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F-Gas Legislation: What you need to know

Ray Gluckman, director of F-Gas Support gives a reminder of the obligations and the responsibilities

We are set to see major changes to the industry this year, with many of these changes brought about through the implementation of two important pieces of environmental legislation that will have a significant impact on the RAC sector.  These are: The F Gas Regulation, EC 842/2006 and The Ozone Regulation, EC 2037/2000

Whilst these Regulations have been in place for some time, certain important obligations come into force during 2009 and you can expect to see plenty of activity from the law’s regulator to ensure that the obligations on both RAC equipment operators and contractors are being met.

The most important deadlines that occur in 2009 are related to certification of companies and to the phase-out of virgin R22.

By 4th July 2009 the F Gas Regulation requires all companies involved in the installation, servicing or maintenance of RAC equipment containing F Gases to hold a Company Certificate.

After 31st December 2009 the use of virgin HCFC refrigerants, including R22, will be banned.  It is important to recognise that it will be illegal to use previously purchased stocks of these refrigerants.  Refrigerant suppliers will be recalling virgin HCFC cylinders after the ban has come into force – so don’t think you can keep a supply of virgin R22 in the back of your workshop.

Changes in GB and EU Legislation

On March 9th 2009 two new pieces of GB legislation came into force.  These were:

  • Ozone-Depleting Substances (Qualifications) Regulations, 2009, S.I. 216
  • Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations 2009, S.I. 261

These define the qualification and certification requirements for personnel and companies working with F Gases and ozone depleting substances, and also define the offences and penalties for non-compliance with F-Gas rules. They also provide full powers to regulators (usually Local Authorities) to investigate compliance issues.

The EU Parliament is currently considering a major revision to the Ozone Regulation, which is likely to have an important change relating to the use of recycled R22 during the period 2010 to 2014. The revision may occur as soon as spring 2009.   See Box 3 for further details.

Obligations for RAC Equipment Operators in the F Gas Regulation

Many of the obligations in the F Gas Regulation are on “operators”.  In most cases this is either the owner or the user of the equipment.  Operators of RAC equipment that contain more than 3 kg of F Gas refrigerant (usually HFCs) must:

  • Carry out regular leak checks (annually for small systems, every 6 months for systems containing more than 30 kg).
  • Repair any leaks found.
  • Fit automatic leak detection systems on equipment containing 300 kg or more  of F Gas refrigerant.
  • Keep records about each piece of equipment and the leak tests and maintenance work carried out on that equipment. 
  • Ensure that any refrigerant removed during maintenance or at end of life is properly recovered to avoid emissions to atmosphere.
  • Ensure that any of their own personnel carrying out maintenance, leak testing, refrigerant recovery etc. are properly qualified.  If qualified in-house staff are used then the operator must also hold a Company Certificate.
  • Ensure that any sub-contractors working on their equipment are properly qualified and that their employer holds a Company Certificate (see Box 2).


Obligations for RAC Contractors and Installers

The key obligations for contractors relate to personnel and company certification – see Boxes 1 and 2.  It is also an obligation to fit labels to any new equipment that contains F Gas refrigerant (contact F-Gas Support for details about labelling requirements).  Contractors need to be aware of the end user obligations and should not knowingly help operators avoid them

To get further information on any of the issues discussed in this article contact F-Gas Support on: 0161 874 3663 or fgas-support@enviros.com

Personnel Certification

All personnel that carry out “refrigerant handling activities” on HFC equipment containing 3 kg or more (including installation, maintenance, leak testing, refrigerant recovery etc.) must hold a suitable qualification.  This is already a legal requirement that was specified in the GB Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations, 2008.     During an interim period between now and July 2011 any personnel holding one of the following qualifications will be “deemed” to hold a suitable personnel certificate:

  • City & Guilds 2078
  • CITB J01

By the end of the interim period, July 4th 2011, all personnel must obtain a new more comprehensive qualification that meets the requirements specified in the EU F Gas Regulation.  The relevant qualifications are:

  • City and Guilds Level 2079-11
  • CITB J11

The required qualifications for those personnel that only work on equipment with less than 3 kg include the above and also some alternative qualifications.  Contact F-Gas Support for more details.

Company Certification

By July 4th 2009 all companies that employ qualified personnel in order to carry out installation, servicing or maintenance of RAC equipment containing F Gases must hold a company certificate.  This includes sole traders as well as larger contractors.  It also includes operators that employ in-house qualified staff.

Between July 4th 2009 and July 4th 2011 an Interim Company Certificate will be sufficient.  This will be based on proving that all personnel in a company hold either the interim qualifications or the full qualifications listed in Box 1.

By July 4th 2011 all companies will need a Full Company Certificate, based on the new “full” qualifications listed in Box 1.

To obtain a company certificate you must contact REFCOM on:

www.refcom.org.uk        telephone: 01768 860409      email: refcom@welplan.co.uk

Please note, it will be an offence to carry out installation, servicing and maintenance using HFCs without a company certificate after July 4th 2009.

Recycled and reclaimed R22

The current EU Ozone Regulation allows the use of any HCFC refrigerant recovered from an existing refrigeration system to be used until the end of 2014.  This includes both “recycled” refrigerant (which has been through a limited amount of cleaning in a portable recovery machine) and “reclaimed” refrigerant (which has been reprocessed to a specified standard in a specialised plant).

The proposed new Ozone Regulation is likely to restrict the use of recycled refrigerant – probably to use at the site at which it was recovered.  Reclaimed refrigerant can be used without restriction.  The reason for the proposed change is to prevent illegal trade.