Getting ready for warmest Winter Olympics Games: ammonia rises to the challenge

By Janet Thompson, Apr 09, 2013, 14:37 2 minute reading

With the 2014 Winter Olympic Games less than a year away, preparations for what are predicted to be the warmest Winter Games are well under way. The Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi, Russia, the hockey venue for the Games, relies on ammonia refrigeration to provide much-needed cooling, whilst ahead of the Games, the Ege-Trans-Arena, an ammonia ice rink in Bietigheim-Bissingen, recently hosted the ice-hockey qualifications.

The 2014 Winter Olympics, officially the XXII Olympic Winter Games, or the 22nd Winter Olympics, will be celebrated from 7 to 23 February 2014, in Sochi, Russia, which has an average February temperature of 8.3°C (42.8 °F) and a humid, subtropical climate. Sochi will be the warmest city to have ever hosted a Winter Olympic Games, and to ensure ideal ice conditions for the ice hockey Games, organisers have turned to ammonia for their industrial refrigeration needs.

12,000-seat capacity Bolshoi Ice Palace includes state-of the-art ammonia refrigeration system

The Bolshoi Ice Dome is part of the complex of facilities operated by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). The complex includes the Bolshoi Ice Palace, Maly Ice Palace and a training rink.

Built 140 meters away from the track, an ammonia plant complex has been installed, made up of a control station and service rooms for compressors, pumps and refrigerant storage containers. Underground ammonia pipelines connect the complex to the track and the control room receives online feedback about ice temperatures and weather conditions, so they can change the level of refrigeration on any part of the track and maintain the ice in an optimum condition. After an experimental 12-meter track section was approved by international federation experts, construction of the reinforced concrete base of the track was given the go-ahead.

Ammonia-cooled Ege-Trans-Arena officially opens to host 2014 Olympics qualifiers

The Ege-Trans-Arena, home of the Bietigheim Steelers ice hockey team, had its unofficial opening on 21 December 2012, and its official opening on 19-20 January 2013, after technical issues delayed the original launch date. The official opening of the arena took place just 13 months after the first construction of the arena commenced, and from 7 to 10 January, the Arena was the proud host of the 2014 Winter Olympics qualifying matches for the German, Italian, Austrian, and Netherlands ice hockey teams.

The delayed opening was due to the fact that although the playing field had been evenly cooled for weeks and the ice had been built up layer by layer on the concrete floor, this did not occur in all areas of the rink. The uneven cooling occurred because several of the approximately 300 in concrete-embedded steel pipes were not sufficiently penetrable for the ammonia refrigerant to flow through, causing problems with the preparation of the ice surface.

To find the source of the blockage, all of the ammonia had to be drained, the defective pipes located, and the surrounding concrete had to be cut open before the pipes could be repaired. Once the technical issues with the piping were resolved, the ice, once again, had to be built up layer-by-layer. Still, the total delay for the unofficial opening of the ice rink amounted to only 5 days. By December 21, 2012, the Bietigheim Steelers were back on the ice, facing off to their archrival neighbors from Heilbronn.


By Janet Thompson

Apr 09, 2013, 14:37

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