F-Gas Regulations – Post Brexit

As a part of the European Union, the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) was subject to the terms and conditions of legislation governing the emissions and supply of fluorinated greenhouse gases in Europe.  With effect from 1st January 2021 however, the EU F-Gas (EU No. 517/2014) and Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS) (EC No.1005/2009) regulations will no longer apply in Great Britain i.e. England, Scotland and Wales, and will be replaced by The Ozone-Depleting Substances and Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.  As part of the political settlement reached with the EU, the requirements for Northern Ireland remain unchanged.

What is the purpose of the Regulation?

Regulation (EC) No. 1005/2009 on substances that deplete the ozone layer (the ODS Regulation) and Regulation (EU) No. 527/2014 on fluorinated greenhouse gases (the F-Gas Regulation) restrict the use of ozone depleting substances (ODS) and fluorinated greenhouse gases (F Gases) respectively, in order to protect the ozone layer and mitigate climate change.

Regulation (EC) No. 1005/2009 – The ODS Regulation

  • Bans all ODS, with derogations for essential uses and where no technically feasible alternatives are available
  • Producers and users of ODS must apply to the European Commission each year for a quota which, if granted, sets a quantitative limit on the amount they can use for certain permitted uses
  • All imports and exports of ODS between the EU and third countries must be licenced by the Commission and companies must report to the Commission on their use of ODS annually
  • Through the ODS Regulation, the EU and UK comply with their legally binding UN obligations under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer

To learn more about the ozone layer depletion, please see our article About Ozone Depletion

Regulation (EU) No. 517/2014 – The F-Gas Regulation

  • The F-Gas Regulation requires a 79% cut in the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are the main group of F-Gases and are potent greenhouse gases
  • The 79% reduction is mandated to occur between 2015 and 2030 in order to mitigate climate change
  • The Regulation is phasing down the amount of HFCs that can be placed on the EU market by allocating steadily reducing quotas to HFC producers and importers
  • This quota allocation process is the main mechanism by which the EU and the UK will meet their international obligations to phase down HFCs under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which came into force in 2019
  • The Regulation also bans F-Gases in certain applications and sets requirements for leak checks, leakage repairs and recovery of used gas
  • In addition, all technicians handling F-Gases must be trained in their safe use and be certified.  Member states are required to recognise valid F-Gas certificates issued elsewhere in the EU

Policy Background

  • Under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, ODS have largely been phased out in developed countries.  ODS are permitted only in essential applications where no alternatives are available.  Their use is tightly controlled and monitored: imports and exports must be licenced and annual reports on production and consumption must be submitted to the UN Ozone Secretariat.  Prior to the UK leaving the EU, the European Commission undertook most of these control functions on behalf of the UK, including submitting aggregated EU data to the UN Ozone Secretariat
  • F-Gases largely replaced ODS and although F-Gases do not harm the ozone layer, they are powerful greenhouse gases and contribute to climate change.  The 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol requires developed countries to begin to phase down HFCs (the main group of F-Gases) from January 2019.  The EU had decided to take action before agreement was reached at the UN and began reducing the use of F-Gases from 2015.  The emission reductions that the F-Gas Regulation will delivered are factored into the the UK’s carbon budget calculations and emissions reduction targets under the UK Climate Change Act 2008

The UK will continue to restrict the use of ODS and to phase down the use of F-Gases post Brexit by transferring, as closely as possible, the requirements of the ODS and F-Gas Regulations into UK law.  It is intended that this will enable to UK to continue to meet international and domestic obligations in a way that minimises disruption to business.  Failure by the UK Government to make this Statutory Instrument would mean that there would be no controls on the use of ODS and F-Gases.  This would be very damaging to the environment, would put the UK in breach of its legally binding obligations under the Montreal Protocol, and would impact negatively on domestic emissions reductions targets under the UK Climate Change Act 2008

The GB Regulation 2019/583

The purpose of The Ozone-Depleting Substances and Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 No. 583 is to transfer powers and functions from the European institutions (including the European Commission and the European Environment Agency) to the Secretary of State, devolved Ministers and the appropriate UK regulatory bodies.  This ensures that the requirements of the ODS and F-Gas Regulations can continue to operate in the UK after EU exit, if there is no withdrawal agreement.

GB F-Gas RegulationsRegulation 2019/583 will deliver the UK Government’s objectives of maintaining the same environmental outcomes and minimising disruption to businesses, by retaining the requirements of the ODS and F-Gas Regulations in UK law whilst also correcting operability deficiancies.

