Most people are all familiar with the requirements to now manage many substances seen as hazardous to our environment.
For some, such management is business as usual, but approaching three years on from the changes in F gas regulations, we are still seeing numbers of organisations out of step with their legal obligations.
Below you will find more information on managing systems or equipment that currently use F gas and to see what success looks like now for F gas compliance.
1. What are F gases?
Fluorinated gases (F gas) are a series of man made gases typically divided into four main groups.
- Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs);
- Perfluorocarbons (PFCs);
- Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6); and
- Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).
Once in the atmosphere they can persist for long periods of time and contribute to global warming. Some F gases have been identified as thousands of times more harmful than carbon dioxide.
2. Where could F gases be present in your building?
F gases are typically found in a range of equipment such refrigeration and air conditioning units, fire suppression systems, aerosols and solvents, and high voltage switch gear.
- Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the most commonly used of the F gases can be found in air-conditioning systems, heat pumps, commercial and industrial refrigeration, fire suppression equipment, solvents and aerosols.
- Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) can again be found in refrigeration equipment and older fire suppression systems, but is more common in the electronics and pharmaceutical sectors.
- Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) is usually found in high-voltage switchgear.
3. What do the regulations say?
The EU F gas regulations were last updated in 2014 and the latest regulations introduced key changes for users, manufactures, traders and producers. These replaced the previous 2006 regulations.
The aim of the Regulations is to reduce F gas emissions by two-thirds by 2030 and encourage the use of viable, less climate harmful, alternatives. The Regulations affect anyone who:
- Manufactures, uses or services equipment containing F gases;
- Produces or wholesales F gas; and
- Imports or exports F gas, or equipment containing F gas (to or from the EU).
For operators of equipment containing F gases this means there are requirements you need to comply with – an operator is defined as “You’re the operator of equipment if you’re in charge of its day to day running, including as a service company. You don’t have to own equipment to be the operator.”
Primarily the Regulations are required – but this will depend on the size, type of system/equipment and use of F gases. It would be worth:
- Identifying if any of your systems contains F gas;
- Only using trained technicians to undertake work on equipment containing F gases (e.g. installation, leak detection, maintenance, and disposal);
- Labeling equipment – you must label any refrigeration, fire protection or air conditioning equipment that F gases are added to when you’re installing it;
- Checking for leaks and install leakage detection on systems containing F gas equivalent to more than 500 tonnes of CO2 ;
- Keeping up to date accurate records as required – records must be kept for 5 years and made available to government officials if requested; and
- Recovering F gases when disposing of equipment.
There are also bans, phase outs are planned to come into effect for specific types of F gas.
4. And what is the global warming potential requirement?
In addition to the current labelling requirements, from 2017 the label must also state the:
- Mass of F gas in the equipment (in kg);
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent mass of F gas in the equipment (in tonnes); and
- The global warming potential of the F gas.
Global warming potential (GWP) is a calculated measurement designed to allow comparisons of the global warming impacts of different gases in relation to the emissions of 1 ton of carbon dioxide (CO2). There are tables provided by Defra with this information.
Using the global warming potential (GWP) of the F gas you can then work out the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) of the F gas. This CO2e figure should then be used to decide on a suitable maintenance regime for the system.
5. So what questions should you know the answers to?
- Do you have a documented policies, procedures and responsibilities for how you are managing F gas?
- Do you have a system log sheet for recording when the system was installed and when F gas was added or removed?
- Do you have maintenance records with enough detail to demonstrate that the system is being managed appropriately?
- Does your waste documentation detail when F gases need to be recovered or disposed of, and that the waste contractors are appropriately licensed?
- Do the systems you are responsible for contain F gas and are the systems register is up to date?
- Are you carrying out regular F gas reviews and audits?
6. What should you be checking?
- Are you checking that your systems register the details of the refrigerant type, charge size, the GWP of the gas and its CO2 equivalent?
- Is the F gas in your systems banned or due to be phased out over the coming years?
- Is the leak checking frequency appropriate for the CO2e of the F gas?
- Is there leak detection equipment or should be installed?
- Are your employees and contractors that are using or maintaining the systems containing F gas trained and registered under the appropriate scheme?
- Are the F gas systems labelled with the type of F gas, the GWP and the charge?
Assurity Consulting are leading experts in workplace health, safety and environmental compliance. For further help or advice on F gas or any of our environmental services, please contact us on tel. +44 (0)1403 269375 or email us.