The independent contractor for the Illegal Trade “Action Line” has indicated that the submissions to the Action Line are of high quality and provide good detail about potential illegal trade activities. This reflects the professionalism of the vast majority of the industry. In this round-up:

  • As part of a multi-level programme EFCTC calls for enforcement of cylinder regulations to clamp down on disposal cylinders
  • The AUTO BILD investigation into availability of HFC-134a in disposables in Germany
  • EFCTC seeks support from car manufacturers to stem the use of illegal HFC-134a in disposables for servicing mobile air-conditioning systems

A separate item provides a brief history of illegal trade of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) and HFCs, which also summarises smuggling methods.

EFCTC calls for cylinder regulations to be strictly enforced to control illegal trade in HFCs. The rapid emergence of illegal trade (imports) of HFCs into the EU has a broad impact on the whole refrigeration and air-conditioning industry and its supply chain. There are three applicable measures that characterize the illegal trade:

  • Imports of HFCs must be within an annual quota established by the F-Gas Regulation.
  • The containers used to supply HFCs must not be disposable and must be supplied with a provision having been made for its return for refilling according to the F-Gas Regulation.
  • The disposable cylinders widely used to supply the illegal HFCs are non-compliant with the ADR requirements for the transportation of pressurized/liquefied refrigerant gases.

The non-compliant cylinders containing HFCs are shipped from non-EU countries in non-refillable single use cylinders that meet the US DOT requirements, but not the ADR requirements. The cylinders typically have a capacity of 5 to 10 litres and are transported in 20 ft sea containers. Disposable cylinders have been banned in Europe since 2007.

Competent authorities responsible for the ADR application, institutions and transportation related associations have been informed about the problem and have been asked to ensure that the ADR rules are strictly enforced in this respect.

The EFCTC Press Release and letter to competent authorities is here

An article about the press release has been published in Cooling Post

Explanatory Note: Since the press release was written Multilateral Agreement M299, which allows certain gases and liquids in refillable pressure receptacles approved by the US Department of Transportation to be carried from the location of the temporary storage to the end users under strict conditions has expired (1st June 2019) and a new multi-lateral agreement M318 has been adopted which is substantially broader in scope, but still limited to refillable cylinders. To date M318 has been only signed by a few parties.

AUTO BILD undercover investigation into illegal HFC-134a. AUTO BILD has published the report of its investigation into the availability of illegal HFC-134a in disposables in Germany. Initially advertised on Ebay, with follow-up contact by WhatsApp, full 13.6 kg disposable cylinders of HFC-134a were available on this black market. Many cylinders could be obtained from Poland at the right price for supply in Germany. The seller was aware the trade is illegal. The trading platforms Ebay and Ebay small advertisements are also aware of this and delete unambiguous offers immediately, but the sellers disguise the offer with misleading images and banners. New offers appear every day. AUTO BILD added that the illegal traders think they are safe due to overloaded responsible authorities, with fines in Poland that do not deter the illegal importers.

Their test purchase bottle from Ebay small advertisements arrived, neutrally packed in an outer carton for frozen pizzas. In addition to the illegal HFC-134a and disposable cylinder, transport should have been as dangerous goods in ventilated vehicles. Transport in standard delivery vehicles potentially exposes the driver to suffocation in the event that the cylinder leaks. The cylinder was returned to the seller by hazardous goods transport. AUTO BILD informed the responsible Cologne district government, which then called in the public prosecutor’s office. AUTO BILD pointed out that the illegal refrigerant is a problem for every motorist as the refrigerant may be contaminated which can lead to system failure. Analysis of the HFC-134a showed high levels (20.7%) of non-absorbable gases (NAGs).

Note: The standard specification for NAGs is <1.5%.

Auto Bild Germany, 29th May 2019

EFCTC writes to car manufacturers for assistance in the fight against illegal HFCs. As part of the multi-level programme against illegal trade, the CEOs and senior Executives of EFCTC member companies have written to the CEOs of the major car companies in the European Union requesting them to make their dealerships aware of the situation regarding the illegal import of HFC-134a, a refrigerant that is used extensively for the servicing of the existing automobile fleet.

In the letter, the EFCTC CEOs ask their peers in the Automobile companies that “through your contacts with these companies (the dealerships), you make them aware of the situation regarding the illegal imports of HFC-134a and that they are directed to seek assurance/guarantee that their suppliers can demonstrate that their HFC-134a is legally sourced from a holder of an annual quota.”

The letter also notes that sales of HFC-134a in disposable cylinders, which are banned in the EU, is increasing and stresses that the use of illegally imported product could cause a health and safety hazard. The EFCTC CEOs state, “there is no guarantee that the cylinders of drums illegally imported actually contain the correct products – and may actually contain more hazardous or flammable products posing significant risks for their users as well as impurities that could damage the MAC system in cars.”