x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Pressure to stem flow of harmful refrigerant gases into atmosphere

Every year, some 2.4 million kilograms of hazardous refrigerant gases are leaked from the UAE into the atmosphere because of poor maintenance practices, an expert says.

ABU DHABI // Every year, some 2.4 million kilograms of hazardous refrigerant gases are leaked from the UAE into the atmosphere because of poor maintenance practices, an expert says. The gases are vital to the functioning of refrigerator and air-conditioning units. But outside those machines, they can damage the Earth's ozone layer and contribute to global warming. And just one week after the nation recognised World Ozone Day, an international event aimed at highlighing the dangers to the ozone layer, there are warnings that more needs to be done to limit the venting of refrigerant gases.

As much as 12 million kilograms of refrigerant gas is sold in the UAE per year, although it is not clear what portion remains for use in the country and what is re-exported, said Stuart Fleming, the managing director of EnviroServe, the only UAE company that recycles refrigerants. The 2.4 million kilograms that Mr Fleming said are vented each year is approximately 10 times the amount that his company recycles over the same period. But Mr Fleming is not a pessimist. Although the amount of gas being reused is still relatively small, it is increasing as authorities step up enforcement of regulations, he said.

The UAE is signatory to the Montreal Protocol, a global treaty that forced the phasing-out of ozone-depleting gases and banned all venting of such gases in the atmosphere. The UAE Government issued a federal decree on the matter in 1999 and reinforced it in 2004. Last year, Dubai Municipality started a campaign to enforce the rules. It took aim at service providers, facility owners and refrigerant users who deal with air-conditioning and refrigeration systems.

The campaign, according to the municipality, relies on self-regulation by the industry. Mr Fleming said that since the launch of the campaign, more clients had been contacting his company with requests to recycle refrigerants. "We have seen a vast improvement since Dubai Municipality started enforcing the federal decree," he said. Mr Fleming argued that venting is not only illegal and harmful, but expensive.

"If you vent gas, you are venting money," he said. "The gas is a valuable commodity." vtorodova@thenational.ae