The quarterly HCFC stakeholder meeting took place on 19 September 2017, but progress seem to be lagging as many of the action points remain unchanged.
The meeting took place at its usual venue at the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in Pretoria and was chaired by Margaret Molefe in the absence of Obed Baloyi.
Many of the usual industry stakeholders were absent, while others came from all over (some even flew up from Cape Town for the day) to take part in the discussions on the future of HCFCs and HFCs in South Africa.
The first order of business was to go through the minutes of the previous meeting and discuss the various action points identified. Most of the items were deferred to later in the agenda. However, it was reported that quota allocations for HCFC imports, as of 1 January 2018, would all have a validity date of 31 December of the year issued. This matter had been discussed before with the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) and would finally be implemented.
The first discussion point on the agenda was on the HCFC Phase-out Management Plan (HPMP), starting with feedback regarding the long-standing agenda point of organising a roadshow.
The DEA reported that a concept has been drafted and that they have been communicating with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in terms of budget and so forth.
Yuri Sorokin, UNIDO (based in Austria) and monitor of South Africa’s HPMP, was present and confirmed that the proposed roadshow was being reviewed and was one of the items on his agenda during his three-day visit and meetings with the DEA.
Lubabalo Maweni of the DEA confirmed that the roadshow is planned for February/March 2018 and UNIDO has allocated USD70 000, subject to the submission of detailed quotations and content of the full programme. The proposed programme would be circulated to stakeholders for comment.
Mobile reclamation machine
The next agenda point dealt with an update on the mobile refrigerant reclamation systems, sourced and donated by UNIDO. The systems of reclaim units, gas analysers, platform scales, small recovery units, a selection of 600 reclaim cylinders of different capacities (includes four of 900ℓ capacity), pressure gauges, and so on are currently sitting in Europe, waiting to be shipped to South Africa. Four stations have been ‘donated’ and are awaiting shipping instructions from the DEA.
The first meeting of the task team to address the reclaim units took place the morning before the HCFC stakeholder meeting, to deal with the concerns raised at the meeting of 29 June 2017. The task team reported that the issues of clearance, storage, safety, training, and the development of policy had been discussed.
They also discussed benchmarking to see how other countries have implemented similar systems and proposed a study tour (possibly at the end of the year) to Mexico and/or Argentina.
It was again suggested that a pilot site be set-up in South Africa before all four systems are brought into the country; however, this would add to the shipping and clearing costs.
In the interim, the task team will draft the minimum requirements for any party wanting to bid to operate any of the four systems, and compile an infrastructure policy.
R141B conversion plan
Alan Yates from UNIDO was up next to give an update on the R141B conversion project, which he reported to be successful, as no more of the R141B blowing agents are being imported.
All the new foaming equipment funded through the UNIDO programme has been successfully imported, barring one that is still in progress. The equipment is currently being commissioned and everything should be wrapped up by the end of the year. Sorokin would visit some of the sites during his visit.
ODS regulation amendments
The DEA reported that the amendment of the ODS regulations, as proposed by the stakeholders, has been done and circulated for comment.
The next big discussion point was HFCs. The DEA reported that the HFC regulations and ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol have been put on hold, mainly due to uncertainty in terms of funding. This is because the US has pulled out of the initial Paris Agreement.
The DEA proposed removing HFCs as an agenda point until after the 29th Meeting of the Parties (MOP) in Canada in November 2017, as further clarity is expected at this meeting. As of yet, no phase-down schedule has been drafted nor has South Africa’s HFC baseline been determined. For both reasons, phase down in South Africa could not be gazetted.
Currently, according to the Kigali Amendment, South Africa’s HFC phase down would start in 2024. An early start would require funding.
However, there was a request from the floor to keep HFCs on the agenda, as phase down would primarily be driven by industry according to supply and demand for new technology.
In terms of South Africa’s ratification of the Kigali Amendment, it was rumoured that we are still waiting to table it at cabinet.
The DEA advised that “We are taking a precautionary approach as a country at present.”
One of the delays is the fact that South Africa has yet to determine its HFC baseline. This has been made particularly challenging due to the lack of unique custom tariff headings for the many HFCs being imported.
The matter of refining tariff codes is being dealt with by the South African Revenue Services (SARS), but at a slow pace, as they claim to have limited resources in terms of personnel. There are other challenges in terms of tariff codes, since (for example) hydrocarbons such as R290 and R600a are monitored through the Department of Energy and not the DEA like with other refrigerants, as the mentioned hydrocarbons are presently classified as a ‘fuel’.
There was a suggestion that an import permit be mandatory for all refrigerants and that the granting of a permit be subject to the importer declaring the amounts imported prior to the permit being granted. This would be a much more accurate means to determine the quantity of HCFCs (and HFCs) coming into the country than the DEA sponsored ‘surveys’.
Although SARS was not represented, they did send a response to the queries raised by the stakeholders regarding the proposed tariff regulations.
Some of the feedback, however, was rather confusing and there was an urgent request to review the final revised tariff classifications before it is gazetted.
According to SARS, they are not yet looking at adding a separate tariff heading for pre-charged HCFC systems in this particular revision. It will be reviewed in future.
Two years ago, UNIDO had sponsored gas analysers and the training of custom officials to detect illegal imports of refrigerants or those with harmful impurities.
This was done in response to a question posed by Bob Arandal of Kovco as to whether any illegal imports had been detected by customs. The DEA undertook to revert with exact detail if any had occurred.
The DEA once again gave feedback on South Africa’s HCFC imports and consumption up until August 2017.
Our baseline was set at 326 ODP tonnes, with a required 25% reduction by the end of 2017. This would mean that we need to reduce our HCFC consumption to below 245 ODP tonnes. In actual fact, so far, from January until August 2017, South Africa has only used 111.5 ODP tonnes, leaving us comfortably below the requirement and at no risk of exceeding the target in the remaining four months.
Chemicals Summit and World Ozone Day
Because the DEA was focusing on the Phakisa project, the proposed Chemicals Summit was postponed until next year, provisionally until March 2018. They hope to hold it in the Free State but nothing has been set up yet.
World Ozone Day was on 16 September and the department had hoped to combine this event with the proceedings of the Chemical Summit. But as this event had been postponed, there was no plan for World Ozone Day. The DEA reported that it was not doing an awareness celebration this year.
The primary objective of Phakisa is to upskill the informal technicians so that they can do a professional job. Cabinet was pleased with the initiatives presented by this particular sector, and the DEA reported that it was proud of the stakeholders who participated. Three major activities relating to ODS have been identified and more detail will be given once finalised.
Vocational pilot project
At a meeting held in May 2016 at Fire and Security Techniques in Centurion, the DEA and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) proposed a pilot study to promote the vocational technical training of HVAC&R technicians at the Capricorn College in Limpopo. The DEA reported that the pilot study was planned between January and March 2018 (before the end of its financial year). Its main aim will be to raise awareness and upskill students and lecturers in terms of the HVAC&R sector. The department wants to encourage students to pursue HVAC&R as a career.
Currently, the challenge with many of the technical and vocational education training (TVET) colleges is that they have the curriculum but not the equipment to train HVAC&R apprentices. The pilot is meant to tackle this challenge of the practical education side to see what can be done to improve the situation.
The next HCFC stakeholder meeting will take place on 6 December 2017.