Stakeholders discuss future of refrigerants in SA

After a six-month break, the HCFC stakeholders met again on 28 September to discuss everything from the HPMP roadshow to the proposed ban on disposable refrigerant canisters. 

HCFC001The September HCFC Stakeholder meeting in progress at the DEA head office in Pretoria.

The meeting took place at the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) head office in Pretoria and as usual, the room was packed to the brim with stakeholders from all over the country. The meeting usually takes place quarterly, but as the Hcfc Phaseout Management Plan (HPMP) roadshows took place in June, this was the first meeting since 8 March.

But before the formalities got underway, meeting chair, Obed Baloyi (chief director, hazardous chemicals, DEA) called for a moment of silence for the minister of environmental affairs Edna Molewa, who recently passed away.

The agenda of the 8 March meeting was adopted without changes and the group went through the various action points from the previous meeting to ensure that they were indeed actioned.

HPMP roadshow feedback

The first discussion point was feedback from the HPMP roadshow that happened around the country in June (Midrand, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Cape Town). Various stakeholders commented positively and said the roadshow was well received.

The general consensus was that the roadshows were a success and participation from attendees was very good.

Everyone seemed to agree that more such events need to be held in future, possibly including the other provinces as well.

“I was positively surprised, it was refreshing to see how people contributed and were interested in the subject. If SA wants to repeat the roadshow, UNIDO will support it again,” said Yury Sorokin of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO)

There was a round of applause for the task team for making the roadshow happen.

Mobile reclamation machines

The four mobile refrigerant reclamation machines sourced and donated by UNIDO was next on the agenda. The machines have been shipped to South Africa and had arrived in June already. During the time of the meeting, they were temporarily being housed in Acon in KwaZulu-Natal.

DEA has been doing visits across the country at the proposed sites where the four machines will be housed. They visited Acon last year already (where one machine will remain) and in September they visited Afrox in Port Elizabeth as well as Refrimate in Gauteng to see where the machines will be placed and how they plan on operating them. The fourth machine will be housed at the Capricorn Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) College in Limpopo.

DEA reported that a three-day training is proposed for October for these host sites, after which the machines will be transported to site. Each of the four companies are to submit a motivation letter for their strategy regarding the usage and running of these machines. This was also to be done before the end of October.

The expectation is that a pilot study will run from 2019 to 2020 to monitor these machines. A contract is being developed between UNIDO, DEA and the four companies, outlining the expectations throughout this year period and to ensure the sustainability of the project. This will include issues of insurance and maintenance of the machines.

The issue of waste management however has not been dealt with yet and DEA is still in discussions with other departments to look at the waste license requirement and the viability of shipping the waste outside of our borders. They are also looking at alternatives and possible destruction facilities as there is still no solution for the refrigerant that was reclaimed.

ODS regulations and disposas

Lubabalo Maweni of DEA gave feedback on where they are with the amendment of the Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) regulations. The concept document had been circulated to stakeholders and comment had been received, mostly arguing either for or against the proposed phaseout of disposable refrigerant canisters.

Maweni outlined the process and confirmed that the document currently sits with the legal services department who is working through the draft and the comments. They are also busy with a social-economic impact study. After this, they will formally publish the draft amendment for comment and then meet and consult to look at the responses.

It was proposed that at the next stakeholder meeting, a discussion be tabled investigating the pros and cons of the proposed phasedown of disposable cylinders. DEA wants to consider all aspects before making a choice. Baloyi reiterated that if indeed this is included in the ODS amendment, it won’t be an immediate ban, but rather a gradual phasedown of the disposables.

DEA made the point that stakeholders must remember that there is more to the amendment than just the section on disposa cans and urged everyone to look closely at the document for comment.

Draft work programme presentation

DEA has also put together a draft work programme to guide the HCFC stakeholders in terms of what they are working on long term. “This is to measure our efficiency and whether we’re meeting our targets,” explained Lutendo Ndlovu of DEA during her presentation of the programme that had previously been circulated to stakeholders for comment already.

The programme gives an overview of the main targets, progress on these, expected timelines and who is responsible for championing it. Most of the categories are already on the regular agenda to be discussed in each meeting.

It includes important items such as these:

  • HPMP roadshow planning (done);
  • Mobile refrigerant reclamation machine (in progress);
  • Amendment of ODS regulation (in progress);
  • Customs and environmental inspector training (ongoing);
  • Training of informal HVAC&R servicing technicians (want to train 400 by March 2019)
  • HCFC management of consumption (must monitor that consumption doesn’t exceed 25% of baseline);
  • HFC management (ratifying the Kigali amendment and HFC consumption reporting);
  • Important meetings, locally and abroad – putting together position papers (Open Ended Working Group meeting and Meeting of the Parties); and
  • Ad hoc activities and awareness raising (tariff classifications; Chemical Summit; compliance monitoring on ODSs; and World Ozone Day).

The meeting schedule was also reviewed with the last meeting of the year being on 6 December and the last one for the financial year on 6 March 2019.

On the point of awareness, a question was raised by an Eskom representative about what to do with old R22 HVAC equipment. Although there are programmes in industry in place for the switching out of old equipment and the recovery of refrigerant, it seems that this hasn’t been marketed well enough and many are still confused about what they should actually do with this. The short answer – recover the refrigerant and strip the equipment for scrap.

