Flammable Gas Bottle Bulletin

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The WA Dept of Mines and Petroleum have put out an alert* about disposable cylinders with busting discs which have been imported into Australia containing hydrocarbon refrigerant.

The main concern is that if the cylinder over-pressurises and the burst disc opens, it will not reseal. This results in the total loss of flammable gas from the cylinder, creating a very hazardous and explosive cloud. Normal cylinders have a spring loaded pressure relief device (PRD) that reseal after any excess pressure is released.

In Australia the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 prohibits the importation or manufacture of disposable containers for refrigerants, but the Act only applies to fluorocarbon refrigerants. These cylinders appear to have come in under the radar even though authorities have been notified, but vehicle workshops may have purchased these in the meantime.

We understand that the cylinders are manufactured in the USA, China and Thailand. This all has implications with the new flammable R1234yf coming out soon. In the US, the R1234yf refrigerant industry advised the US Department of Transportation (DOT) that it planned to ship HFO-1234yf, a (division 2.1) flammable gas, in disposable DOT 39 cylinders, the same way they have been distributing other fluorocarbon refrigerants around the world for ages (except in Australia).
The industry was advised by DOT that a Pressure Relief Device (PRD) is required on cylinders used for flammable gases like R1234yf, but a fusible PRD (bursting or rupture disc/seal) was not permitted, it had to be a resealing spring loaded PRD.

So, what does this all mean to us here in Australia? If you are a workshop owner and have these, what should you do?

Various regulators around the country have been looking into the problem and some stockpiles have already been quarantined. According to the WA Dept of Mines and Petroleum, those who have purchased flammable gas refrigerants in non-refillable gas cylinders have two options: use up the refrigerant in the cylinder and dispose of it appropriately or contact the supplier of the refrigerant to arrange transfer of the gas into compliant cylinders and appropriate disposal of the empty cylinder. It’s that ‘appropriate disposal’ bit that opens another can of worms. What happens to any unwanted cylinders when they are presumed empty? Metal recyclers won’t touch them and you can’t cut them up safely.

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