The industry should be prepared for a crackdown on virgin R22, once it becomes illegal to use after December 31, speakers at the RAC09 show warned.
Ray Gluckman, whose F-Gas support is involved in briefing both Defra and the local authorities who will enforce the regulations, said that council inspectors were being given special training in refrigerants.
He said: “If you have virgin supplies after that date, you are not allowed to use them. There are plenty of people who would love to buy your old R22, but one thing you can be certain of is that there will a lot more activity from the regulators.”
If a firm is prosecuted over flouting the rules, they could face a fine of up to £5000 in a magistrates court. But if the case goes to a crown court, the fine is unlimited, Mr Gluckman warned.
The view was backed up from the distributors of the refrigerant. John Davey of Harp International said: “Please don’t think that you will be able to cheat. We know where our containers are, and we will be asking for them back.”
End-users were urged to plan ahead for their exit strategy from R22, since each of the available options – continue with existing equipment, but use recycled or reclaimed R22; upgrade to an alternative refrigerant; or replace equipment altogether - needed careful thought.
Mr Gluckman said: “It is not illogical to continue with existing equipment, provided you can find existing stocks of recycled product and that is a big if.”
Suppliers warned that reclaimed R22 was already being sold for 15 Euros a tonne in Europe. “It will be £10/tonne minimum in the UK,” said Mr Davey, “but end users need to bear in mind that they will be competing with oil companies, for whom any lost time is critical, so they will pay anything to ensure stock if they have to.”
They also warned that it is essential to plan for remaining stocks of virgin R22 this year. Peter Dinnage of IDS said: “We don’t want to be sat with tankersful on December 31. We are an industry that doesn’t forecast, and suppliers have had no previous experience of this situation. We have to predict as best we can, but if we have a hot summer or people buy a lot in September, it could clear us out.”
The European Parliament is also proposing amendments to the law that covers R22 and other HCFCs, the Ozone Depleting Substances regulation, to bring it in line with the F-Gas regulations. This is likely to see a tighter inspection and record keeping regime and significantly would seek to create a greater distinction between reclaimed gas, which is cleaned up offsite and ‘recycled’ which is recovered from a system and filtered on site,, to prevent illegal trade in used R22.
The proposed amendments would only allow contractors to use recycled R22 on the same site it had been recovered from. Mr Gluckman said: “This may happen as soon as April, but it may happen much later, depending on the Parliament.”