IIAR Remembers

Klaas Visser

IIAR’s success hinges on the involvement of its members. The association would like to pay tribute to Klass Visser, who recently passed away. Klass authored the technical paper that follows this memorial, and we would like to honor his memory and express our gratitude to him for all the shared time and expertise with IIAR and the industry over the years. He will be missed.

Klaas Visser, known to the natural refrigeration industry as a relentless environmental advocate who is credited by many for helping lead the renaissance of CO2, as well as a tireless innovator who introduced pivotal new refrigeration system designs, has passed away at the age of 83.

Klaas, who was the owner of Australia-based KAV Consulting, is remembered by friends and colleagues around the world as a passionate educator, mentor, and friend with the rare gift of inspiring enthusiasm and connection wherever he went.

“I came to know him as an articulate, passionate, and very clever man who had ideas that were beyond the thoughts of most people, which, if implemented, would help our planet in the long term,” said Ian Tuena, Director of C.A. Group Services. “He continued to strive towards this end with his CO2 work [even at the end of his life] into the early part of 2023.”

“One of Klaas’s passions was to pass on as much of his knowledge as he could. He was a motivational leader and encouraged others to share his enthusiasm for delivering innovative solutions. Klaas has given me, and many others opportunities and support to grow and succeed and I will always remember him as a great friend and mentor,” said John Mott, former General Manager of Gordon Brothers Industries.

“He was one of those amazing refrigeration experts who had that combination of practical experience, common sense, and exceptional understanding of theory and thermodynamics,” said President Emeritus, IIAR, Kent Anderson. Adding that, “you could learn a lot [from any conversation with Klaas].”

Born and educated in the Netherlands, Klaas graduated with a degree in marine engineering. After arriving in Australia in 1964, Klaas studied mechanical engineering at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, then went to work for Wildridge and Sinclair, where he began his career designing ammonia refrigeration systems for the food and cold storage industries. That led to a position at McNiece Brothers in Bendigo where he managed the refrigeration division through the mid-seventies. Klaas left McNiece to start his own consulting business in Bendigo, where he developed a large-scale plate freezer design that was later widely adopted by the meat industry.

“Klaas was highly respected in the meat industry, and also known for being tenacious in backing his signature projects,” said friend and colleague, Brendan Dever.

Klaas contributed many technical papers to the industry over the years. Among several recognitions was the James Harrison Medal in 1997, Australia’s most prestigious award for the refrigeration and air conditioning industries, and IIAR’s award for presentation excellence for his 2017 IIAR technical paper, “The Design of CO2 Refrigeration System Using Ammonia System Design Principles.”

Klaas made two massive contributions to the development of refrigeration technology during his career, said Andy Pearson, Group Managing Director of Star Refrigeration. The first, in the 1970s, was the development of novel plate freezing techniques for the meat industry, including large horizontal plate freezers for boxed meat and cartonless moulds for more efficient freezing. His second major contribution was in speeding up the adoption of transcritical CO2 systems in Australia, recognizing that there were opportunities to take plant performance beyond industry norms to deliver advantages in transitioning from HFCs.

“Klaas had a significant input in the design of plate freezers and use and effectively drove the change from tunnel freezing in the Australian meat industry to plate freezing,” said Tuena. “His passion and belief in the renaissance of CO2 also had a significant influence on the adoption of transcritical CO2 systems in Australia and dispelled the myth that transcritical CO2 systems were not suitable for warm climate countries like Australia.”

In his work with CO2, Klaas carried forward the work of Gustav Lorentzen, considered the father of the modern CO2 refrigeration cycle, whom Klaas regarded as a friend and mentor.

“Klaas explained to Ian Tuena a couple of weeks ago that the highlight of his life was when his work was endorsed by Prof. Gustav Lorentzen,” said Stefan Jensen, Managing Director of Scantec Refrigeration. “Indeed, Klaas continued Lorentzen’s vision for the revival of CO2 as a refrigerant almost until the end [of his life].”

Tuena, who worked with Klaas on his first foray into CO2 transcritical work in Australia remembers a project to replace multiple freon-based systems for Exquisine Foods, a dairy foods manufacturing facility in Northcote.

“When I look back at that project (which is still fully operational today) and with the advantage of hindsight, I now see how visionary that project actually was,” said Tuena. “The low temp rack serviced the -40c blast and -20c store, the med temp rack serviced the +2c and + 10c areas, he had parallel and intermediate temperature compressors servicing the flash gas load and AC load way before it was common practice to do so. He utilized the heat recovery achieving +18c to +80c in a single pass. It was a real credit to both Klaas, for taking the initiative and believing in transcritical CO2 and David Rose for supporting him. They showed transcritical CO2 systems were an environmentally friendly and economically viable solution for Australian refrigeration systems and paved the way for the expansion we now see within the supermarket and industrial industry throughout Australia and New Zealand.”

As much as Klaas was remembered for his technical innovations, friends remembered him even more for the passion that drove those innovations . . . his concern for the environment.

“The plate freezer concept as many have mentioned has changed the meat industry in Australia but he also had a desire to make things better for this planet and humanity as a whole by improving refrigeration systems which were more energy efficient but also greener,” said Carin Mitchell, a friend and colleague.

Currently, said Roy Robinson, “more than 85% of the frozen red meat exported from Australia is frozen in Plate Freezers. The initial development works done by Klaas with Federal and industry funding have come to fruition, with the resultant massive reduction in greenhouse gases. Klaas has that achievement as one of his many legacies.”

Brent Hoare, the founder, and director of the Green Cooling Association, which later became the Australian Refrigeration Association, remembers the contribution made by Klaas in supporting natural refrigeration, especially in Hoare’s work advocating for natural refrigerants at the Montreal Protocol negotiations. “Klaas made such a huge contribution to this industry, and his name deserves to be remembered for a long time to come,” said Hoare.

“Klaas devoted his life to establishing CO2 and Ammonia as the solution to large refrigeration applications. He had a brazen fearlessness in speaking truth to power and challenging the dominance of hydrofluorocarbons. It’s up to all of us – the people in this industry – to remember his passion around advocacy and carry it on.”