Air conditioning company fined for HCFC importation and storage offences

A Victorian based company that imports, manufactures and supplies air conditioning equipment has been fined $12,600 by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment for importing bulk hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) without a controlled substances licence.

Importing HCFC without a licence is an offence under the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 (the Act), which is in place to protect the environment by reducing emissions of ozone depleting substances and synthetic greenhouse gases.

Since 1 January 1996, importers and exporters of bulk HCFC who hold a controlled substances licence, have been required to hold to a HCFC quota.

The substance, identified as HCFC-22/R-22, was supplied by an overseas equipment manufacturer to fill uncharged equipment it had shipped to the company. The company holds an equipment licence to import equipment charged with scheduled substances. However, a controlled substances licence and HCFC quota must be held to import or export bulk quantities of HCFC.

The company was also fined for using disposable cylinders for storing R-22. This was in contravention of the company’s Refrigerant Trading Authorisation conditions – an offence under the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Regulations 1995.

Disposable cylinders containing scheduled substances such as R-22 are banned in Australia. These types of cylinders cannot be refilled, which means a residual ‘heel’ amount of gas can remain in the containers and can enter the atmosphere once disposal of the cylinder occurs.

A priority compliance focus for the department is to reduce emissions of synthetic greenhouse gases and ozone depleting substances. The company has paid the infringement notices and is now complying with licensing requirements and conditions.

Australia is a signatory to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, as well as the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change.

HCFC is a type of ozone depleting substance, has been commonly used in residential and commercial refrigeration and air conditioning systems since the 1990s, following the phase out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in 1995. R-22 is also a potent greenhouse gas and has a global warming potential 1,810 times greater than carbon dioxide.

HCFCs have been replaced with new equipment types which operate on refrigerants that do not damage the ozone layer. Since 1 January 2020, under strict phase out measures, importers can no longer import HCFC equipment, or equipment designed to operate solely on HCFCs, unless an exemption is held.

The department and the Australian Refrigeration Council work together to promote voluntary compliance with the Act and regulations by encouraging businesses and individuals to understand and comply with their obligations. This includes holding required licences and permits, meeting relevant conditions and not importing or using disposable cylinders for the storage of scheduled substances.

For more information about the ozone protection and synthetic greenhouse gas program, visit the department’s website at www.environment.gov.au/protection/ozone.

For more information about the refrigeration and air conditioning permit scheme, visit the Australian Refrigeration Council website at www.arctick.org.

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