By Eamonn Ryan
The main purpose in managing refrigerants is to preserve and protect the environment. Werner Terblanche of A-Gas South Africa delivered the following presentation at SAIRAC Johannesburg’s April Tech Talk at ACRA.
We have adopted an approach over the last couple of years that takes into account the regulations that we must comply with and to ensure that we have a sustainable future by doing away with harmful gases and replacing them with safer alternatives.
The main aim is to create a better approach to lifestyle management of refrigerants.
Sustainability is becoming increasingly important, and it is becoming harder to ensure that decisions made today are future-proof. At a time when consumers are demanding that products are manufactured and managed in less wasteful ways, recycling and reusing materials has never been more important to industries across the globe. This is the circular economy.
Our on-site rapid recovery teams, making use of our bespoke in-house-designed technology, are working to provide efficient, environmentally responsible services. We recover gas that has already been used, for example, in air conditioning systems or supermarket refrigerators, returning it to our facilities to be cleaned for future reuse.
This in turn helps our global customers meet regulatory objectives. The focus on climate change has meant extraordinary growth in worldwide environmental legislation. As each new piece of legislation is adopted in countries around the globe, the type and makeup of the gases sold has changed at varying rates.
We source next-generation products while finding recovery and reprocessing material from the market. Governments around the world look to us to responsibly and efficiently manage these critical resources. Major air conditioning manufacturers utilise our reclaimed refrigerants to fill certain models of current generation air conditioning units. These are recovered, cleaned, separated and reclaimed in our facilities.
Refrigeration and air conditioning systems have become an essential part of modern life. In recent years, there has been growing concern about the impact of these systems on the environment. The use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in these systems has been identified as a major contributor to global warming and ozone depletion. As a result, there has been a move towards phasing out HFCs and replacing them with more environmentally friendly alternatives.
From 2024, the importance of HFCs will decrease significantly and African countries will be implementing similar measures to phase out HFCs. The amount of HFCs imported into a country will be based on a predetermined construction plan. Importers of HFCs and other gases will need to manage these gases to ensure that they are being used in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.
The issue with HFCs is twofold:
- Firstly, there are regulations in place around the world that restrict their use due to their negative impact on the environment.
- Secondly, there are already millions of pounds of HFCs installed into systems that are running on those systems.
Initially, those installed systems will continue to leak, which means that there will be no benefit in terms of new gases being replaced. It is important to manage these gases and use them in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.
Refrigeration and air conditioning systems are crucial to modern life, and their importance will continue to grow. There are currently over five billion refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump systems installed globally. It is important to use more sustainable and environmentally friendly gases in these systems to reduce their impact on the environment.
The phasing out of HFCs in refrigeration and air conditioning systems is an important step towards reducing the negative impact of these systems on the environment. It is important to manage these gases in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way to ensure their extended lifespan. The importance of refrigeration and air conditioning systems will continue to grow and it is crucial to use more sustainable and environmentally friendly gases in these systems.
One aspect of supply chain management that is unavoidable is the need for proper disposal and reclamation of gases. Many end-users require certification to show that a company has properly handled their gases. We offer a convenient solution for this through our dedicated fleet to cover gas cylinders and are able to resupply the market. We can also issue certificates to show what actions have been taken with each cylinder, if a customer fills out an environmental request form and sends it back with their bottle.
Another option is to have a dedicated team come to the site for gas recovery. This is a more expensive solution, but it ensures that the gases are handled efficiently and effectively. The team can recover gas cylinders, equipment, and all other necessary items. We even offer a buyback programme, which allows customers to return their empty cylinders and receive a refund.
Some customers may wonder where they can take outdated or contaminated gas. It is important to note that these gases should not be handled by inexperienced individuals or left to accumulate on-site. A-Gas provides a safe and effective solution for the disposal and reclamation of gases.
One of the key challenges is the mindset of business owners who prioritise profits over environmental responsibility. It is essential to encourage these owners to see the benefits of investing in recovery and to view it as a way to generate income through a higher value service. In some cases, it may be more cost-effective to outsource the recovery process to a specialist company, rather than trying to recover refrigerant in-house.
Despite the focus on profitability, it is essential to maintain a healthy environment and adhere to legal requirements. The goal is to leave the planet in good condition for future generations. Technicians must assess each case individually to determine if a system can be recovered or if it needs to be destroyed.
One issue that arises is when the refrigerant is mixed or blended, making it impossible to separate. It is essential to handle such cases with care, as contaminated refrigerant can cause significant damage. The government may not support the recovery of small amounts of gas, which can lead technicians to recover the gas themselves. This practice can lead to workshops being filled with bottles of recovered refrigerant, which can then be given to recovery companies to dispose of properly.
One common question is whether there are any legal repercussions for companies that fail to recover refrigerant. The answer is yes. There are laws and regulations in place that mandate proper recovery and disposal. Failure to comply can lead to fines and other penalties. Therefore, it is important to ensure that all cylinders used for recovery are checked and certified to be safe for reuse.
In conclusion, the recovery of refrigerant is a critical process that protects the environment, complies with legal requirements, and generates income. While there may be challenges and costs associated with recovery, it is important to view it as an investment in the future. Business owners must be encouraged to prioritise environmental responsibility and see the value in recovery, while technicians must be trained to assess each case individually and follow proper regulations. Ultimately, a focus on quality curriculum, education and facilities can help ensure that the recovery process is done correctly and safely.