EIA-ODS-Illegal-Trade-briefingUK: Warnings of the potential for increased illegal trade in refrigerants, Green group the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has called for licensing systems be extended to include HFCs, HFOs and blends.

In a document produced in advance of this week’s Montreal Protocol meetings in Vienna, the EIA expresses concern at the continued growth in HCFC22 production for feedstock applications at a time when developing countries are phasing out HCFC22 consumption.

More than 1.17 million tonnes of ODS are reported to have been used for feedstock applications in 2013, including 686,309 tonnes of HCFCs, 182,925 tonnes of CFCs.

“The availability of cheap virgin HCFC22 for feedstock uses creates opportunities to divert these chemicals into illegal markets for emissive uses,” says the EIA in the document Update on the Illegal Trade in Ozone-Depleting Substances.

“Global demand for refrigerants has risen significantly in recent years, with peak hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) consumption approximately three times greater than CFC peak production. The scale of illegal HCFC trade could potentially be larger than that previously seen with CFCs,” it warns.

In a number of recommendations, the EIA calls for improvements to be made to reporting of consumption, production, import, export, re-export including destination country, source country, feedstocks, recycled and reclaimed substances. It also seeks measures to extend licensing systems to include HFCs, HFOs and blends.

The EIA cites Chinese import/export figures to highlight the problem. China’s reported HCFC22 world exports in 2014 were 132,665 tonnes, yet only 103,615 tonnes were to have been imported by recipient countries.

While inaccuracies and poor reporting are possible explanations for these discrepancies, they could also be an indication of illegal ODS trade.