Secondary Systems Offer IIAR Opportunity For Expansion

As your IIAR chairman for this year, I would like to thank and congratulate everyone who made our 2019 annual meeting in Phoenix a great success, and especially to welcome all our new IIAR members. Your participation and spirit of volunteer leadership is essential to helping our industry meet the many challenges that lay ahead.

Our great mission together as IIAR members is to make the world a safer place through the safe and efficient use of natural refrigerants.

of natural refrigerants. Embracing the many applications of natural refrigerants helps make the environment safer for ourselves and future generations. Because of their low environmental impact and high efficiency, natural refrigerants are the best answer for doing what we do – making things cold.

I believe we can and should be extending the reach of natural refrigerants to all sorts of refrigeration applications. That’s a goal that our membership and our board is fully embracing, as evidenced by our focus on producing safety standards not only for ammonia but also for carbon dioxide and most recently, for the hydrocarbons.

It is a goal I am committed to pursuing during my term this year as your chairman.

One topic I intend to bring forward to the IIAR Board of Directors and membership this year is expanding the use of natural refrigerants in secondary refrigeration systems.

Secondary refrigeration systems – those which use a chiller to cool a secondary refrigerant which is circulated to and from the cooling load – are already widely used to cool occupied spaces in office buildings and food processing facilities, in supermarkets, in pharmaceutical and medical facilities, in data centers, and elsewhere. Traditionally these chillers have used synthetic refrigerants with their associated environmental risks.

The compact “plug-and-play” nature of chillers offers an interesting opportunity to manage and mitigate the toxicity (ammonia) and flammability (hydrocarbons) issues that must be addressed when applying natural refrigerants to occupied spaces. New compact heat exchanger technologies mean the required refrigerant charge for a given cooling duty can be made very small. Assembly and testing at the chiller manufacturers facility insures quality and reliability. The packaged nature of chillers also allows flexibility in regard to their location and ventilation requirements in a facility.

In addition, the secondary refrigerants themselves have evolved and improved in recent years giving designers many more choices which improve heat transfer and reduce pumping power. There are a number of new secondary refrigerants now on the market which greatly extend the practical temperature range of secondary refrigerant applications, even to blast freezing temperatures.

For example, CO2 is being applied in secondary refrigeration systems as a volatile brine. This approach takes advantage of the CO2 ’s latent heat of vaporization, greatly reducing the amount of CO2 circulated and pumping power required for a given cooling duty.

I feel strongly that there is an opportunity for IIAR to do what we do so well, which is to develop design guidelines and best practice information to take advantage of these new secondary refrigeration technologies and in doing do expand the use of natural refrigerants to other markets and industries. We can create technical expertise and competence by producing engineering handbooks and best practices documents that do not now exist, and we can develop and disseminate this information through our national conferences and the Academy of Natural Refrigerants.

I intend to bring this topic to the Board of Directors to start a discussion regarding how we can best contribute to the expanded use of natural refrigerants in secondary refrigeration systems. This exciting subject is one which I feel will have broad appeal and support with all our membership, national and international. Please watch for upcoming announcements regarding these activities, and be prepared to get involved!