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Petroleum and gas safety alert no. 57 | 03 June 2013 | Version 1

Illegal hydrocarbon refrigerant usage

What happened?

Refrigeration system owners are complaining to the Petroleum and Gas Inspectorate that hydrocarbon refrigerant has been used in their systems, including air conditioning systems of motor vehicles, cold rooms and the like. It is illegal to use hydrocarbon refrigerant in an unapproved device and illegal to install hydrocarbon refrigerant in such devices without a license.

The most common issue that has been reported is the use of hydrocarbon refrigerant in motor vehicles that have had air conditioning repaired or re-gassed. In addition, cheap vehicle air conditioning system re-gasses are being advertised on social media forums such as Facebook. The work is often done in residential garages and driveways by unlicensed persons.

Key issues

  • Hydrocarbon refrigerants have a similar composition to LPG and are highly flammable.
  • Systems that leak hydrocarbon refrigerant because they are non-compatible with the gas or because the workmanship is poor are dangerous.
  • Queensland law requires persons undertaking gas work with hydrocarbon refrigerant to hold a current gas work licence issued by the Petroleum and Gas Inspectorate and the refrigeration system must have been approved by an appropriate authority.
  • The sale of hydrocarbon refrigerant itself is not illegal in Queensland and does not require the purchaser to give licence details, unlike purchasers of regular refrigerant gases such as R134a where a refrigerant handling licence, issued by the Australian Refrigeration Council is required.
  • Some suppliers of hydrocarbon refrigerant in Queensland have been advising customers that no licence is required when using hydrocarbon refrigerant in systems but in Queensland a gas work licence is required for this work.
  • There are individuals currently licensed in Queensland to do hydrocarbon refrigerant gas work.


  1. In Queensland hydrocarbon refrigerant must only be installed by licensed persons.
  2. Refrigeration systems including air conditioners (vehicle and fixed), cold rooms, and refrigerators using hydrocarbon refrigerant in Queensland must be approved by an authority approved by the Chief Inspector of Petroleum and Gas.
  3. Installation owners must ensure that only licensed persons use hydrocarbon refrigerant in their system and that their systems are approved for its use. Do not retrofit hydrocarbon refrigerant into existing air conditioning units that are not built or approved for its use.
  4. Report all suspected illegal instances of hydrocarbon refrigerant to the Petroleum and Gas Inspectorate.

Investigations are ongoing and further information may be published as it becomes available. The information in this publication is what is known at the time of writing.

We issue Safety Notices to draw attention to the occurrence of a serious incident, raise awareness of risks, and prompt assessment of your existing controls.

Authorised by Stephen Matheson - Chief Inspector

Contact: Chief Inspector, Petroleum and Gas

Issued by Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy

Placement: Place this announcement on noticeboards and ensure all relevant people in your organisation receive a copy.