The Southern Africa Compressed Gases Association (SACGA) has flagged up concerns about inferior refrigerants entering the local market, amid a global supply-demand inequality that is leading to a materials shortage.

The SACGA noted in its recent Gas Focus newsletter that one of its members had identified an increase in inferior refrigerants entering the South African market.

It’s thought that the global increase in demand for refrigerant R134a, which exceeds supply, has created both a shortage of raw materials and an increase in prices. As a consequence of this two-fold impact, sub-standard product is suggested to be entering the market.

The association describes, “…some unscrupulous manufacturers are adding alternative products to R134a and various blends, resulting in product that is well below acceptable standards and out of spec.”

“Some importers are not equipped to carry out the necessary quality checks and this is causing the importers to unknowingly introduce inferior product to the South African market – and this leads to the end-users suffering severe operational problems.”

A number of substitutes for R134a are thought to have entered the South African market. An SACGA member had QC tests carried out at an independent laboratory, the association explains, and found various combinations of ‘cocktail refrigerants’ being sold as pure R134a.

In some cases R12 was identified within certain cocktails, which has been banned in South Africa for some years now.

In addition to an increase in inferior blends, product has been seen whereby the blend ratios are not compliant with AHR1 700 standards, thought to be mainly due to the worldwide shortages of raw materials such as R125.

Compressor failure, systems failing to cool as required, or corrosion in the compressor are cited as just some of the problems that could occur if a sub-standard or out-of-specification product is used.

Suspect products are difficult to identify, as the packaging is identical to that of the genuine quality-controlled products and with this in mind, the SACGA is urging refrigerant customers and/or contractors to insist on product specification sheets and/or Product Certificate of Analysis and a Safety Data sheet (SDS) when purchasing refrigerants.

The SACGA also has advice for those purchasing disposable cylinders and the necessary standards that should be adhered to. For further information, contact sacgass@iafrica.com or visit www.sacga.za.org.