An Ayrshire food company has been fined £75,000 in the first Scottish penalty for a leak of a harmful greenhouse gas.

DSM Nutritional Products, which has a factory in Dalry, reported more than eight times of fluorinated gas (F-gas) in 2020.

The manufacturer was penalised for failing to install equipment which could detect leaks of greenhouse gases.

The gases trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.  

According to enforcement agency Sepa, the release – which made DSM one of Scotland’s three biggest polluters – was caused by a leak in four of the firm’s water chillers.

The fine is the first of its kind in Scotland under regulations which have been in force since 2015.

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Jamie McGeachy, Sepa's carbon reduction, energy and industry unit manager, revealed that the company failed to comply with leak detection regulations for 14 years.

“The scale of the environmental challenge facing humanity is enormous, with a need for a real urgency to act," he said. 

The F-gas regulations aim to reduce the use of HFC refrigerants, through better control of their containment in existing applications and their recovery for recycling or destruction – and compliance with them is not optional.   

“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.

"This civil penalty demonstrates SEPA’s commitment to enforcing obligations under the F-Gas Regulations and I hope it serves as a warning to any operator using F-gases."

Companies which require F-gas to operate must submit data to Sepa every year under the Scottish Pollutant Release Inventory (SPRI). 

Considerably higher emissions in 2020 from DSM Nutritional Products prompted an investigation by Sepa's Carbon Reduction, Energy and Industry Unit.

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. 

The environmental regulator reserves the right to issue a maximum penalty of £100,000, but this was lowered to £75,000 following the full cooperation of DSM.