NORWAY: Maritime products and services supplier Wilhelmsen Ships Service has warned the shipping industry of the dangers of purchasing black market refrigerants.

At a time when refrigerant prices have hit record levels as a result of the European F-gas phase down, Wilhelmsen warns that this has created opportunities for the sale of contaminated and counterfeit refrigerants at lower prices, typically in disposable cylinders.

The warnings are particularly pertinent in the shipping industry where contaminated, counterfeit refrigerant caused a number of refrigerated container explosions and three deaths in 2011. That episode, caused largely by a dangerous mixture of R22 and methyl chloride sold as and designed to mimic R134a, also led to the eventual quarantine of thousands of reefer container units.

The new document, How To Avoid Counterfeit And Illegal Refrigerants, charts a number of potential dangers in buying cheap refrigerant from dubious sources.

Wilhelmsen warns that used/contaminated refrigerant is being put back onto the market without going through proper recycling processes, and potentially causing system corrosion, sludge formation and equipment breakdown.

A lack of traceability and their low price have made disposable cylinders the counterfeiters container of choice. The risk of acquiring counterfeits is therefore higher when choosing disposables over returnable cylinders, the company argues.

In addition, counterfeit refrigerants can contain banned substances which are toxic and flammable – putting end users and refrigeration plants at risk, while banned substances with high ozone depleting potential will cause environmental harm by compromising the ozone layer.

Wilhelmsen advises customers to only obtain refrigerants from reliable and reputable sources; if possible to avoid disposable cylinders or at least question the purity of the contents; verify the source and authenticity of the refrigerant – especially if the price seems too good to be true.

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