2024 Conference Recap

More than 1,900 attendees participated in the International Institute of All-Natural Refrigeration’s Natural Refrigeration Conference & Heavy Equipment Expo in Orlando, Florida, setting a new record for attendance. The event provided the latest information on industry issues, technical knowledge, and networking, as well as an opportunity to see new equipment for those involved in the natural refrigeration industry.

The meeting featured several opportunities to learn about the industry, including technical paper presentations, panel discussions and product showcases. “Todd Jekel gave a fantastic presentation on his paper that discusses the intricacies of valves that are piped to relieve internally to the system,” said Eric Smith, IIAR’s vice president and technical director.

Jekel’s session, Application and Considerations for Internal Relief in the Industry, depicted how various over pressure protection schemes should be considered and addressed. “There was also an excellent session on energy recovery methods for CO2 transcritical systems,” Smith said. “It clarified the thermophysical and thermodynamic cycle analysis of transcritical sessions.” The session featured four speakers: Brian Fricke and Kashif Nawaz with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Allesandro Silva of Bitzer U.S., and Azam Thatte with Energy Recovery. Sessions also covered decarbonization, circulation rates, piping, and more.

IIAR’s annual conference now includes a heavy equipment expo each year. Previously, equipment was only featured every three years, explained Yesenia Rector, meetings and international program director for IIAR. “Companies who exhibit have the opportunity to showcase their latest equipment,” she said, adding that the expo is a draw. “The industry is moving really fast, and there is a lot of technological development taking place.” New innovations in CO2, ammonia, and package systems can be brought into the exhibit hall to help educate attendees about the latest technology.

This year, IIAR created its first “Student Day,” marketing to students, and received approximately 40 student registrations. Students were welcome to attend all days of the conference, but the last day was a dedicated “Student Day,” which featured educational sessions for the novices of the natural refrigerant industry as well as exhibitors that were prepared to meet the students.

“The students have always had a free registration to the conference, but it wasn’t widely advertised or known,” Rector said. Schrift said the industry recognizes the value of attracting new entrants, which starts with students. “Next year, we will focus more on having novice and student educational sessions throughout the conference and encourage students to attend the entire conference.”

IIAR will emphasize that students are welcome to attend technical programs, networking opportunities, and the expo hours. “Practically speaking, it is best to say it is an opportunity for students to come to the conference overall,” Rector said. “It may not be called “Student Day,” because we want to encourage students to attend the full conference so they benefit from all of the networking and learning.”

Attendees were able to take part in several networking opportunities, including the Diversity in Natural Refrigeration Reception, First Timer’s Reception, and Chairman’s Reception. IIAR also created an expanded VIP evening event that brought together volunteers who share their time with the association, including board and committee members, domestic and international VIPs, and staff.

“We held the event at Jaleo in Disney Springs with tapas food stations, a drink station, music and dancing,” Schrift said. “The feedback from all attendees was fabulous, and I believe it was well received not only because of the location but also because we brought together all the very important persons in the IIAR community.”