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Auction of seized refrigerant set to go ahead

BULGARIA: The auction of HFC refrigerants seized by Bulgarian customs appears to be going ahead, despite efforts by the Cooling Post and other industry groups to stop it.

On Friday, the Cooling Post revealed that the Bulgarian Customs Agency had announced a public auction of over 10 tonnes of R404A and R410A refrigerant from a seized shipment from Serbia. This is despite the refrigerant having been imported outside of the European F-gas phase down quota system and being contained in illegal disposable cylinders. 

The auction is scheduled to take place on Monday June 24 at 10.30am EEST (09.30 CET) in Lom, Bulgaria, and there is currently no indication that this will not take place as scheduled. 

Replying to email questions from the Cooling Post, a spokesman for the Bulgarian Customs Agency wrote: “The buyer has the obligation to comply with the applicable EU and national legislation, incl the provisions of Regulation (EU) 517/2014 [the current F-gas regulations] on fluorinated greenhouse gases and repealing Regulation (EC) No 842/2006 [the previous F-gas regulations].” The spokesman also pointed out that this was “mentioned in the set of documents accompanying the announcement for sale”.

In fact, the documents only state that the purchaser of the goods must comply with the F-gas regulations if used within the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria. This also ignores the fact that the refrigerant already breaches the F-gas regulations, as it is not part of the quota system, and is contained in illegal cylinders.

In addition, disposable cylinders are not covered by European standards, do not comply with the European carriage of dangerous goods act and, therefore, cannot be transported within Europe. 

On the subject of the refillable cylinders, the customs spokesperson said: “Import in EU of non-refillable containers with fluorinated greenhouse gases is prohibited since 04.07.2007 but there are third countries where their use is allowed thus goods could be re-exported, for example.”

This is correct. In fact the only viable options are re-export outside of the EU or incineration. However, the initial bid price placed on the refrigerant by the customs authority is at least double the market price of refrigerant available outside of the EU, making it unlikely that it will attract any non-EU bidders.

The Customs Agency has so far been unable to respond to further questions from the Cooling Post due to the weekend break, but has indicated it will do so. The spokesperson did say: “I would like to clarify that we abide by the law and require potential buyers to abide by the law. On the other hand, is the buyer’s judgment whether to bid, whether the price is profitable and how to make profit within the law.”

The Cooling Post has contacted DG Clima, the department of the European Commission responsible, and a number of European commissioners, so far without response. Other leading industry organisations are known to have done the same.

Related stories:

Bulgarian customs to auction illegal refrigerant21 June 2019
BULGARIA: Over 10 tonnes of seized refrigerant, imported outside of the EU quota system in illegal disposable cylinders, is to be auctioned to the general public by Bulgarian customs authorities. Read more…

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