BEIJING, China - The ozone layer is healing itself thanks in part to what the HVACR industry has done in moving away from CFCs and HCFCs, a high-ranking United Nations official told an international gathering of refrigeration specialists.
“The ozone layer is on the way to recovery,” said Rajendra Shende, head of the ZoneAction Branch of the UN Environment Programme, in a keynote address to more than 1,200 attendees at the once-every-four-year International Congress of Refrigeration that took place this summer in Beijing.
“In 60 years, our children’s children will enjoy the same ozone layer we did as children,” he said.
“Prior to the Montreal Protocol, the world community expressed extreme skepticism that chlorine loading in the stratosphere could be brought back to its pre-CFC level,” he said.
“We are now able to observe such trends through satellite measurements and scientists predict that the ozone layer of the pre-CFC era could be expected by the middle of this century if countries continue to meet their commitments under the protocol and there are no unexpected events like volcanic eruption and if there is no global warming.”
The speaker did caution that the issue of global warming needs to be addressed. But he said what has been achieved regarding the reversing of ozone depletion demonstrates that global warming can also be dealt with.
“The world has witnessed a success story that is now unveiling itself. The world is succeeding in averting another global calamity of the 21st century - ozone layer depletion. We are successfully combating the depletion of our stratospheric ozone shield. The refrigeration and air conditioning industry’s role that is shaping this success has been paramount.”
He noted the industry was able to move away from ODP refrigerants such as CFCs and HCFCs even though many in the sector didn’t think it was possible.
“Just prior to the signature on the (Montreal Protocol), no replacement was considered possible for a majority of CFC applications, particularly in the RAC sector. It was said the RAC sector would be in disarray due to non-availability of CFCs.”
But he noted that the industry did adjust. “None of the annual reports of any corporations have ever reported the loss of employment, sales, and profits over the last 15 years due to the phaseout of these chemicals,” he said.
The positive environmental report was matched by similar keynote addresses that praised the HVACR industry for its efforts which allowed for the viability of the food chain, IAQ, and medical needs. The latest technologies to achieve that were also covered in a keynote talk.
Taking place literally steps from the soon-to-be famous “Birds Nest” national stadium, where opening and closing ceremonies for the 2008 Summer Olympics will be held, the focus at ICR was on the theme “Refrigeration Creates the Future.”
The attendees came from 55 countries and sat in on five days of seminars, paper presentations, and keynote addresses. More than one-half the attendees were from China in the event sponsored by the Paris-based International Institute of Refrigeration.
DIRECTIONS IN TECHNOLOGYFocusing on the strides refrigeration has made was Robert Wilkins, chairman of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute, and president of Danfoss Inc. (United States and Canada).
Using the host city as an example, he noted, “Major cities like Beijing now depend on food that is shipped from outlying areas or far away. Transport refrigeration enables farmers to sell more food to eager city customers with less spoilage. The entire process uses less labor, less energy, and less irrigation water, and therefore results in less air pollution and less CO2 emissions per kilo of food consumed. And urban customers also appreciate the resulting lower prices.”
He went on to say, “Refrigeration and air conditioning improve life in countless other ways. Medicines can be developed in precisely controlled climate conditions, and those same medicines can be kept fresh and are able to be used for their life-saving mission for far longer than in the recent past.
“World productivity has in-creased dramatically because of air conditioning. Industries in some of the hottest and most humid cities in the world now produce goods 24 hours a day, and it’s no secret that comfortable workers are more productive.”
He noted the world continues to face challenges regarding energy costs and supplies. “How we address these challenges will determine where we will be as an industry as we approach mid-century.”
Part of the solution, he said, consists of “products manufactured by our industry (that) are more energy efficient than they have ever been. Manufacturers have spent a great deal of time, energy, and money on research and development over the past several decades - and it shows.
“Still, the use of our products accounts for about one-third of the annual energy usage in developed countries with hot climates. It is up to us to do what we can to reduce that percentage.”
He cited a number of technological advances that address those concerns such as scroll, screw, and centrifugal compressors designed to serve a broader range of applications; magnetic bearings to improve performance and eliminate the need for lubricants; variable-frequency drives, and other modulating techniques to enable higher-system efficiencies.
He noted ARI is currently involved in research regarding alternative cooling technologies such as thermo-acoustic, thermal-electric, and magnetic refrigeration in niche applications while looking at ways to improve their efficiencies so they can be used in a wider range of applications.
Yet another ARI project, he said, is “investigating ways to improve energy efficiency while reducing refrigerant leaks” in supermarkets.
In summary, he said, “Let us do as our parents taught us: Leave the world a little better than how we found it. We certainly have done so from a comfort and refrigeration standpoint. When we also have done so from an energy efficiency and environmental perspective, we can say we have achieved our goal.”
OTHER VOICESAmong all five keynote speakers the message was praise for refrigeration.
Robert Heap, president of Cambridge Refrigeration Technology, and retiring president of IIR’s Science and Technology Council, aimed his kudos at what refrigeration does regarding food safety.
“Proper use of refrigeration is an important tool in overcoming significant food safety hazards. Proper refrigeration can help millions to receive adequate nutrition by reducing losses of foodstuffs,” he said.
He noted that much attention to undernourished people concentrates on increasing agricultural output. “But it is also important to reduce losses, and here refrigeration can help. The development of better-refrigerated cold chains can therefore be an important aid to the security of food supplies.”
He said the recent focus on food safety issues in China “relate to misuse of farm chemicals” not to refrigeration.
But in general, he said, “The biological hazards of bacterial infection and of bacterial toxins can be minimized by proper use of refrigeration, combined with proper hygiene procedures.”
The so-called food chain relates to the movement of product from farm to the dining room table. Along the way, Heap said, “produce is cooled up to five times, transported four times, and held in a controlled temperature environment six times within a period of one week.”
All along the chain, he said, is the need for “proper use of refrigeration.” He noted, “In developing countries, availability of equipment needs to be improved. Equipment design is less of an issue than its correct use.”
Dr. Pavel Mericka, who is in charge of the tissue bank at the University Hospital in the Czech Republic, detailed refrigeration, especially freezing, as vital in medicine.
He noted the role of the tissue bank is to “extend as long as possible the shelf life of the stored tissue” and this involves, he said, the use of “deep freezing, cryopreservation, and freeze-drying.”
Added to that, he said, is control of clean rooms, temperature and relative humidity control, and oxygen level monitoring.
In his keynote address, B.F. Yu from the School of Energy and Power Engineering in Xi’an, China, said, “With the improvement of the standard of living, air conditioning has been applied widely,” he said. “Meanwhile, health problems associated with air conditioning systems and indoor air quality appear more frequently.”
Challenges, he said, come with particle pollutants such as cooking and smoking, gaseous pollutants such as CO, radon, and volatile organic compounds (VOC).
He outlined a range of air conditioning system approaches to deal with IAQ such as dedicated outdoor air systems (DOAS), independent control of temperature and humidity systems (ICTHS), and cooling ceiling and displacement ventilation systems (CC/DV).
He noted the first two “help improve indoor air environment and realize the independent control of temperature and humidity and ensure the indoor terminal devices operate in a dry condition. The CC/DV system can not only provide an excellent indoor air environment, but possesses prodigious potential of energy saving.”