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Thursday, April 14, 2016
The news that the Environment Agency (EA) has carried out a successful prosecution under the F-Gas Regulations has been welcomed by the building engineering services sector.
Schneider Electric was fined £3,000 for failing to recover 15 kg of sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) gas which was released to the air from high-voltage switchgear being installed at London Gateway Port in Essex. Basildon Magistrates’ Court also ordered the company to pay £18,368 in costs.
The EA’s Rooma Horeesorun, who led the prosecution, described SF6 as a “highly potent” fluorinated greenhouse gas that would remain in the atmosphere for generations. She added that the environmental damage caused was equivalent of flying a 737 jet airliner from Heathrow to Sydney, Australia, and back three times over.
“It is always disappointing to hear of any incidence of environmentally harmful gas being released to atmosphere,” commented Tim Rook, technical director of the Building Engineering Services Association (the BESA).
“Our industry has made real progress in managing recovery and reclamation of f-gases in recent years, thanks to initiatives such as Refcom, the mandatory refrigerant handling certification scheme.
“This episode reminds us of the importance of remaining vigilant, and it is reassuring to see that the government agency charged with enforcing the F-Gas Regulations is able to follow up reports of wrongdoing with punitive action,” Mr Rook added.
However, he believes that policing of the F-Gas Regulations is “woefully under-resourced”, and points out that this particular breach was self-reported by Schneider Electric.
“The government needs to take another look at this,” said Mr Rook. “We cannot always depend on companies to do the right thing and Schneider should be given some credit for reporting this themselves.
“There can be little dispute that there are all too many unreported f-gas venting episodes going on out there, and that the EA needs much greater investment to step up its monitoring work.”
It has been a legal requirement since July 2009 for all businesses that install, maintain or service stationary equipment containing or designed to contain f-gas refrigerants to obtain an F-Gas Company Certificate.
Refcom, which was set up by the BESA in 1994, was appointed by the government to provide this mandatory service for the refrigeration and air conditioning sectors. It works with the EA to ensure that the regulations are properly enforced and that satisfactory reclamation is carried out – and now accounts for more than 80% of the total UK refrigerant handling market.
The UK’s progress in managing f-gases used in heating and cooling equipment has also been acknowledged in a major report recently published in the USA.
The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) studied refrigerant management and recycling programmes worldwide and found that the UK had the highest reported rate of recovery
at between 65 and 92% – ahead of other major economies including Australia, Canada, California, Japan, China, Brazil and the EU.
SF6 has the highest global warming potential of any gas being targeted under climate change legislation. The emission of 1 kg of SF6 is equivalent to an emission of 22,800 kg of CO2.
BESA technical director Tim Rook: There are all too many unreported f-gas venting episodes.
Note to Editors:
Further information from Ewen Rose on 07931 519044 (ewen.rose@theBESA.com).
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