Managing fluorinated gases and ozone-depleting substances

What are fluorinated gases and ozone-depleting substances?

Fluorinated greenhouse gases (F gas) are a family of gases containing fluorine. They are powerful greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. They are stronger than naturally occurring greenhouse gases and their use is regulated.

What is F gas?

There are three main types of F gas:

  • hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
  • sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)

What are ozone-depleting substances?

Ozone-depleting substances (ODS) are chemicals that, if allowed to escape, damage the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere. Some ODS also have a global warming potential so they contribute to climate change. F gases are often used as a replacement for ODS. Many ODS are banned or being phased out. ODS include:

  • chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • carbon tetrachloride (used to make CFCs)
  • hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
  • halons
  • methyl chloroform and methyl bromide

You can only produce and market ODS as a feedstock for producing non-ODS substances (eg Teflon) and for laboratory and analytical work. You must clearly label feedstock ODS and indicate that it can only be used for that purpose.

Some equipment still in use may contain banned or controlled ODS, and may also be traded illegally. You should be aware of which are banned, where you might find them and what to do if you discover them.

Main uses of F gas and ODS

F gas and ODS are used in a number of ways:

  • Stationary refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump (RAC) equipment.
  • Some stationary fire protection systems and portable fire extinguishers currently use HFCs.
  • Mobile air conditioning in cars and light vans currently uses HFCs.
  • Other air-conditioned and refrigerated transport currently uses both F gas and ODS.
  • Solvents containing F gas are used to clean components, eg in the electronics and aerospace industries. The use of solvents containing ODS is now banned.
  • F gas and ODS have many specialist uses such as in the production of magnesium, different types of foam and high voltage switchgear.

Important: The UK will regulate F gas and ODS if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

You can find out more about F gas and ODS regulation if there's a no deal Brexit.

If you work with F gas and ODS in the Republic of Ireland you need to update your certification to continue working after 31 October 2019.