning, service, maintenance, decommissioning and disassembly.

The regulations need teeth and the enforcement needs to have bite that is proportionate to the risk: the risk being a possible ban on F-gas – and ultimately a disservice to global warming.

Maybe the environmentalists should put pressure on Defra to ensure that companies comply with the F-gas regulations as this will have a positive effect on climate change. Refcom will not have any powers of enforcement; instead, the regulation will be enforced by Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (Lacors).

Let’s just hope that this is taken seriously. My view is that it will not be, and for all those concerned to bury their head in the sand can only lead to the industry getting a considerable shock to its system.