It will also maintain the contribution that the EC/EU Regulations are making to meeting UK domestic carbon budgets under the UK Climate Change Act 2008.

The new GB F-Gas quotas will follow the same phase down steps as the EU:

  • limited to 63% of the baseline in 2019 and 2020
  • reducing to 45% of the baseline in 2021
The main changes to the ODS and F-Gas Regulations under 2019/583 are:

  1. Where relevant, references to “the Union” have been replaced with “any part of the United Kingdom” and references to the EU market have been replaced with the UK market
  2.  

  3. Provisions relating to the EU-wide quota, licensing and reporting systems have been amended to enable the UK and the Devolved Administrations to set up their own system
  4.  

  5. The F-Gas baseline reference period (used to set quota levels) has been changed to 2015-2017 because the necessary UK data for the baseline period 2009-2012, as used by the EU F-Gas Regulation, is not available
  6.  

  7. Maximum limit values for the use and emission of certain ozone depleting substances have been reduced to 12.4% of the EU values, on the basis that when the EU regulation was made in 2009, the population of the UK was 12.4% of the population of the EU
  8.  

  9. The Environment Act 1995 will be amended by separate regulations, yet to be made, to include a charging power, provided by Schedule 4 paragraph 1 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to enable the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Body for Wales and Scottish Environment Protection Agency to recover the cost of operating quota, licensing and reporting systems from businesses using them.  From exit day, the Environment Agency will be operating UK-wide systems, so will be the only body using this power, unless and until the Devolved Administrations establish their own systems.  Cost recovery is an established practice in line with the “polluter pays” principle and is intended to ensure the new system is adequately resourced and minimises the additional burden on the taxpayer
  10.  

  11. The EU mechanism for allocating quotas and the format for companies to report on their use of ODS and F-Gases will not be replicated in the UK as different IT systems will be established here.  The provisions for determining this mechanism and the format will, therefore, be an administrative function with the details to be published by the Secretary of State to reflect the content of the UK IT systems once they are completed in early 2019
  12.  

  13. The Secretary of State will have a power to increase each company’s HFC quota in the event that it becomes apparent that in splitting the EU28 quota the UK receives a share that does not accurately reflect our current supply, leaving the UK with less supply that would have been the case had the UK not left the EU.  This may occur, for example, if some EU suppliers who had been placing gas on the UK market choose not to apply for a UK quota (retaining their full quota for sale in the EU27).  The Government intends to use this power only if any supply shortfall is sufficiently large that there is a high probability of significant impact on refrigeration supplies for critical sectors which rely heavily on cooling to function, such as healthcare, food production/supply and IT data centres.  This power would not be used to increase UK supply beyond what it would have been were the UK to remain in the EU.  The power would only be used to restore a significant UK shortfall due to exit and will expire after two years
  14.  

  15. The Regulations will allow EU quota authorisations (which permit businesses to import products and equipment pre-charged with HFCs) issued prior to EU exit to be used in the UK market instead of the EU market, subject to certain conditions.  Some companies have purchased EU quota authorisations several years in advance, with the intention of using them in the UK, and would be financially disadvantaged if they were no longer able to do so.  This will also reduce the risk that UK HFC supply is below where it would have been had the UK not eft the EU
  16.  

  17. The UK will continue to recognise the validity of F-Gas training certificates issued in the EU to enable technicians who hold EU certificates to continue working in the UK

For further information about registering for an F-Gas account to:

  • apply for quota
  • manage your quota
  • submit an annual report

see the UK Government website: here 

Refrigerant Leak Testing for Air Conditioning, Refrigeration and Heat Pump Equipment

One method of preventing F-Gas release is through periodic leak checking of equipment containing F-Gas.  Several new requirements relating to leak checking were introduced in the F-Gas Regulation and are outlined below:

What equipment needs to be checked?

Equipment containing F-Gases in quantities of 5 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent (t CO2 eq) or more (per refrigerant circuit) must be regularly leak checked.

GWP compares the global warming potential of a gas to that of CO2.  CO2 has a GWP of 1 and F-Gases have high GWPs.

The CO2 equivalent (CO2 eq) of an F-Gas is calculated by multiplying the mass in tonnes by the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of that gas. 

