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Safety is vital in global F-gas transition

UK: Institute of Refrigeration president Graeme Fox has warned of the real-world issues that the “rapid transition” to “natural” refrigerants poses for developing countries.

Speaking at the Institute of Refrigeration’s 123rd annual dinner, Fox was relating his work with one of his top-table guests, Madi Sakande, president of the African RACHP association U-3ARC, and their contribution with UNEP in the creation and delivery of the Refrigerant Driving Licence.

The Refrigerant Driving Licence (RDL) seeks to help developing nations achieve higher competence standards in safe refrigerant handling through training and accreditation of operatives.

“Put simply, the developing world has historically often used old, decommissioned equipment from the UK and Europe,” Fox explained. “Affordability of new equipment just wasn’t an option – and yet these nations are often those most in need of cooling – for medicines and food preservation. So while we in the developed nations have been transitioning towards ultra-low GWP refrigerants for several years now, most of developing world have still been using HCFCs and even some CFCs still.”

He recalled how U-3ARC recently posted news on LinkedIn after one of Madi Sakande’s friends had been killed by an exploding R600a system and three others hospitalised. The post attracted many comments, with most providing links to training materials or training courses.

“It’s a fact that hydrocarbons can be very dangerous in untrained hands,” he insisted. “But one major lesson we learned in the United Nations team working on the RDL programme was that in many cases the engineers needing this training have very little reading and writing skills. Some of them have never been to school or if they have then only for a few short years,” Fox revealed. 

“The prospect for them of sitting through a three-hour online theory exam was just preposterous and many simply froze when we ran the pilot country trials.

“I’m not saying let’s not transition. I’m not saying let’s not use the best available solution open to us in terms of global warming potential and efficiency. But I am saying that just because something is technically feasible here, it does not automatically mean it is applicable in practice everywhere.

“The so called “natural refrigerants” which we are successfully transitioning toward here in the UK and Europe have got many great applications, but they are not suitable for every cooling or heating application. To pretend otherwise does not help any cause. On the contrary it simply makes the work that those of us do on the global level so much more difficult because policy makers love easy solutions, and they lap up things like that with no regard to the practical realities.”

Related stories:

No flammable refrigerants without training – 4 April 2023
BURKINA FASO: Companies in Africa have called for a halt to the introduction of flammable refrigerants and equipment until its technicians are appropriately trained. Read more…

Refrigerant driving license takes to the road – 28 June 2019
USA: The first round of training sessions for the Refrigerant Driving License (RDL), a global refrigerant management initiative, have been completed in Kigali, Rwanda. Read more…

Plans to develop “refrigerant driving license” – 29 July 2015
USA: The AHRI has met with UNEP to develop a global qualification programme for refrigerant supply chain networks. Read more…

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