Another stakeholder also raised a point in terms of participation of international initiatives such as World Ozone Day and why South Africa hasn’t gotten more involved with this. DEA explained that although we have in the past taken part in this particular initiative, there wasn’t funding for it this year. There was consensus around the table that in future, when we do plan to take part in initiatives such as World Ozone Day, DEA needs to table ideas sooner at the meeting and get industry involved, not only for funding, but to see what ideas they might have.

HFC management

Although the stakeholder meeting is predominantly focussed currently on the HCFC phaseout, the looming HFC phasedown is also on the agenda as the first world has already started this process. South Africa is due to officially start our phasedown in 2024 but there is a lot that still needs to happen before then – like determining our baseline.

DEA gave an update on our progress in terms of ratifying the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol regulations. Cabinet has approved but it hasn’t been tabled to the national assembly yet. The late minister was pushing this but obviously, things are uncertain now. Although national assembly rose in August, this wasn’t on the agenda. They are pushing to get a date to table it at the next sitting. The amendment comes into effect on 1 January 2019 and DEA would like to have ratified by then. UNIDO advised that they are willing to assist financially to speed up the process.

Gift Molokwane of DEA gave a presentation on HFC consumption figures based on the 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2017 period. But it’s important to note that these figures were based on DEA’s recommendations and not on the actual figures of what came into the country. He showed import and export trends, noting that 68% of exports to the rest of Africa was in the form of R134a.

The stakeholders and DEA alike weren’t comfortable with the accuracy of these figures and it has been noted that in the next meeting, the actual import data should be obtained from the South African Revenue Services (SARS) and presented to the meeting). The main concern is that up until recently, HFCs such as R134a did not have its own tariff classification, so it would be impossible to determine how much of it was really imported.

Michael Labacher of A-Gas raised the global issue of R404A and R507C which has a higher global warming potential (GWP) than the rest of the HFCs. The rest of the world is phasing down these refrigerants sooner to prevent people switching to them as alternatives to HCFCs and actually doing more harm than good. He suggested that these get capped before the phasedown even starts to ensure it doesn’t grow out of hand.

Baloyi advised that he wants DEA to track the figures every six months to see the trends.

Training of informal HVAC&R technicians

DEA wants to train 2 000 ‘informal’ HVAC&R technicians by 2023 with a target of 400 to be trained next year. John Ackermann of the South African Refrigerated Distributors Association (SARDA) asked what was meant by ‘informal’ and there seemed to be a general disconnect regarding what this terms means. Because if it only refers to technicians who aren’t registered, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are disadvantaged, they could just not be registered for some or other personal reason.

The idea is to train these informal technicians and get them registered with the South African Qualifications and Certifications Committee for Gas (SAQCC Gas) as to uplift the whole industry and the skills.

That’s why DEA is currently getting the help from distributors to compile a database of informal technicians but even this has been slow and problematic as for obvious reasons, some of these technicians do not want to be identified.

The selection criteria are still being fine-tuned as well as the curriculum for the proposed five-day training. There is still a lot of work to be done to iron out the finer details of this programme.

UNIDO suggested incentives in form of equipment for the companies that participate.

The progress is ongoing.

Tariff classifications

Ron Buissinne of A-gas has been very involved in terms of working with SARS to get the correct tariff classifications for refrigerants as to accurately report on import and export figures.

There has been an issue with duplicated classifications and it seems SARS was confused as to refrigerant blends and didn’t realise that blends should be seen as single components. SARS has amended the tariff codes and these have been sent out to stakeholders to comment. The final submission date was 1 October and stakeholders were encouraged to have one last look at these codes to ensure they are satisfied.

Concern was raised by Metraclark regarding when these new codes come into effect and what happens when they have a shipment on the water under the old codes that old arrive at customs after the new codes have come into effect. There was a request for a transition period to the new codes. DEA said they would assist to ensure a smooth transition.

Compliance monitoring on ODS regulations

DEA compliance has visited three sites already to inspect that they are compliant and have been hard at work to train SARS officials to use the instruments for detecting illegal substances. DEA officials did walkabouts at the various border posts and reported that they learnt a lot about the process and how difficult inspections are in real life.

It was found that SARS only does random inspections and relies heavily on the documentation to see what is coming into the country. They only do physical inspections if suspicion is raised.

DEA will look at a way to get presence on these sites and ways to get involved in the process too.

There was a plea to industry to report suspicious activities to the hotline. “We would appreciate the reporting and it can be done anonymously,” said Baloyi. “It helps all of us. It’s unfair that people are doing things wrong and getting away with it.”

Meeting feedback

The Chemical Summit will not be held this year.

There was a brief feedback on the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) meeting where SA disputed the massive reduction in our quota for methyl bromide. They also discussed the unexpected rise in R11 omissions again and it was concluded that more information was required.

The scientific assessment panel had a meeting about this a week after the OEWG and it was found that there was illegal production of R11 in China. It’s important to note that this came as surprise to the Chinese government as well and they are not condoning this behaviour and acting in breach of the Montreal Protocol. This was done against the government’s wish. Further investigations are pending.

Brief feedback was also given on other meetings like the one with the Department of Energy to look at energy efficiency and reducing departments working in silos, and the South African Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (SARACCA) roadshow. FRIGAIR was also mentioned and the fact that more customs training was planned for October.

The stakeholders concluded the meeting and enjoyed some lunch at the DEA before going their separate ways again.

The next meeting takes place on 6 December.



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