ACHRNEWS

Big Turnout Only Natural

June 6, 2011
Lowell Randal, director of government affairs for the Global Cold Chain Alliance, reviews regulatory issues during the IIAR conference in Orlando.

ORLANDO, Fla. - A lot of talk these days about natural refrigerants focuses on CO2, propane, isobutene, and the like.

Stateside, they may be new kids on the block in terms of HVACR applications. But one natural refrigerant that has been around seemingly forever is ammonia. So it - like those “newcomers” - is drawing a lot of attention.

Nowhere was that more evident than at the most recent International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR) Industrial Refrigeration Conference and Heavy Equipment Show.

A record turnout of some 1,300 persons filled the Caribe Royale resort and more than 100 exhibitors filled all available space in the adjoining convention center exhibit hall, according to IIAR Chairman Peter Jordan of MBD Risk Management Services.

The 2½ day event included - in addition to the exhibit hall being open throughout - technical papers, workshops, and even technomercials in which manufacturers used meeting rooms and 25 minutes each to tout their latest wares and answer questions.

REGULATORY FOCUS

Wider acceptance of ammonia in the types of applications and sizes of systems continues to be a high priority for IIAR.

As noted by Jordan during a business meeting, “Advocacy is a top priority for our members, so we have been reaching out to the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], OSHA [Occupational Safety & Health Administration], and some state agencies in an effort to build a bridge between regulators and industry.”

Jordan noted, “In the past few months, IIAR has worked in partnership with the Global Cold Chain Alliance [GCCA] to form an alliance with OSHA to promote safety in ammonia refrigeration facilities.”

He said members of IIAR’s Standards Review Committee met with OSHA officials to discuss the content of IIAR Standard 6: Maintenance and Inspection that is under development. “We hope there will be more meetings like this with regulators that will help smooth out some of the bumps in the road during a compliance inspection.”

At the state level, he noted that some IIAR members and staff met with regulatory officials in New Jersey to focus “on the impact regulations in that state have on the ammonia refrigeration industry.”

During a government relations report, Lowell Randal, director of government affairs at GCCA, noted “potential gridlock” in Congress over many regulatory matters, but encouraged attendees to continue to monitor any developments.

What is happening currently can, in many cases, be seen as good news for the HVACR industry, he said. For example, he noted more attention is being paid by government to cost-benefit analysis regarding regulations and the desire to seek public comment.

He also noted efforts to get the EPA Greenchill program to embrace ammonia, and get ammonia factored into the EPA’s E3 (Energy, Environment, and Economic) program.

Another aspect of working ammonia into broad discussions of refrigerant options was noted by Jeff Shapiro of International Code Consultants. He pointed out that Underwriters Laboratory “is preparing for an influx of HC refrigerants in packaged equipment coming to the U.S.” Those are refrigerants with flammability issues. Perhaps, he suggested, that might open the door to broader use of refrigerants with toxicity issues, such as ammonia.

SAFETY

Related to the safety issue was Jordan’s announcement that updates are underway with regards to IIAR’s process safety management guidelines and risk management program guidelines.

“The revisions will reflect real-life experience since the original guidelines were published more than 15 years ago,” he said.

And safety ended up being the theme of a workshop called “Refrigeration Training Procedures” presented by Jeff Sloan of Lanier Technical College in Oakwood, Ga.

“The prime reason for training is safety,” he said. “Employee training keeps everything in line; it provides a smooth operation.”

He touched on the regulatory theme stressed by Jordan earlier in the day. “Agencies are paying attention to training.” He cited OSHA’s emphasis recently on “implementation over documentation. They are looking in more detail about training.”

But, he noted, “Government regulations notwithstanding, the industry has to come to understand the importance of effectively training system operators.”

PROJECTS

CO2 has been a part of the ammonia refrigeration sector for a number of years as in the use of both refrigerants in cascade systems. A recent addition to that is the publication of CO2 Industrial Refrigeration Handbook, which Jordan said is “focused on cutting-edge technology and has been well received by the industry.”

Another project noted by Jordan was the pending publication of the second edition of the Ammonia Refrigeration Piping Handbook, with a new chapter on preparing drawings and a revision to a chapter on insulation.

FOUNDATION

Jordan reported on what he said was a “successful year” for the Ammonia Refrigeration Foundation. Its chair, Don Stroud of Kraft Foods, said the foundation “was formed to raise financial resources to support educational programs and research projects that benefit the industrial refrigeration industry.”

Among achievements over the past year, he said, were completions of a research project validating guidelines for the postmortem testing of relief valves, and the establishment of the first foundation scholarships which are going to two technical colleges for the start of the fall 2011 semester. Stroud also noted the foundation is working to establish scholarships with eight major universities that offer refrigeration courses.

He reported on a fundraising campaign seeking $3 million of which “more than $1.3 million has been raised from five contributors.”

PEOPLE

IIAR Member of the Year kudos went to Jim Marrella of United States Cold Storage in Chicago. Honorary Life Member recognition was given to David Grong of Carlson & Stewart Refrigeration of Marshall, Minn.

At the conference, Adolfo Blasquez of A. Blasquez E. Refrigeracion Industrial of San Jeronimo Lidice, Mexico, became IIAR chairman. He is the second person from outside the United States to chair IIAR, the previous being Steven McLeod of Cimco Refrigeration in Toronto.

New to the board of directors are Paul Bishop of Parker Hannifin, Dennis Halsey of GEA/FES, Linda McDaniel of JBS USA, Doug Reindl of the University of Wisconsin Industrial Refrigeration Consortium, Kem Russell of Doubl-Kold, Mark Stencel of Vilter, Walter Teeter of Republic Refrigeration, and Gary Webster of Kraft Foods.

Publication date: 06/06/2011