Singapore: EPM (Amendment) Bill To Mandate Measures To Mitigate HFC Emissions And Enhance Surveillance At Construction Sites For No-Work Rule

The Environmental Protection and Management (EPM) (Amendment) Bill was passed in Parliament in Singapore on 13 September 2021 to mandate measures to mitigate the greenhouse gas impact of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that are used in refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC) applications.

HFCs are commonly used as refrigerants in RAC equipment. These gases are sometimes vented to the atmosphere during the installation, maintenance and decommissioning of such equipment. In the atmosphere, HFCs are much more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide and contribute significantly to global warming. For example, the typical refrigerant used in chillers, R134a, has a global warming potential of 1,300. In comparison, carbon dioxide has a GWP of 1. As announced in March 2020, the National Environment Agency in Singapore NEA is implementing a package of mitigation measures to reduce HFC emissions in the RAC sector. The EPM (Amendment) Bill provides the legislative framework for NEA to implement these measures.

Restriction on supply of RAC equipment that use high-GWP refrigerants

To shift the market towards climate-friendly RAC equipment, the EPM (Amendment) Bill will restrict the supply of RAC equipment that use high GWP refrigerants. From 1 October 2022 onwards, suppliers are not allowed to supply the following types of equipment:

  • Household air-conditioners that use refrigerants with GWP of more than 750;
  • Household refrigerators that use refrigerants with GWP of more than 15
  • Water-cooled chillers that use refrigerants with GWP of more than 15

Climate-friendly RAC equipment are already available in Singapore. NEA notes that some early movers, such as CapitaLand, have selected water-cooled chillers that use the low-GWP refrigerant R1233zd, for their developments. The chillers use less energy and have lower emissions compared to equivalent chillers that use conventional refrigerants.

Training and certification of technicians

Improper handling of refrigerants during installation, maintenance and decommissioning of RAC equipment will lead to HFC gases escaping into the atmosphere, thereby contributing to climate change. To minimise HFC emissions, under the EPM (Amendment) Bill, servicing work that involves refrigerant handling and spent refrigerant recovery must be supervised or carried out by at least one certified technician. The requirement will initially apply to work carried out on water-cooled chillers where at least one certified technician must be present on site.

NEA has worked with the Temasek Polytechnic (TP) and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to introduce training courses for water-cooled chiller technicians and household air-conditioner technicians respectively. The course at ITE was introduced in October 2020. More information regarding the course at Temasek Polytechnic for chiller technicians will be released at a later date.

Mandatory collection and proper treatment of spent HFC refrigerants

Spent refrigerants are sometimes vented into the atmosphere during equipment disposal, resulting in HFC emissions. Under the Resource Sustainability Act, e-waste recyclers, who take in household RAC equipment for recycling, are already prohibited from venting spent refrigerants. NEA will also mandate the collection and proper treatment of spent refrigerants from decommissioned RAC equipment under the Environmental Public Health Act.  Operators of refrigerant treatment facilities and e-waste recyclers who handle the reclamation and destruction of spent refrigerants will have to obtain a Toxic Industrial Waste Collector (TIWC) licence from NEA.