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Counterfeit refrigerants a bigger problem than ever before

Contaminated reefers and flammable gases in wrong containers can endanger the safety of end-users, says industry insider.

| | May 10, 2016 | 12:48 pm
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Michael Jorde, International Marketing Manager at Harp International

Michael Jorde, International Marketing Manager at Harp International

Dubai, UAE: In 2011, a number of deaths were reported as a result of counterfeit refrigerants – an incident that Michael Jorde described as responsible for changing the landscape of the industry.

Jorde, International Marketing Manager at Harp International, shared that the tragedy brought counterfeiting of refrigerants into the global spotlight. “When the issue was investigated,” he said, “it was discovered that, globally, around 10% to 15% of all refrigerated containers or reefers were contaminated with a product called R-40, which is hazardous. What this product basically does is attack the aluminium in the refrigeration system, which can cause explosions.”

He observed, however, that despite the attention the incident received, the problem has only worsened. “It’s a big and important issue across the industry, and it seems to have gotten worse in the last few years, mainly because there’s a lot of money to be made in substituting a relatively high-priced product with a cheaper alternative,” Jorde said.

Giving more details, he added: “Often, the cheaper alternative will perform the same functions and will have the potential to be used as a refrigerant, but these replacements are usually flammable. So what you have is a flammable product being used in a system that is not designed to handle flammable refrigerants. Needless to say, this can cause all kinds of problems for the user.”

He further shared that in the years he has been with Harp, he has seen “crazy things in terms of counterfeit refrigerants”. Elaborating, he said: “We’ve seen not only counterfeit gas within the cylinders but also cylinders that are dangerous and not fit for purpose being used. We’ve seen cylinders with fake pressure-relief devices inside them. We’ve seen R-134A cans flying across warehouses as a result of the pressure building up owing to high-ambient temperatures. If there’s high-ambient temperature and the pressure-release valve device is cosmetic only and does not perform any function, you can have explosions.”

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