IIAR’s Conference Tech Papers Expand to Include Commercial Sector

One main focus of the technical program this year was to help educate commercial decision makers and designers. “Commercial end users are starting to become more interested in natural refrigerants,” Eric Smith, IIAR’s vice president and technical director, said. “Now people are beginning to wonder about their applications – how well it’s been going, the difficulties they’ve encountered and which natural refrigerants they should choose.”

The first paper Smith highlights offers insights into exactly that. Authored by Dustin Lilya, Specialty Services Production Manager of DC Engineering PC, the paper provides a historical review and comparison of early natural refrigeration systems and goes on to compare the most popular modern systems being adopted in the commercial space. The paper serves as a tool to help end users and designers select which type of system would work best in their application while considering costs, regulatory frameworks and environmental benefits.

“This is essentially a paper that would help people understand the nuances of all the different natural refrigerants that might be available to them for use in a commercial system, Smith said. “It gets into the pros and cons and provides an energy analysis [of different refrigerants].” Related to this is a paper titled Propane/ CO2 Cascade Systems: A Buckshot Solution in a Magic Bullet World. “This is essentially a discussion about the construction process for a constructed system and the hurdles that had to be cleared to get this done. It goes on to discuss the various technical aspects of that system now that it’s been installed,” Smith said.

In 2016, Whole Foods Market opened the first and only supermarket in North America that uses a commercial propane/CO2 cascade refrigeration system, according to the paper’s author, Tristam Coffin, the grocery chain’s director of sustainability and facilities. “During a time when international standards organizations are struggling to reach consensus over raising the maximum propane charge size in self-contained cases from 150 grams to 500 grams, the Santa Clara, Calif., refrigeration system uses 231 pounds of propane safely, reliably and inexpensively,” the paper states.

The purpose of the paper is to help others understand the viability of these systems by presenting performance and experiential data and to show that commercial systems using unconventional refrigerants can – and should – be considered in new construction.

A second focus of the technical paper program this year was the proactive approach to worker safety and protection of the International Institute for Ammonia Refrigeration – particularly as it relates to personal protective equipment. This is in line with IIAR’s cooperation with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) regarding an expanded range of use for respirators in emergency action facilities, Smith said. The of first these papers, titled Personal Protective Equipment Applications for Ammonia Refrigeration, authored by Ed Johnson, PSM Engineering Manager – Dean Foods, helps reinforce the concept of wearing proper personal protective equipment when servicing an ammonia refrigeration system, Smith said. The paper gives guidance for assessing workplace hazards and presents information to help readers better select and maintain the different types of personal protective equipment necessary for their facilities.

The paper offers an analysis of different categories of protective equipment and advice for selecting, deploying and maintaining this equipment. “This safety assessment is a living document, and should not sit on a shelf and collect dust. Consider reviewing it annually as a part of your required annual [protective equipment] program audit, which is required by OSHA standards,” the paper’s conclusion reads. “As new technology provides us with safer alternatives to your current program, your annual review should evaluate this newer and safer [personal protective equipment] for implementation at your facilities.”

The second paper, titled Emergency Action Plan Non-Response Policy Can Be a Mistake, authored by Gary Smith, President of the Ammonia Safety Training Institute, offers a thoughtful examination of what should be done in the case of an emergency. “What the author is trying to do here is convince the regulators of our industry that people can use a less sophisticated version of a self-contained breathing apparatus to mitigate leaks and to perform rescue of colleagues under dangerous conditions,” Smith said.

Some facilities count on an energy action plan rather than an emergency response plan, Smith goes on to explain. Under an emergency action plan, many facility managers rely on the local fire department to mitigate leaks and perform rescues. This often takes time, and there is no guarantee the emergency responders have the equipment or training to be effective.

An emergency response plan, on the other hand, requires dedicated on-site staff as well as expensive training and equipment – often this isn’t feasible. An emergency response plan requires tremendous investment, and in the other, your hands are tied.” Smith said. This places facility managers in a precarious position. However, the paper provides a third option. Having a specific, relatively inexpensive pressurized escape hoods and emergency escape breathing apparatuses would allow an individual to escape a high concentration but also enter a high concentration under prescribed conditions to mitigate leaks or rescue colleagues.

The paper offers five examples of lessons learned from catastrophic ammonia releases and calls for the industry to step up and meet the challenge. “Industrial employers can significantly reduce the threats of ammonia injury and death rates. The fix is simple, the cost is negligible, and if done properly the increased safety will net a small profit on the company’s balance sheet,” the paper states. “All it takes is leadership initiative and manager discipline for operators and responders to engage situational awareness, engage pre-event readiness, wear basic personal protective equipment, and improve local emergency planning and training of operators and first responder firefighters.”