Shipping Refrigerants

Refrigerants are considered Dangerous Goods for several reasons.  Let’s start by taking a look at two of the most common refrigerants, dry ice and liquid nitrogen.

Overview of Refrigerants – 1:50 minute video

Liquid nitrogen is a gas in liquid form.  It is also referred to as a cryogenic liquid because of the super-low temperature. In fact, the temperature range of liquid nitrogen is from -210°C to -196°C, or -346°F and -320.44°F; above that temperature liquid nitrogen becomes a gas.

Some of the dangerous characteristics of liquid nitrogen in transportation are:

  • Pressure buildup.  Because liquid nitrogen boils at such a low temperature if it is in a sealed container, pressure will build up.  If the packaging is not equipped to contain this pressure, there could be problems.  Liquid nitrogen is often transported in vented containers that release some amounts of this harmless gas into the atmosphere. In fact, most of our atmosphere (about 78 percent) is nitrogen anyway!
  • Embrittlement. The super-cold temperature could cause packaging materials to freeze and possibly lose their ability to function.
  • Frostbite. That is an understatement, having skin exposed to liquid nitrogen can be extremely dangerous.  Ingesting even a few drops of liquid nitrogen can have catastrophic effects.
  • Asphyxiant.  A large volume of liquid nitrogen could displace oxygen in the atmosphere, and someone could suffocate.

But at the end of the day liquid nitrogen is classified as a Division 2.2 non-flammable, non-toxic, gas.  It does not always have to be shipped as a dangerous good if you use specialized packaging called a Dry Shipper where the LN02 is absorbed into a membrane. More on that later.

The Shipping Process – 1 minute video

Shipments of both types of refrigerants are subject to the consignment procedures that apply to other types of dangerous goods, with some exceptions.  Consignment procedures include:

  • Package marking such as the UN number and proper shipping name.
  • Package labeling such as the Division 2.2 label or Class 9 hazard label for liquid nitrogen and dry ice, respectively.
  • Shipment documentation.  A dangerous goods declaration is usually required for refrigerants though there are several exceptions.
  • Vehicle or container placarding.  This will vary by mode but there are placarding requirements which are essentially large hazard labels placed on four sides of the vehicle or container.

This entire process starts by consulting the modal regulations for the mode of transport you intend to use.  This is important because certain substances, like Dry Ice, are not regulated by highway transport.  Liquid nitrogen is regulated by all modes but there are modal exceptions based on the packaging.

Training Requirements

Shipments of most refrigerants must be made by fully DG-Certified personnel.  That means that each employee used to ship Dry Ice, UN1845 or Nitrogen, refrigerated liquid, UN1077 must be certified by their employer (called in the US the “Hazardous Materials Employer”) as competent in these Dangerous Goods (HAZMAT) Training Areas:

  • Dangerous Goods General Awareness Training
  • Dangerous Goods Function-Specific Training
  • Dangerous Goods Security Training
  • Dangerous Goods Safety Training

The employer can provide this training and assessment themselves or they may use a third party to assist them.

Our online Dangerous Goods Training for Shipping Refrigerants (Dry Ice and Nitrogen, Refrigerated Liquid) includes all of these training elements and exams that will show your employee is competent for shipping these items, once training is completed.

There are over 20 instructional videos contained in our online training program – these are just two examples below. Our full Dangerous Goods Training program for Refrigerants will take the student about 2 hours to complete.

Marking of a Dry Ice dangerous goods shipment
Documentation of a Dry Ice dangerous goods shipment