How to calculate GWP and CO2 equivalent in tonnes for your F-Gas equipment

The table below provides the conversion from CO2 eq to kg for the most commonly used F-Gases within Petra equipment. This table provides the charge in F-Gas equipment (in kg per individual refrigerant circuit) which equates to 5, 50 and 500 t CO2 eq and should be used to determine the frequency at which equipment requires leak checking.

F-Gas
R134a
R513a
R1234ze
R410a
R407c
R452b
R290
GWP
1,430
631
7
2,088
1,774
698
3
5 t CO2 eq (in kg)
3.50
7.90
714.30
2.40
2.80
7.20
1,666.70
50 t CO2 eq (in kg)
35
79.20
7,142.90
24.0
28.20
71.60
16,666.70
500 t CO2 eq (in kg)
349.70
792.30
71,428.60
239.50
281.80
716.30
166,666.70

How often does relevant equipment need to be leak checked?

The thresholds for frequency of leak checking under the 2014 F-Gas Regulation are given in t CO2 eq.  This means that equipment containing F-Gases with a higher t CO2 eq require more frequent leak checking because of their higher GWP.  Newly commissioned equipment should be checked for leakage immediately after it has been put into service.

Quantity of gas
(t CO2eq)
≤ 5
5 - 50
50 - 500
≥ 500
F-Gas Leak Checking Frequency
No equipment fitted
None
12 monthly
6 monthly
3 monthly
F-Gas Leak Checking Frequency
Leak detection equipment fitted
None
24 monthly
12 monthly
6 monthly

Automatic Leak Detection

Operators[1] of stationary equipment containing F-gas in quantities greater than 500 t CO2 eq must provide automatic leakage detection systems[2] which alerts the operator or a service company of any leakage. Leakage detection systems must be checked at least once every 12 months to ensure that it is functioning correctly. It is recommended that leak detection systems are installed in plant rooms where possible to ensure that operators are alerted of leaks once detected.

In cases where a leak has been detected, the operator is obliged to ensure that the repair is carried out as soon as possible by personnel certified to undertake the specific activity.  The cause of a leakage should be identified in order to avoid recurrence.  A follow-up check must be carried out any time within 1 month of the repair to verify that the repair has been effective.

[1] The operator is defined in the F-gas Regulation as “the natural or legal person exercising actual power over the technical functioning of products and equipment covered by this Regulation”. As a starting point the owner should assume responsibility for operator obligations under the F-gas Regulation unless it is confirmed that the operator obligations have been transferred to a third party.

[2] Leakage detection system means a calibrated mechanical, electrical or electronic device for detecting leakage of fluorinated greenhouse gases which, on detection, alerts the operator.

 

What records are required?

Operators of F-gas equipment which requires leak checking must establish and maintain records for each piece of equipment.

The records must include:

  • The name, postal address and telephone number of the operator.
  • The quantity and type of F-gas refrigerants installed in each system.
  • Any quantities of refrigerant added during installation, maintenance or servicing or due to leakage.
  • Whether the quantities of installed fluorinated greenhouse gases have been recycled or reclaimed: If so, must also be recorded:
    • The name and address of the recycling or reclamation facility
    •  If applicable, the certificate number
  • The quantity of refrigerant recovered during servicing, maintenance and final disposal
  • The identity of the company or personnel who installed, serviced, maintained and where applicable repaired or decommissioned the equipment, including, where applicable, the number of its certificate.
  • Dates and results of leak checks and rechecks after repairs.
  • If the equipment is decommissioned, the measures taken to recover and dispose of the F-gas refrigerant.
  • Details of automatic leak detection systems, including results of regular checks for effectiveness.

For equipment containing F-gas operators must retain the applicable records for at least five years. The company or personnel, who installed, serviced, maintained and where applicable repaired or decommissioned the F-gas equipment must also retain the applicable records (see above) for at least five years.

 

Who can perform leak checking?

Only appropriately certified persons can conduct leak checking.

 

 

Further information is available as follows:

Environmental Protection Agency :- Guidance on the F-gas regulation, key changes, seminar presentations on the new F-gas regulations and the EU F-Gas Regulation 517/2014 are available from the EPA website at the following link: http://www.epa.ie/air/airenforcement/ozone/reviewofthef-gasregulation/ or from: www.fgases.ie

UK Government:- Guidance on the F-gas Regulations for users, producers and traders https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/eu-f-gas-regulation-guidance-for-users-producers-andtraders  

Disclaimer

This document does not purport to be and should not be considered a legal interpretation of the legislation referred to herein. Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the material contained, complete accuracy cannot be guaranteed.