What are halons?
Halons are fire fighting agents that were introduced into Australia in the early 1970s. They quickly replaced many previously accepted fire fighting products because of their superior fire fighting characteristics and ease of use.
Halons are fully halogenated chemicals that have relatively long lifetimes in the atmosphere. They are broken down in the stratosphere releasing reactive bromine that is extremely damaging to ozone. Reactions involving bromine are estimated to be responsible for 25 per cent of the chemical destruction of ozone over Antarctica and 50 per cent over the Arctic. The ozone depleting potential of halons is 10 times greater than that of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). As such, halons are a very aggressive ozone depleting chemical. One kilogram of halon 1211 can destroy 50 tonnes of ozone.
Why a Halon Bank?
The National Halon Bank (NHB) operates primarily as a halon 1211 and 1301 decanting, purification, and storage facility, and can also provide purity testing services for halon. Halon held at the NHB generally originates from waste halon and halon recovered from decommissioned systems in Australia. Halon management services are provided on occasion to Montreal Protocol countries by the NHB, including reclamation and recycling services.
The NHB was set up to maintain a stock of halon for non-defence uses until the transition to alternatives is complete, and for the stock to be managed under controlled conditions to prevent accidental release. The NHB will only supply halon where the use is an approved essential use where no practical alternative exists, consistent with the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Regulations 1995.
Australian Halon Management Strategy
The Australian Halon Management Strategy is an information document outlining the principles and measures Australia has in place to manage its use of halon until suitable alternatives are available and halon is no longer required.
Estimating Australia’s demand for halon
In order to responsibly manage the remaining publicly owned halon stocks held at the NHB, the Department commissioned studies in 2012 and 2020 to better understand Australia’s essential uses and projected future demand for halon.
The department has established an Environmental Management System (EMS) for the NHB operations. An EMS is a structured system designed to help organisations improve environmental performance and manage environmental impacts caused by their products, services and activities. The EMS has been accredited to the International Standard ISO 14001:2015. This Environmental Policy forms part of the requirements for the EMS.