Recent news that a company has been fined £3,000 by the Environment Agency for breaching the F-Gas regulations has been widely welcomed by the building engineering services sector.
Schneider Electric did not recover 15kg of sulphur hexaflouride (SF6) when it's employees were working on a high-voltage switchgear at a site t London Gateway Port in Essex. Schneider Electric was also ordered to pay £18,368 in costs.
The prosection. led by EA's Rooma Horeesorun, highlighted the "highly potent" nature of SF6 and the fact that it will remain in the atmosphere for 'generations'. Horeesorun pointed out that the amount of SF6 leaked would have the same effect as 'flying a 737 jet airliner from Heathrow to Sydney, Australia, and back three times over.'
SF6 has the highest global warming potential (GWP) of all gases covered under the F-Gas regulations. In fact, 1kg of SF6 is equivalent to an emission of 22,800 kg of CO2.
"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.
"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."
Refcom, the government appointed service set up by the BESA in 1994, polices the F-Gas regulations in the air conditioning and refrigeration industry. The UK has the highest reported F-Gas recovery rate (between 65% to 92%), according to a recent report by the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). The UK is ahead of other major economies including Australia, Canada, California, Japan, China, Brazil and the EU.