The import of ozone depleting substances and synthetic greenhouse gases, and equipment containing those gases into Australia is controlled by the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 (the Act).
Some imports are ’bulk gas’ - for example gas in a cylinder that is only used to transport the gas. Other imports are ’equipment’ – for example a refrigerator or air conditioner containing an ozone depleting substance or synthetic greenhouse gas. For some imports however it is not obvious whether the import is considered bulk or equipment. For example, aerosol sprays or fire extinguishers that use scheduled substances as propellants are considered to be equipment, even though they also serve the purpose of storing and containing the gas like a transport cylinder.
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Why is it important to know if an import is bulk gas or equipment?
It is important to understand the difference so the correct licence is used. There are also different import restrictions, such as the need for import quota, or exemptions that may apply depending whether the import is bulk or equipment.
What is the difference between bulk gas and equipment?
Sections 8C, 8D and 9(1) of the Act help to explain what equipment is, and if an item is considered to be equipment or bulk gas. The Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Regulations 1995 (the Regulations) also provide guidance. The following is a simplified summary to show the basic principles:
- Bulk gas refers to gas in containers where the sole purpose of the container is to store or transport the gas. The specific type of bulk gas can also effect licensing and import requirements and/or restrictions.
- Equipment refers to something that uses the gas in its operation, such as a refrigerator or air conditioner which uses gas in a compression system. The specific type of equipment and the specific type of gas it contains can also affect licensing and import requirements and/or restrictions.
- Neither In some cases an import is neither bulk nor equipment – for example, gas traces remaining in minute quantities in open cell foam after the gas was used in the production of the foam, such as in some car steering wheels.
What are some examples?
Bulk: Items considered bulk gas include:
- Gas in containers where the sole purpose of the container is to store or transport the gas. For example importers often use larger containers called ISO tanks (15,000 to 40,000 litres) for the transport and storage of scheduled substances. Smaller containers of varying size are also used for these purposes.
- A hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) or hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) that is in a polyol blend, regardless of the container it is contained in.
- System cylinders that are attached to a gas manifold (these vary in size, depending on the system they fit on to).
- Cylinders that are attached to refrigeration/air conditioning plants (the plant is considered a manufactured product but the cylinders that are attached to it are not)
- Refill cylinders for cork pop devices used for opening wine bottles.
Equipment: Items considered equipment include, but are not restricted to:
- Refrigeration and air conditioning equipment
- Split system air conditioning units
- Refrigeration/air conditioning plants
- Important: Most refrigeration and air conditioning equipment using ozone depleting substances, including hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs such as R-22), are banned imports and cannot be imported under licence. However, there are some time-limited exemptions to the ban. More information is available at HCFC and CFC ban.
- Aerosol cans, including expanding polyurethane foam aerosols
- Hand-held fire extinguishers
- Cork pop devices
- Foam or foam included in other equipment (other than expanding polyurethane foam aerosols) if the foam was blown with a synthetic greenhouse gas. A licence is not required to import foam blown with a synthetic greenhouse gas.
- Important: Foams blown with ozone depleting substances, and refrigeration and air conditioning equipment insulated with foams blown with ozone depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) are mostly banned imports and cannot be brought in under licence. More information is available at HCFC and CFC ban.
- Medical devices or medicines as well as veterinary devices or veterinary medicines using synthetic greenhouse gases are not included in the definition of synthetic greenhouse gas equipment, and a licence is not required to import them. However, a bulk licence is required for any bulk hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) imported, including for medical and veterinary purposes. Import quota for the import of bulk HFC is also required. More information on this is available at HFC phase-down.
Important: If you are uncertain if your import is equipment or bulk, please contact the Department.
Can I get a licence to import any type of gas or equipment?
No. Some goods are banned or restricted.
Restrictions on the import of bulk gas
Bulk imports of ozone depleting substances into Australia are banned in most circumstances as a part of Australia’s commitments under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer to phase out those substances. Most ozone depleting substances have already been phased out.
There are limited and strictly controlled circumstances for the import of bulk hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), methyl bromide and some other substances under essential uses.
There will also be a gradual reduction in the amount of bulk hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) permitted to be imported into Australia, beginning on 1 January 2018. The HFC phase-down covers only imports of bulk gas, it does not apply to HFCs in equipment such as refrigerators and air conditioners.
Restrictions on the import of equipment
The import of equipment containing ozone depleting substances (e.g. CFCs, HCFCs, halon) is either banned or restricted depending on the specific substance and type of equipment.
For example, manufacture or import of most air conditioning and refrigeration equipment charged with HCFC refrigerant is banned under Schedule 4 of the Act, with the exception of:
- Replacement parts, containing a HCFC refrigerant, for pre-existing refrigeration and air conditioning equipment,
- Equipment insulated with foam manufactured with HCFC, and
- Imports where the refrigeration and air conditioning equipment is incidental to the main import and it is impractical to remove or retrofit the equipment; for example, equipment incorporated into a boat or drilling rig. This exemption must be formally granted by the Minister or delegate.
Imports of equipment containing ozone depleting substances for personal use may also be allowed in some circumstances. More information is available at Importing for private or domestic use.
In some circumstances banned equipment can be imported where the equipment is essential for medical, veterinary, defence, industrial safety or public safety purposes, such as a halon fire suppression system on board an aircraft. More information is available at Frequently asked questions - Equipment Licences (EQPL).
What if the Act doesn’t cover the gas I want to import?
The Act only regulates bulk gas or equipment containing gas if it is listed in Schedule 1 to the Act, for example hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3). Gases not covered include natural refrigerants including ammonia, carbon dioxide, and hydrocarbons, as well as manufactured substances such as hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs).
A blend that contains any amount of a substance listed in Schedule 1 to the Act is regulated under the legislation – even if the other gas or gases in the blend are not regulated.
I think I will be importing bulk gas
I think I will be importing equipment