SCOTLAND'S environmental regulator has issued its first penalty for a greenhouse gas leak.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) issued a civil penalty of £75,000 to a health food supplements manufacturer based in Dalry in Ayrshire.

It is the first penalty to be issued in Scotland under the Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations 2015 (the F-Gas regulations 2015), which are designed to control fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases).

DSM Nutritional Products (UK) Limited received the penalty for failing to provide a leakage detection system on equipment containing powerful greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

In 2020, the emissions reported (898.20kg) by the company were over eight times the reporting threshold, considerably higher than previous years and were flagged by the Scottish Pollutant Release Inventory (SPRI) as being in the top three highest emitters for Scotland.

Sepa's specialist Carbon Reduction, Energy and Industry Unit began an investigation and discovered there had been accidental releases of F-gases from the site.

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While there is no requirement under the F-gas regulations 2015 to inform Sepa of any release, operators of equipment that contains F-gases must take precautions to prevent the unintentional release ("leakage") of those gases.

For some equipment automatic leakage detection systems may be required.

Jamie McGeachy, Sepa’s carbon reduction, energy and industry unit manager, said: “The scale of the environmental challenge facing humanity is enormous, with a need for a real urgency to act.

“The requirement to install a leak detection system first came into force in 2006, which means the company was non-compliant for 14 years before this leak happened. It is simply unacceptable for industries that use greenhouse gases to fail to meet their environmental responsibilities.

“Operators will get the environmental regulator they deserve. Check your equipment and ensure that you are fully compliant with the regulations - if you need help and advice get in touch, you will find a helpful and supportive agency. If you’re not compliant, whether through complacency or a deliberate act, we’ll take the appropriate action to force you to comply.”

DSM has advised Sepa that the two water chillers responsible for most of the leaks were installed in 1980 by the previous operator of the site.

Refrigerants have changed over the years and at some point there was an increase in holding capacity - the labels on the machines were not updated. The company co-operated fully with Sepa’s investigation and provided information and documentation when requested to do so in a timely manner.

It has installed a leak detection system and has a plan to reduce reliance on F Gases. Sepa reduced the civil penalty to £75,000 – which has been paid.