In March, Airgas Refrigerants began operating an Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI)-accredited refrigerants testing lab after nearly a year of design and construction. The sophisticated testing lab is housed in Airgas Refrigerants’ Atlanta filling and reclamation facility, and is used to test samples from manufacturers’ bulk tankers, in-house reclamation, service technicians, and reclaimed gas cylinders for purity, oil, non-condensable gases chlorides, and acidity as requested. The lab includes five mass spectrometers, four of them gas chromatographs.
The lab soon will enable customers to order sample test kits that they can fill and return to Airgas Refrigerants for a complete AHRI-700 analysis, ensuring peak performance or identifying potential issues.
Today, 10 associates are part of the lab’s analytical and testing processes. They are engineers and technicians — all cross-trained to perform lab functions and work with Refrigatron™, the Airgas refrigerant analytical and cylinder evaluation system that operates with two additional gas chromatograph mass spectrometers. The lab can process up to 25 analytical results daily.
According to Airgas, the lab was designed for flow, flexibility, and process automation. It has ample room to accommodate large cylinders and pull samples through an automated gas chromatography mass spectrometer that is connected to a hard-plumbed system where small samples are introduced for analysis. After the samples are analyzed, the system is evacuated and cleaned automatically. The next sample is then brought in and connected.
“Airgas Refrigerants is a recognized industry name and we want to ensure that our customers know they can rely on us,” said Randy Perry, vice president of operations. “We are focused on our customers and this lab is getting them the information they need as quickly as possible with accurate results so that they can make decisions that affect their system performance.
“Our ultimate goal is to take care of our customers,” Perry added. “We are now providing a full service offering to our customers; from sales and delivery, to reclamation, to testing, to cylinder recertification.”
Antoine Joseph, lab manager, agreed.
“Airgas is all about customer service,” he said. “This lab shows that we care about our customers’ experience well after the sale. We try to go above and beyond and with this level of skill and technology, we can deliver that every day. We’re diligent with our accuracy. If we question a result, we go back and test again.”
Mike Kuchinski, chemical engineer, said what he enjoys most about working in the Airgas lab is the flexibility of the equipment and the lab’s testing abilities.
“We’re one of only two labs with mass spectrometers set up to identify all gases,” Kuchinski said. “We designed this lab with an eye toward the future. We’re prepared for expansion and changes and we’re certain that we can handle the next generation of refrigerants.”