The Ammonia Refrigeration Foundation Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary

The Ammonia Refrigeration Foundation, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary in October, is dedicated to funding research projects and creating educational opportunities, and those efforts will continue to expand under the guidance of executive director Lois Stirewalt O’Connor and the Ammonia Refrigeration Foundation Board of Directors. The Foundation’s newly focused mission is to support research for the safe, reliable and efficient use of ammonia and other natural refrigerants, and to promote the development of industry talent through scholarships, academic alliances and outreach programs.

“Our goal is to ensure that every program is designed to support that mission,” O’Connor said. “And we want to develop it even further. We intend to become more precise with our research so that we understand how it will impact policy with the federal government, how it will impact the end user and how it will address the needs of our membership. We also want to create additional educational alliances so that we can begin to address the growing need for experienced employees in all sectors of our industry.”

O’Connor was brought aboard in March. She has extensive experience in fundraising and non-profit organization leadership and will lead the Foundation’s growth and funding of initiatives that will benefit the industrial refrigeration industry for years to come. Previously, she served as senior director of advancement, programs and outreach for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. She has also served as director of advancement for the Air Force Association, where she closed out the Capital Campaign for the Air Force Memorial and the dedication. She also held roles in university advancement at American University and George Washington University.

Since it was founded in 2006 by the membership of the IIAR, the Foundation’s partnerships and alliances have grown to include GCCA, RETA, ASHRAE, universities across the country, and other international trade associations.

The Foundation has completed numerous research projects of value to the IIAR, to its membership and to the industry that range from relief valve analysis to new methods to determine correct pipe sizing for ammonia refrigeration systems. Among the important research projects that were completed over the past 10 years, several include: a study that was co-funded by ASME on low temperature piping criteria; development of a bench test procedure for post-mortem testing of safety-relief valves; a statistical analysis method for predictive valve replacement frequency; a quantitative risk analysis for various ammoniarelease technologies; the investigation of entrance effects on two-phase flow in vertical suction risers; and a study on optimum pipe sizing.

As it looks toward the future, the Foundation will continue to fund research projects that search for solutions to broad industry needs that drive safety and the efficient design and operation of industrial refrigeration systems. Projects currently under review for funding include: the development of a mechanical insulation installation guideline for refrigeration applications; CFD modeling of an ammonia refrigerant leak in a machine room, and the evaluation of alarm sensor location with identified ventilation rates and leak dispersion; and analysis and correlation of data from ASHRAE RP-1327 (Flow in Two-Phase Ammonia Risers).

The Foundation will also enhance its educational alliances through its scholarship programs and internships. It currently awards scholarships to individual engineering students completing a selection process monitored by the IIAR Education Committee. The scholarships provide grant funding to students at the University of Wisconsin, Erie Technical College and Louisiana Technical College and other technical institutions. The goal of the scholarship program is to encourage young engineers to pursue careers in the industry.

“We have enhanced our alliances with academic institutions through education and internships so that we can become the catalyst for students transitioning from academia to a career in our industry,” O’Connor said. “We want to be the pipeline to draw new engineering talent into our industry and to support the IIAR membership, and part of that is making sure they have the kind of young talent they need. We will begin to address the growing need for engineers in all sectors of our industry. We want to provide access to the best and the brightest.”

As such, the Foundation has significantly expanded its scholarship program to bring award recipients in-house review and selection process monitored by the IIAR Education Committee, and to increase the number of annual scholarships in terms of size and duration. The Foundation has awarded three scholarships to date.

One scholarship recipient is working this summer as an intern with Basset Mechanical, an IIAR member company. “It is a great experience and opportunity for mechanical engineering students to learn about our industry in a hands-on environment,” said Bob Port, of the Education Committee.

As part of the scholarship package, each recipient is invited to attend the IIAR Conference, and in an effort to enhance the experience and visibility of the industry to students, the Foundation, in conjunction with IIAR, has developed a specialized student track for all future IIAR conferences. The goal is to sponsor 10 students for 2017. A “Student Host Committee,” in partnership with the IIAR Education Committee and the Foundation’s board, will meet with student attendees and serve as sponsors during the entire event. Students will be actively involved in the conference, serving as room proctors, collecting papers and questions, while having the opportunity to listen and learn. 

A number of new programs and initiatives are in place that will further expand the Foundation’s reach. This year, the Foundation launched a new legacy planned giving program designed to expand the organization’s outreach. The planned giving program and Legacy Society allows donors to make larger gifts than they could make from their current income. The Foundation has also approved its budget insuring the future of the outreach and research programs.

As a 501c3 nonprofit education and research organization, the Foundation is supported primarily by the IIAR membership. The new giving program, or annual fund, will support the base needs of the Foundation and allow for greater flexibility and outreach. IIAR members, friends and anyone interested in natural refrigeration can make donations online or through a link on the IIAR app while enjoying the benefits of a tax deduction for every dollar in support of the Foundation.

The Foundation’s web site is now live, and features a survey in which visitors can help shape the future. The site also provides visitors the opportunity to sign up for monthly donations. The goal is for 300 individuals to pledge at the $150 level. This program is designed to allow everyone working in our industry the opportunity to give something back, no matter what the level, and to provide support for these important education and research programs. Please visit

“My goal is to make sure everyone knows who we are and what we’re doing,” O’Connor said. “We want to educate people on why the Foundation is important, and to let them know that every individual and company member can play a role in the advancement of the Foundation’s work. We will continue to be about education, research and training to address the important needs of the IIAR membership and the industry we support.”