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THE European Union’s pioneering HFC phasedown is experiencing unintended consequences, with reports circulating of a surge in illegal HFC sales and imports. 

According to a story published by UK-based news outlet Cooling Post, an increasing quantity of illegal high-GWP refrigerant is being offered online.

More often than not, these disreputable sellers simply ignore any regulations and supply refrigerant to those who order it. 

Numerous sellers are also presenting their wares in disposable cylinders, which have not been legal in Europe since 2007, further indicating that authorities are being circumvented. 

This rise in illegal dealing is being driven primarily by the ongoing reduction in the availability of high-GWP refrigerants.

In 2018 alone, virgin HFC products made available to the market will be reduced by 37 per cent – causing significant price hikes. 

To put things in perspective, a report by UK specialists Aircon-Refrigeration, stated that the cost of R404a had risen by over 200 per cent since January 1, 2017. Consequently, some may turn to alternative sources to save money.

For example, Cooling Post claims that illegal 10.9kg cylinders of R404a were offered for as little as £280 ($A502); a UK refrigerant company would otherwise normally charge upwards of £650.

While many of these transactions are traceable, the concern is that larger deals may be carried out in person and fly completely under the radar – and that the refrigerant traded may be impure and potentially dangerous. 

This is all sobering news out of Europe during Australia’s first year of HFC phasedown, but hopefully the experience of the Carbon Tax is fresh enough to avoid repeating the type of situation now facing Europe.

Australia’s phase-down steps are smaller and more frequent than Europe’s, which will hopefully result in a smoother transition to a low-GWP future.

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