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17 January 2019
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F gas emissions rules to be tightened in the wake of Brexit © iStock

24 November 2017 | Martin Read

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), which manages Refcom, the UK’s largest register for safe refrigerant handling, has called for F gas emissions rules to be tightened in the wake of Brexit.

In response to an inquiry by the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, Refcom has called for the UK to close a number of “loopholes” that allow some operators to circumvent British laws already in place as a result of European F gas Regulation.

Graeme Fox, senior mechanical engineer at BESA, says that, in particular, “sellers of split air conditioning systems should be required to keep records of who the purchaser is and who will be installing the equipment.

“The Environment Agency has told us repeatedly that its hands are effectively tied because there is currently no requirement for sellers to hold records. This makes a mockery of attempts to control the sector and keep an accurate track of F gas usage.”

Refcom recommends that a mandatory register of individual operatives should be set up to work alongside the company register, which was made compulsory in 2009. While a voluntary scheme is currently operated, Refcom believes this should be endorsed by government and made mandatory in order to “properly and effectively police the regulations as a whole”.

As the phase down of HFC refrigerants gathers pace in line with the global reduction timetable, Fox believes such a mandatory scheme this will become increasingly important.

“The scarcity of non-flammable refrigerant gases will force many more contractors to work with flammable and mildly flammable gases,” says Fox. “It is, therefore, essential that the technician workforce is upskilled to reflect the additional demands of working with these gases and that the sector as a whole can demonstrate these competencies.

“Tighter controls on company registration as well as mandating the operative register will provide that evidence trail,” he added.

Refcom is urging the Brexit inquiry to recommend better resourcing of the enforcement regime managed by the Environment Agency. This would ensure the UK was able to meet its obligations under the Montreal Protocol and the subsequent re-inforcement of F gas targets through the 2016 Kigali Accord.

Refcom confirmed that, as part of BESA, it would remain involved in the EU after Brexit through the umbrella European contractors’ body AREA and would continue to work with the European manufacturers’ association EPEE.

“This will allow us to maintain a link to the evolving legislation and guidance and means Refcom is well placed to assist the UK authorities in keeping our own regulatory framework up-to-date and relevant,” said Fox.

The EAC has established that the growth in the use of refrigeration and air conditioning systems has seen the amount of F gases in circulation rising. However, it stated that if the regulations continued to work “as intended”, the UK would remain “on track” to hit its emissions reduction targets.