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Burning Issue: Time Nears for F-Gas training

It is more important than ever to show F-gas regulation has been effective - not just in the UK but throughout Europe, writes Mike Nankivell. And training and certification are about to be scrutinised.
I would venture a wild guess that the majority of HVR readers will have been born in nineteen hundred and something. In which case, you will appreciate we have the privilege of belonging to an era of remarkable technological advancements.

Indeed, some of you may be fully justified in believing you have played your part, particularly as the science and development of modern air conditioning and refrigeration, as we know it, are for the most part, features of the 20th century.

Consequences both positive and negative do of course combine in just about everything we do. But it is our unfortunate lot that, despite all the positive benefits of living in a technological age, there will always be factions that seek only to highlight the negatives. Just occasionally, those factions may hit upon something of a point.

It is only in relatively recent times that we have come to understand that much of the technology we
take for granted, is almost certainly having a hitherto unseen (negative) impact on our environment - manifesting itself as climate change. Refrigeration and air conditioning are classic examples.

The discovery that certain popular refrigerants cause damage to the ozone layer, saw the introduction of ozone-benign F-Gas (fluorinated gas) refrigerants known as HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) to air conditioning and refrigeration equipment.

HFCs have global warming potential if leaked to atmosphere. They are the subject of the EU F-Gas regulation EU 842/2006 which regulation became law in July 2006, and came into force on 4 July 2007.

New equipment-labelling requirements, F-Gas manufacturer's, importer's and exporter's sales, distribution, recycling and disposal records, regularised leak-checking procedures and record logs are (or should be) in place, as indeed are penalties for any reported infringements of this particular piece of climate change legislation.

The European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE), which represents the majority of European-based air conditioning, heat pump and refrigeration equipment manufacturers, continues to do a powerful job in Brussels.

EPEE reinforces our industry's genuine interests in the containment and responsible use of F-Gas refrigerants. It works to ensure that all members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are aware, not only of the industry's positive response to the Regulation, but also calling for them to acknowledge and support the industry's desire
to ensure its success.

So-called environmentalists who campaigned, unsuccessfully, for tougher regulation, including premature bans on F-Gases, have not gone away or given up. They will no doubt resurface when the Regulation comes up for review in just a year or two - arguing that air conditioning and refrigeration are unnecessary luxuries but, if we must indulge ourselves, we should use natural alternatives to F-Gases.

Despite much rhetoric, it has been established that safe, affordable and energy-efficient alternatives are still not available for the wider range of essential applications. This makes it even more important for it to be demonstrated that the F-Gas Regulation has been effective, not just here but throughout Europe.

The European Commission will examine every aspect of the Regulation including the subject of training and certification, which are possibly the most critical elements and yet still to be fully implemented.

This surely is the burning issue? Most, if not all, refrigeration and air conditioning engineers throughout the EU member states, need to undergo competence assessments and some retraining in order to satisfy new minimum standards and certification.

For the time being (until 2011) the mandatory City & Guilds 2078 and CITB equivalent refrigerant-handling qualifications will suffice in the UK. But our installation and maintenance engineers are no doubt anxious to know when the new assessments and training courses will become available, where they can be taken and how much they will cost - all unknown at this time.

In the UK, the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Industry Board (ACRIB) has been working closely with City and Guilds to formulate assessment and training courses
that meet the new requirements. It is expected that these will be finalised by September this year.

And information on what, where, how long and how much will no doubt be widely publicised and certainly available on the ACRIB website www.acrib.org.uk and from the government-funded F-Gas support service on 0161 874 3663 or fgas-support@enviros.com

From September, all our refrigeration and air-conditioning installation, service and maintenance engineers have less than three years to be assessed, trained and certified to the new minimum requirements.

Mike Nankivell is marketing and business development manager - Space Airconditioning, and chairman of the ACRIB F-Gas Implementation Group. He is the UK representative of the EPEE Communications Group


11 August 2008

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