New ASHRAE position document reveals increased potential for ammonia 

By Caixia Mao, Nov 21, 2014, 16:17 3 minute reading

With the restrictions on CFC, HCFC and many HFC refrigerants having re-focused attention on ammonia, in July 2014 ASHRAE updated its “Position Document on Ammonia as a Refrigerant”, emphasising the important role that ammonia can play as an alternative to CFC, HCFC, HFO and HFC refrigerants. The document states that ASHRAE considers that the continued use of ammonia is necessary for food preservation and air conditioning, and that ammonia will likely find broader applications than cu

In line with the growing interest in ammonia as a refrigerant ASHRAE aims to  play a leading role in supporting the wider application of ammonia refrigeration. The updated ammonia position document confirms that ASHRAE will promote ammonia through authoritative information in seminars and publications as well as continue research on ammonia related topics. ASHRAE will also continue to develop voluntary standards and guidelines for the practical and safe application of ammonia and to provide advice to government and code officials. 
Huge potential for ammonia as a refrigerant 
Ammonia has a long history in refrigeration, which started with the development of the vapour-compression refrigeration cycle. Thanks to its superior thermodynamic properties and low cost, it remains the preferred refrigerant for industrial refrigeration systems, when used both by itself, and in cascade systems with carbon dioxide - a technology that is being increasingly used. 
In addition to its application in industrial refrigeration, ammonia is also used in thermal storage systems, HVAC chillers, process cooling and air conditioning, district cooling systems, supermarkets convenience stores, air conditioning for the international space station and biosphere II and increasing output efficiencies for power generation facilities. 
According to ASHRAE, from a purely economic analysis, without unnecessary regulatory burdens, ammonia should find even broader applications as a refrigerant. 

ASHRAE plays leading role in research and standards development  
In order to actively support the proper use of ammonia as a refrigerant ASHRAE will: 
  • Promote authoritative information on ammonia by seminars and publications
  • Continue research on ammonia topics such as handling, application, operation, control of emissions and new technology
  • Maintain and develop standards and guidelines for practical and safe application of ammonia in refrigeration systems
  • Provide programs and publication of innovative designs and application of ammonia refrigeration
  • Advise governments and code officials with information regarding ammonia.
With regards to research, in 2013-2014 the Society approved funding totalling nearly $3 million (€2.4 million), a significant amount of which was dedicated to  projects related to alternative refrigerants, include ammonia. The most recent ASHRAE research plan for projects that involve ammonia totals approximately $650,000 (€520,000).  
In the development of voluntary standards and guidelines governing the application and use of refrigerants, including ammonia, ASHRAE has developed  technical requirements widely adopted by other organisations into various codes and regulations. ASHRAE developed standards of note for ammonia refrigeration include:
  • ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 34-2013, Designation and Safety Classification of Refrigerants16
  • ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 15-2013, Safety Standard for Refrigeration System
  • Standard 34, which classifies ammonia as a Group B2L refrigerant due to its toxicity and flammability 
  • Standard 15, which establishes the requirements for safely applying ammonia in refrigeration systems.

Current restrictions on ammonia applications to be revised
Very stringent local toxic gas ordinances are applied to ammonia, and these can be very restrictive for its wider ammonia application. 
The paper suggests that the application of Process Safety Management (PSM) and Risk Management Programs (RMP) must be refined and tailored to avoid imposing unreasonable and overly burdensome barriers on new and existing ammonia refrigeration systems.
What is more, the Code Interaction Subcommittee of ASHRAE’s Standards Committee should review proposed fire and mechanical codes that could affect ammonia refrigeration applications. 
ASHRAE was founded in 1894, a global society that aims to advance human wellbeing through sustainable technology for the built environment. The Society and its members focus on building systems, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, refrigeration and sustainability within the industry. 


By Caixia Mao

Nov 21, 2014, 16:17

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