Great Expectations 2015 part 1: Ammonia systems on the rise as they ride regulatory waves

By James Ranson, Feb 25, 2015, 16:24 6 minute reading

Low charge ammonia refrigeration technologies continued their emergence in 2014, and while the R22 phase out in the US creates new opportunities for natural refrigerants, our partners remain mindful of regulatory safety pressures impacting the increasing demand for ammonia refrigeration systems.

To find out their 2014 insights and projections for 2015 we checked in with some of our partners Evapco, Star Refrigeration, Colmac Coil, Alfa Laval, GEA, and BAC to learn about their greatest product innovations and what’s in store for the ammonia refrigeration market in 2015.
Regulatory measures impacting market as US looks to Europe
The phasing down of HFCs in Europe, and R22 in the US, will continue to shift the market in favour of natural refrigerants like ammonia in 2015, according to many of our Partners. 
“The R22 phaseout is already having the effect of increasing refrigerant prices in the US and this is set to continue in the coming years. At this time we must make sure that end users understand that many of the HFC refrigerants being proposed as replacements to R22 are not long-term solutions because of their global warming potential. As end users become educated about the direction of regulations in the US, the demand for natural refrigerants is going to rise. The US needs to look at the lessons learned in Europe and realise that refrigerants like R404a and R507 are on their way out and that natural refrigerants like ammonia are the only real long-term solution,” said Derek Hamilton, US Business Development Manager at Azane.
Robert Lamb, Group Sales & Marketing Director at Star Refrigeration, echoed Hamilton’s sentiments saying that, following the phasing down of HFCs, queries over the price and safety of HFO blends would open the door for ammonia in Europe.
“The recent change to the F-Gas Regulation will be a major driver for natural refrigerants in 2015.  The phasing down of HFCs and ongoing question mark over availability, price and safety of HFO refrigerants and blends will provide new opportunities and markets for natural refrigerants such as ammonia and CO2 in Europe. The phase out of R22 will create similar opportunities in the US,” Star Refrigeration’s Robert’s Lamb stated.
“As a result of the new F-Gas Regulation that went into effect at the beginning of this year in Europe, demand will appreciably increase for natural refrigerants and their associated refrigeration systems throughout the rest of the world. European standards for protection of the climate and the environment frequently set the pace for other countries as well,” Hugo Blaum, President at GEA Refrigeration Technologies.
“Customers are watching what others are doing and as successful R744 and R717 installations are reported others will follow. With natural refrigerants it is not a question of if, it is a question of when. Government regulations could certainly impact the question of when,” Paul Noreen, Sales Director BAC.
Low charge systems to heighten demand for ammonia in 2015
Manufacturers Star Refrigeration, Evapco and Colmac Coil are all extremely optimistic that their low-charge ammonia refrigeration systems will further address these regulatory challenges in 2015. 
“We believe ammonia is the ‘perfect’ natural refrigerant due to its low cost, high efficiency, extremely low global warming potential, and simple operation. We anticipate the introduction of low charge ammonia refrigeration technologies like the Colmac ADX system will result in wider adoption of ammonia as the preferred refrigerant in the industrial and commercial refrigeration markets,” Patsy Smith, Marketing Coordinator, Colmac Coil Manufacturing.
“Changes in local and federal regulations continue to adversely impact owners of ammonia refrigeration systems at the same time the demand for the use of ammonia, and other natural refrigerants, is on the rise. As a result, system owners are looking for the right product solution to address the regulatory pressure and enable them to continue to use ammonia at their facilities,” Kurt Liebendorfer, Vice President, Evapco.
Low charge perfect solution for regulation and safety 
Star Refrigeration’s packaged ammonia systems, including its low charge ammonia Azanefreezer and Azanechiller, are still relatively new to the US but crucial in that they address two pressing market factors; the challenges posed by the R22 phaseout and plant safety due to the lowered ammonia charge.
“This technology has been introduced to the US at a time when the industry is facing up to the challenge of R22 phaseout while at the same time facing pressure to reduce ammonia charge, improve efficiency and improve plant safety. Packaged ammonia systems such as ours address all of these concerns and provide a long-term solution. The concept of packaged ammonia systems is relatively new to the US and this technology is creating a buzz in the industry. Low charge ammonia was the focus of sessions at a number of conferences in 2014 and will be so again in 2015,” Hamilton explained.
“Customers have shown real interest both in Europe and the USA in our Azane product range. Both enable customers to use ammonia in applications where HFCs would be the traditional solution,” Lamb said.
Likewise, Evapco’s Low Charge Refrigeration (LCR) product line, which consists of factory-assembled, self-contained ammonia refrigeration rooftop systems, is designed to empower the continued use of ammonia in the market, while meeting regulatory measures.
“Each model is designed for easy installation and start-up, resulting in reduced downtime, while providing safe and efficient operation. The product line consists of over 270 models covering a broad range of operating temperatures with capacities ranging from 10TR to 100TR. The product line enables engineers to confidently apply cost-effective ammonia refrigeration systems on retrofit applications, building expansions and new facilities with a fraction of the refrigerant charge associated with conventional field built systems,” Liebendorfer said.
Colmac Coil has received a number of patents in the application of low charge ammonia direct expansion to ammonia refrigeration in recent years, with its Advanced Direct Expansion (ADX) technology allowing the application of direct expansion with ammonia at freezer temperatures – a feat not possible in the past. The technology reduces the ammonia charge by roughly four to five times compared to traditional pumped ammonia designs and reduces the amount of ammonia in evaporators by 30-50 times. 
“In 2014 a number of ADX systems were installed and successfully commissioned in the United States and Australia, including: two food service distribution centers (Australia), three large public refrigerated warehouses (USA) and a large vegetable processing facility (USA). Several other ADX systems are currently in design and construction. In addition to the very low ammonia charge benefit, it has also been shown that the installed first cost of the ADX system is lower than for a traditional pumped ammonia systems,” said Smith.


By James Ranson

Feb 25, 2015, 16:24

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