Synthetic greenhouse gases

Increase in licence fees from 1 January 2014 in line with the Wage Price Index (WPI)
Application fees for refrigeration and air conditioning and fire protection and halon special permits will increase by 2.7% from 1 January 2014 in line with the WPI. Indexation arrangements for permit application fees are set out in Regulation 346 of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Regulations.

Equivalent carbon price for synthetic greenhouse gases
From 1 July 2012, an equivalent carbon price was applied to certain synthetic greenhouse gases - hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons (excluding gases produced from aluminium smelting) and sulfur hexafluoride (including equipment or products which contain these gases).

There are provisions for exemptions from the equivalent carbon price, some exemptions are currently in place and others are coming into effect soon.

Kyoto Protocol

The Australian Government is committed to reducing our emissions of the synthetic greenhouse gases (SGGs) listed under the Kyoto Protocol:

  • hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and
  • sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

SGGs often replace ozone depleting substances (ODSs), however, while these gases do not deplete the ozone layer, most have very high global warming potentials (GWPs). The most common SGG used in Australia is HFC-134a, which has a GWP of 1300, meaning that it is 1300 times as potent as carbon dioxide. Other SGGs are even more powerful global warmers, with PFCs having GWPs between 6500-9200 and SF6 having a GWP of 23 900.

Sources of SGG emissions

SGG emissions occur mainly as a consequence of leakage or release from various industrial, commercial and domestic refrigeration and airconditioning equipment, or as a by-product of industrial activity. The main sources of SGG emissions include:

  • HFCs (and sometimes PFCs) are used as refrigerants in industrial, commercial and domestic refrigeration and airconditioning equipment. Emissions occur due to leakage from piping, joints and seals and during the maintenance and decommissioning of equipment
  • HFCs are used as foam-blowing agents in the manufacture of polyurethane foams and in applications requiring thermal insulation. The SGG will gradually leak into the atmosphere during the lifetime of the foam
  • HFCs are used as propellants in aerosols (mainly in metered dose inhalers such as asthma puffers) and in products requiring a non-flammable propellant for reasons of safety
  • HFCs (and to a lesser extent PFCs) are used as fire extinguishing agents in some fixed flooding systems
  • the aluminium industry is the main source of Australia's PFCs emissions, which are inadvertently produced as a by-product during the electrolytic smelting process which creates aluminium from its ore, and
  • SF6 is used as an insulating gas by the electricity supply industry to prevent arcing in electrical switchgear. Emissions occur due to leakage and during equipment maintenance and decommissioning.

Australia's National Greenhouse Gas Inventory estimated that 4.2 Mt CO2e of HFCs were emitted in 2005, while emissions of PFCs and SF6 were 1.6 Mt CO2e and 0.5 Mt CO2e, respectively. In total, the release of SGGs accounts for one to two per cent of Australia's emissions.

The Australian Government's Industrial Process Sector Greenhouse Gas Emissions Projections 2007 suggests that, under business-as-usual circumstances, HFC net emissions will grow to 6.7 Mt CO2e per annum over the Kyoto Period.

Assessment of alternative technologies and practices

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Montreal Protocol's Technology and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP) released a comprehensive special report on Safeguarding the Ozone Layer and the Global Climate System: Issues Related to Hydrofluorocarbons and Perfluorocarbons in 2005. The report assesses alternative technologies and practices for reducing the net warming impacts of SGGs where they are used as replacements for ODSs and notes that, for all sectors, reductions in direct emissions are available and can be achieved through:

  • improved containment of substances
  • reduced charge of substances in equipment
  • end-of-life recovery, recycling and destruction of substances, and
  • increased use of alternative substances with a reduced or negligible GWP.

Australia's efforts to reduce SGG emissions

In December 2003, the Australian Government amended the Ozone Protection Act 1989 - now the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 - extending its scope to incorporate SGGs.

  • One objective of the Act is to minimise avoidable emissions of SGGs by regulating the import, export, manufacture, and end users of these substances, such as refrigeration technicians.
  • Unlike ODSs, the Act does not impose any quotas or phase outs on SGGs.
  • The Act is projected to account for 3.5 Mt CO2e per annum of greenhouse gas abatement over the 2008-2012 Kyoto period and for 4.9 Mt CO2e per annum by 2020.

As part of the bilateral climate change partnerships program, Australia is working with both the United States and New Zealand to support SGG abatement projects. Under the Australia-United States Climate Change Partnership, projects are being undertaken to:

  • support research to develop a process that converts waste SGGs and ODSs into useful plastics, and
  • support research into HFC-152a, a refrigerant that has a significantly lower GWP than the more commonly used refrigerants.

More information

For more information and guidance relating to Commonwealth policies and legislation, see:

For more information on SGGs and the industries which use them in Australia, see:

For more information on alternatives to SGGs, see: