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Bulgarian customs to auction illegal refrigerant

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.

The news will shock the market at a time when the legitimate European air conditioning and refrigeration industry is struggling to stem the tide of illegal black market HFC refrigerants. The majority of this illegal trade uses disposable (non-refillable) cylinders, which have been banned in Europe since 2007.

Despite evidence that the illegal trade amounted to as much as 20% of the legal quota last year, the European Commission still blindly insists that the level of illegal trade is insignificant.

Incredibly, the Cooling Post can now reveal that the Bulgarian Customs Agency is to sell nearly 1000 seized cylinders of R410A and R404A by public auction – all of it, seemingly, in illegal disposable cylinders.

This website believes that 200 11.3kg cylinders of R410A and 777 10.9kg cylinders of R404A are being auctioned in two separate lots.

The refrigerant has been acquired as a result of one or more seized shipments from Serbia, possibly in 2017. It is currently being held in a customs warehouse in Vidin, in north-west Bulgaria, close to the Serbian border.

It appears the shipment was seized because of false documentation. The consignment was declared as being isobutane but the cylinders were clearly packaged and marked as being HFC refrigerants R410A and R404A. Subsequent laboratory tests of the contents proved that to be the case.

The use of false documents also suggests that the shipment was not part of a legitimate quota.

By law this consignment must be destroyed or re-exported outside of the European Union. Instead, this refrigerant, still in its illegal cylinders, is now to be auctioned by the Bulgarian Customs Authority on Monday (June 24) in Lom.

Initial bid price for the R404A is BGN211,732.50 (€108,305) and BGN45,2009 (€23,117) for the R410A.

The announcement of the public sale

While there is no indication that the refrigerant can only be sold for export outside of the EU, there is a reference to F-gas. Terms and conditions of sale state that if used within Bulgaria their consumption must comply with the European F-gas regulations.

The Cooling Post has sought comments from both the Bulgarian Customs Agency and the European Commission.

©Cooling Post 2019

Related stories:

EC says “small” illegal trade will not affect F-gas goals9 June 2019
EUROPE: The European Commission still insists that the illegal trade in HFCs within Europe is in small quantities, despite evidence to the contrary. Read more…

Illegal refrigerant costs Greece €20m23 July 2018
GREECE: The Greek air conditioning and refrigeration industry has accused EU member state Bulgaria of being a gateway for illegal refrigerant from Albania, Macedonia and Turkey. Read more…

End this F-gas farce9 September 2018
EUROPE: The supposedly ground-breaking European F-gas regulations have become a farce, with the authorities seemingly unwilling or unable to stem sales of illegal refrigerant. Read more…

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