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Firm fined £75,000 for F-gas breaches

UK: The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has fined a health food supplements manufacturer £75,000 for breaches of the F-gas regulation.

DSM Nutritional Products (UK) Ltd, based in Dalry in Ayrshire, received the first civil penalty to be issued in Scotland under the F-gas regulations for failing to provide a leakage detection system on its refrigeration equipment.

SEPA is one of the enforcing authorities for F-gas regulations in Scotland, carrying out audits to ensure compliance with the system and taking appropriate enforcement action where required. Companies must submit data to SEPA every year under the Scottish Pollutant Release Inventory (SPRI). 

In 2020 the emissions of 898.2kg reported by DSM were over eight times the reporting threshold, considerably higher than previous years and were flagged by the Scottish Pollutant Release Inventory (SPRI) as being in the top three highest emitters for Scotland.  

SEPA’s specialist Carbon Reduction, Energy and Industry Unit began an investigation and discovered there had been accidental releases of F-gases from the site. While there is no requirement under the F-gas regulations 2015 to inform SEPA of any release, operators of equipment that contains F-gases must take precautions to prevent the unintentional release or leakage of those gases. For some equipment automatic leakage detection systems may be required. 

“The requirement to install a leak detection system first came into force in 2006, which means the company was non-compliant for 14 years before this leak happened,” observed SEPA’s carbon reduction, energy and industry unit manager Jamie McGeachy. “It is simply unacceptable for industries that use greenhouse gases to fail to meet their environmental responsibilities. This civil penalty demonstrates SEPA’s commitment to enforcing obligations under the F-gas regulations and I hope it serves as a warning to any operator using F-gases.  

DSM Nutritional Products operates four chilled water units, each of which holds 600kg of R134a. The company was legally required to ensure that any chiller that holds over 500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent or above had a leak detection system which alerts the operator or a service company of any leakage. The four chiller tanks contained a total capacity of 3,432tCO2e and no leak detection system was in place.  

DSM advised SEPA that the two water chillers responsible for most of the leaks were installed in 1980 by the previous operator of the site. Refrigerants have changed over the years and at some point there was an increase in holding capacity – the labels on the machines were not updated.   

The F-gas regulations provide for the imposition of a maximum civil penalty of £100,000 for breach of the requirement to install a leakage detection system where one is required.  

Related stories:

Company hit by £1m penalty for F-gas breaches23 September 2021
UK: The Environment Agency has issued penalties totalling over £1m on a UK company for breaches of the F-gas regulations. Read more…

Scottish firms face £100k fines for F-gas violations10 January 2020
UK: The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) warns Scottish companies that it will be monitoring compliance with the latest F-gas regulations and threatening fines of up to £100,000 for violations. Read more…

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