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Summit looks at measures to address poor leakage rates

Examination of Stek scheme is one of many options put forward to improve standards

The rac industry needs to raise its engineering standards and to prove it is doing everything in its power to contain leaks if it is to stand a chance of convincing the government not to ban HFCs.

That should be a key element of the industry’s argument for the future of HFCs, according to delegates at the summit of the F-Gas Works campaign.

“We need to convince them that a ban is not necessary as we are on top of the leakage issue” said one.

It was agreed that the rac bodies should examine whether the best parts of the Dutch STEK scheme could be applied in the UK. Thanks to strong regulations and high standards, the STEK scheme has brought refrigerant leakage down to 1.5 per cent in the Netherlands.

Delegates agreed that a commitment to higher standards should go hand in hand with evidence that HFCs are more energy efficient than alternatives, in many circumstances, saving all important indirect emissions at the power station. Delegates were confident that a body of evidence could be amassed showing the relative efficiency of HFCs in applications such as small to medium sized air conditioning units.

It was also pointed out that a ban of HFCs, given the efficiency of the gas, would be likely to have an impact on buildings’ compliance with building regulations and with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

And, one delegate added, HFCs would be essential when it comes to R22 phase-out, since all the alternatives require new equipment and systems to be installed, whereas HFCs can be retrofitted into existing systems, saving the equipment.

But it was agreed that without an industry-wide push on raising the standards of engineering workmanship, particularly in pipe jointing and brazing, and insisting on high-quality leak tight components, the industry would severely weaken its defence for keeping HFCs. Policy makers are considering a ban on HFCs because of their high global warming potential, which campaigners argue wouldn’t apply if they weren’t allowed to leak.

One end user said: “When you see some of the standard of workmanship, often from non refrigeration sub contractors, it is not surprising that leakage is high.”

Delegates felt that the individual registration of properly qualified engineers through a card scheme was the only way to ensure the high standards were met. “The irony is that as an industry we want our engineers to be individually registered, but the government would not back our call to make it a legal requirement,” said one.

Some felt that end users could help push through such standards by insisting on properly qualified engineers only on their sites. However it was noted that the new 2079 F Gas qualification did not become a statutory requirement until 2011.

The group agreed that insisting on proper record keeping would reinforce the message at end user level, ensuring that leaks were more closely monitored and therefore kept at a minimum.

At the same time, it was agreed that standards of component supply could be imposed. A ban on use of flare nuts was proposed, since they have been shown to have a disproportionate contribution to leakage.

The group now is looking to discuss the potential impact of a ban on power station emissions with the Carbon Trust.