The International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration held its ninth Industrial Refrigeration Seminar in Latin America in Chile last month, an event that marked the organization’s increasing involvement in education and safety advocacy in the region.

IIAR leaders said the seminar attracted a record number of attendees from ten different Latin American countries, reflecting a growing level of participation of IIAR members throughout Latin America.

The seminar was produced by IIAR with the support of the Chilean Chamber of Refrigeration.

Seminar participants said they attended the August 21-22 meeting in Santiago, Chile, to take advantage of the education and networking opportunities in a region that is seeing an increased focus on industrial refrigeration.

In South America, IIAR and the Chilean Chamber of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning provide technical resources that serve to inform a growing industry, especially through events like the recent seminar, said Cristian Cuadros, Deputy Manager of Industrial Processes for Compañía de Cervecerías Unidas, or United Breweries Company.

“In general, our group is always seeking continuous improvement and looking for the best existing practices in the market and specifically from this seminar,” he said. “We seek the best techniques to perform our job well, and our main objective is to take care of people, safety and then preserve quality. We have to make sure our equipment meets the standards required for [safety and] the quality we need in our products.”

Cuadros added that industrial refrigeration seminars in Latin America are instrumental in helping his company meet that need.

The events “help us a lot because there are many instances where we learn and gain a better understanding of this knowledge and then we can share it within our organization,” he said. “That is my main goal . . . to take the best practices from other parts of the world, and replicate and carry them out. Our operations are based on continuous improvement, so we are always searching for the best. If a standard says to move in a particular direction, then that is the direction we go; and if a standard doesn’t exist, we look for the best guidance like what is presented here [at the seminar].”

The Chilean Chamber of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning operates an extensive education and advocacy program in the region, producing the Expo Frio Calor Chile trade show, the second largest event of its kind in the region after Brazil’s FEBRAVA show.

The organization is collaborating on the development of the country’s first ammonia-specific regulation, formed a certification program and is working with other parties in Chile to produce a best practices manual for Chile’s ammonia refrigeration industry, said Alejandro Requesens, President of the Chilean Chamber of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, in his inaugural address to seminar participants.

The regulation, which the Chamber is currently working with Chile’s Health Ministry and local IIAR members to develop, will be the first regulation in the country to address ammonia refrigeration specifically.

Collaboration between government and private industry to develop the regulation was an initiative that arose from the concern generated by a series of ammonia incidents in the O’Higgins region of Chile, an important agribusiness center, said Carolina de la Fuente, a representative of the Department of Occupational Health of Chile’s Health Ministry.

During a presentation at the IIAR seminar, De la Fuente said the intent of Chile’s regulation is to boost incident prevention, describing it as a tool that will allow companies to control the risks associated with ammonia refrigeration systems.

De la Fuente estimated that work on the regulation is now 70 percent complete and said she expects it to conclude at the end of this year, allowing the regulation to enter into force in 2015 with an implementation program taking effect prior to enforcement.

While the development of the regulation is one, very visible milestone, it is part of a larger focus in Chile on ammonia and other natural refrigerants, said Peter Yufer, a member of the Chilean Chamber of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning’s board of directors.

He added that the cooperation of the public and private sectors on the development of the best practices manual for ammonia refrigeration paved the way for further cooperation in the development of the regulation and certification program.

According to Yufer, who coordinated the working groups involved in developing the manual, the project has already had an impact in Chile, establishing a good working relationship between the Chilean government and private sector representatives of the ammonia refrigeration industry. IIAR members Patrick Fossey of AMRISA and Giorgio Magnani of Intercal played key roles in the project, and were also integrally involved in the organization of the recent IIAR seminar, said Yufer.

Developing that best practices manual – and pursuing other training and regulatory activities – will have a big impact on the growth of the industrial refrigeration industry in Chile, he said.

With the manual, “We are mainly concerned with finishing the work we began two and a half years ago which only aims to raise the safety standards for the people in Chile. We hope this can serve as an example [to other countries in Latin America] whether as a motivation to do something similar, or copy what we’re doing. This is definitely a source of pride for us.”

Yufer added that the Chamber is open to collaborating with other countries that are pursuing the same safety and efficiency objectives.

“In everything we have developed, we have received support and assistance from outside; for example, IIAR has provided us with unconditional support. We know that in matters of safety and development, no one has the absolute truth. We all contribute a grain of sand, and as we were helped, we should help too. This is a moral obligation.”

Beyond updates on regulatory and industry activities in the region, IIAR’s seminar was also heavily focused on delivering technical information in a format that mirrored IIAR’s annual conference and exhibition.

This year’s seminar was the first to offer the same technical program in two separate rooms, allowing for more interaction between speakers and attendees, said IIAR International Programs Director, Chris Combs.

The technical presentations delivered at the seminar included two CO2 related topics, addressing the growing interest of CO2 refrigeration technologies in the region. The program also included a special plenary presentation on CO2 in Industrial Refrigeration Systems by Eurammon Chair Monika Witt. A presentation on CO2 brine for low-temperature chambers followed.

Other technical presentations covered defrost procedures as outlined in Chile’s best practices manual, pipe sizing and evaporator certification.

Speakers from the three valve manufactures also participated in the seminar to deliver a revised version of their 100-minute valve maintenance workshop, first presented at the IIAR Industrial Refrigeration Seminar in Costa Rica in 2013.

“We’re excited to be a part of the industry in Chile, and make the expertise of our members and our organization available wherever possible,” said Combs. “Industrial refrigeration is growing in this region, and the benefits of collaboration have never been more visible.”