Refrigeration / Refrigerants & Reclaim

Testing to Determine Bogus Refrigerant Blends

March 5, 2012
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+
It did not take long for the HVACR industry to respond to reports from overseas about rogue refrigerants used in hundreds of transport HFC-134a refrigeration systems, which allegedly were responsible for a number of explosions and at least three deaths. The NEWS first reported on these developments in its Jan. 9 issue.

In a statement issued Jan. 24, Polar Technology, a Nashville, Tenn.-based refrigerant management company that specializes in reclamation and recycling, said it “has developed a series of 18 repeatable testing and recovery procedures to be used on potentially contaminated shipping containers that are believed to have been serviced in Vietnam.”

The statement went to note that after that servicing, the units were shipped to “their respective worldwide destinations” where “several of such units have experienced fires or flashing and have been associated with at least three known deaths.” Polar said that “a number of national and international operations have negotiated or are in the process of negotiating agreements with Polar Technology to work with them on individual situations.”

Updates

The Polar statement also provided an update on the extent of the possible contamination and the contaminants (information that was more speculative in the
Jan. 9 report).

“A conservatively estimated 1,600 refrigerated shipping containers have apparently been compromised with possibly counterfeit refrigerants that are flammable and that have caused flashovers. Instead of using the normal mixture of polyolester and R-134a (1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane), a noncombustible combination, it is suspected that methyl chloride may have been used instead. The result has been the closure of ports across the globe and a fear about the status of unaccounted for reefer units.”

The statement then went into more detail about how the explosions may have taken place.

“Data available prior to the development of the standard operating procedures indicated that the pyrophoric liquid (which burns in contact with air) is possibly trimethyl aluminum (Al2(CH3)6). The explanation is that the system has been contaminated with a counterfeit refrigerant containing methyl chloride (chloromethane, CH3Cl). This gas works as a refrigerant but reacts with the aluminum in the compressor forming trimethyl aluminum, which is a liquid at room temperature.”

At the same time, Polar Technology said such comments are still preliminary.

“We have no way of knowing which containers have the counterfeit refrigerants in them until they are individually tested,” said Ted Atwood, president and owner of Polar Technology. “Therefore, we must consider each one as contaminated and potentially dangerous until proven otherwise. Additionally, given how dangerous each situation could possibly be, we want to make sure we have things right before we roll these procedures out.”

Testing Procedures

Atwood noted that Polar has a recovery plant in Ontario, Calif., “close to many of the affected port operations, and has been working with an unofficial consortium of related groups and first responders, to help determine how the reefers can be handled and rendered safe.”

He added, “Polar has developed a series of repeatable testing protocols that will safely extract sample refrigerants from suspect containers and safely transport them to laboratory facilities where they will be confirmed as safe or compromised. Initial tests will be conducted on benign refrigeration containers to make sure the equipment and procedures are sound and perform to standards before being conducted on potentially compromised units.”

For more information, visit www.refrigerantauthority.com.

Publication date: 03/05/2012

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to The NEWS Magazine

Recent Articles by Peter Powell

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

2014 MCAA Annual Convention

Scenes from the 2014 MCAA Annual Convention in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Podcasts

NEWSmakers: Julian Scadden

Training is an ongoing process. Julian will discuss how you can generate maximum return on time and energy invested training by following a three part process. Listen to this podcast to get expert tips on training, tracking and follow up. 

More Podcasts

ACHRNEWS

NEWS 04-21-14 cover

2014 April 21

Check out the weekly edition of The NEWS today!

Table Of Contents Subscribe

SERVICE CALLS POLL

Which statement on service calls best applies to your business?
View Results Poll Archive

HVACR INDUSTRY STORE

plumbing-hvac.gif
2014 National Plumbing & HVAC Estimator

Every plumbing and HVAC estimator can use the cost estimates in this practical manual!

More Products

Clear Seas Research

 

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications, Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.

DON'T MISS A THING

Magazine image
 
Register today for complete access to ACHRNews.com. Get full access to the latest features, Extra Edition, and more.

STAY CONNECTED

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconLinkedIn i con