Counterfeit refrigerants are on the rise
written by Pavel Makhnatch (under supervision of Rahmatollah Khodabandeh and Björn Palm)
Global refrigerant demand remains strong under the recent years. For instance, the global demand for R-134a is expected to grow as a result of conversion from HCFCs in a number of applications. The price remains high as well as, in addition to the persistent demand, the manufacturers hold on investing to production facilities as a result from uncertain future situation regarding HFC production (e.g. F-Gas Directive regulations).
We have seen examples of counterfeit refrigerant production and the measures taken to combat it: DuPont had recently completed a five-year effort to shut down a trader suspected of counterfeiting refrigerants in the United Arab Emirates ; Honeywell has recently stopped a Chinese manufacturer from counterfeiting refrigerant and infringing on Honeywell brands names.
“This problem is real and it is growing, and the impact can include significant injury and tragic loss of life,” said Greg Rubin , global business manager, DuPont Refrigerants. “Counterfeit refrigerants also have the potential for significant business impact, especially in emerging regions.”
While violating patents and trademarks, the counterfeit refrigerants are also very dangerous and can lead even to severe accidents and risks for the engineers. The risks come from is the dangerous composition of the counterfeit refrigerant which have been found to be contaminated with dangerous levels (up to 40%) of R-40 or R-40/R-22 blends, which are highly flammable and explosive in combination with air. It is also toxic when small quantities are inhaled. While this cocktail of various substances is able to emulate vapor pressure of R-134a, it leads to dangerous consequences. R-40 is a colorless refrigerant and has a sweet odor. This odor however cannot be recognized by man unless the safe inhalation limit of 50 ppm has already been surpassed. R-40 is also not compatible with metals and may cause pit corrosion once in contact with it. R-22 is incompatible with most elastomers in the auto a/c system such as flexible refrigerant lines, O-rings and other gaskets, and will lead to leakages in the system .
It has recently emergent the demand for the R-1234yf for mobile air-conditioning systems in Europe. While the supply of R-1234yf still doesn’t meet the demand and the price for this substance is high – it creates favorable conditions for counterfeit refrigerant market growth. The industry has to be ready for the increased counterfeit production and develop the measures to avoid the risks.