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Reefer industry gets to grips with contaminated refrigerant

VIETNAM is said to have imposed strict controls over the supply of R134a following the contaminated refrigerant scare which caused a number of explosions and three deaths in the refrigerated container industry last year. It is now known that a total of 1,181 units were serviced in Vietnam in 2011 in terminals identified as using contaminated refrigerant. All these units have been isolated and are being tested.
Two units showing chloride contamination which had no connection to Vietnam have recently found in New Zealand and some contaminated boxes in the USA were found to contain R12/R22 with no trace of methyl chloride.

This latest information was revealed at the recent Forum on Contaminated Refrigeration Systems, in Singapore. Organised by the Container Owners Association, the forum focused on the challenges to the container industry caused by the contamination of container refrigeration machinery with counterfeit refrigerant gases. Those involved in the forum included representatives from 19 shipping lines, nine leasing companies, 18 container depots together, five inspection companies, together with the four major reefer machinery manufacturers.

Mark Bennett, senior vice-president, Triton Container emphasised the need for co-ordinated action across the industry as the best means of eliminating fake gas supply and identifying clean and contaminated reefer units.

Renze Elzinga of Carrier Transicold presented laboratory work being done by Carrier on the chemistry of methyl chloride (R40) contamination and concluded that it is unlikely for a repair to be economic following R40 contamination.

Mike Baldwin, president of North American depot network operator ConGlobal Industries, described the flame halide lamp test method for testing cylinders but an alternative methods using gas sniffer tubes was presented by HRS Rotterdam and RAE Benelux.

The RAE sampling kit can identify very low levels of chloride contamination, and it appears it can distinguish between contamination from R12/R22/R124 and that of R40/R142b by different colours. It can detect very low concentrations of contamination if required. There is no flame used and the test can be conducted in any environment except where there is a vacuum in the system.

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