Refrigerants contained in air conditioners can be extremely harmful to the environment. Older refrigerants such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) damage the ozone layer and contribute to climate change. Refrigerants now commonly in use now do not deplete the ozone layer but are potent greenhouse gases.
That’s why Australia has specific laws and regulations applying to people who acquire, possess, dispose of or handle ozone depleting substances or synthetic greenhouse gases.
One of the key objectives of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 is to ‘promote responsible management and handling of ozone depleting substances and synthetic greenhouse gases to minimise their impact on the atmosphere’.
Under the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Regulations 1995, people who handle these substances in bulk or in equipment, and people who work on equipment containing these gases, are required to hold a refrigerant handling licence (RHL) through the Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC). Companies or persons who acquire, possess or dispose of these substances are required to hold a refrigerant trading authorisation (RTA) through the ARC.
The ARC administers the refrigeration and air conditioning industry permit scheme on behalf of the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
Main types of emissions
In the context of mobile air conditioning equipment on mine sites, greenhouse gas emissions can come from refrigerant leaks and indirectly from the energy used to run these systems. Types of refrigerant leaks can include:
• Gradual leaks during normal operation.
• Catastrophic losses during normal operation.
• Losses during equipment service and
• Losses at end of equipment life as equipment is handled for disposal.