Urgent action is demanded by the European Fluorocarbons Technical Committee (EFCTC) after latest data from the European Environment Agency (EEA) revealed that there had potentially been large-scale stockpiling of HFCs in 2014 – the year before the F-gas cap and phase-down mechanism was introduced.
First revealed by the Cooling Post last month, imports of HFC refrigerants into Europe almost doubled to 122,781 tonnes (260.9Mt CO2‑equivalent) in 2014.
The EFCTC has called for all import data to be verified in order to better understand the impacts of the potential HFC stockpiles on EU emissions and on the functioning of the F-gas regulation. It also calls for sanctions to be applied to on any importers found to have failed to comply with the F-gas regulations.
Responding to the potential of large stockpiles of HFCs, the EFCTC said: “It has been suggested that potentially tens of thousands of tonnes of HFCs have been imported during 2014 in anticipation of a cap and phase-down mechanism that has taken effect on January 1, 2015. Consequently substantial quantities are believed to have been available for use in 2015 and much may still available in 2016.”
Failure to report
Next to stockpiling, the EFCTC points out that another potential cause of the substantial increase compared to previous years may be that importers failed to report their activities in earlier years as required by the old F-gas regulation (842/2006).
In 2014, the first year for which non-EU companies were obliged to report their activities within the EU, 468 companies submitted a data report – three times the number in 2013 – but only 19 reporting companies were located outside the EU. While the number of reporters increased significantly, the distribution across member states remained largely the same. Just under half of all reporting companies (222) are located in five large member states (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK).
The EFCTC argues that in practice, any large quantities of stockpiled HFCs may have the effect of delaying actions to implement the transition to lower-GWP fluids – a transition that must begin promptly to avoid a shortage of higher GWP refrigerants in the future.
“Article 19 of the F-gas regulation covers the reporting and verification of data,” noted EFCTC chairman Dr Nick Campbell. “It states that every company that has placed 10,000 CO2 eq of HFCs on the market in a calendar year shall, by 30 June of the following year have its data verified by an independent auditor. Furthermore, member states and the Commission can demand to see the verification report.
While the EFCTC accepts that a thorough check of all the 2014 verification reports is a major task, it believes that it is essential that member states carry it out as soon as possible.
“Without such a check on reporting, it is hard to demonstrate that the F-gas regulation is credible and that HFCs controls within Europe are working,” said Dr Campbell. “Should it emerge that some importers have failed to comply with the reporting requirements under the old F-gas regulation, we would expect that member states impose effective sanctions,” he added.
The European Fluorocarbons Technical Committee is a Sector Group within the European Chemical Industry council (Cefic) that monitors the constantly changing legislation related to fluorocarbons.