Tom Leighty (left) of Refrigeration Systems Co., Columbus, Ohio, chats with M. Kent Anderson, president of the IIAR, during the opening reception.
ACAPULCO, Mexico - The first word in the association's name - International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR) - demonstrates that the trade association draws membership from throughout the world. In 2005, the IIAR ventured for the second time beyond the United States to hold its annual Ammonia Refrigeration Conference & Exhibition.

A mid-March time slot meant heading south to Acapulco, where sunny skies and balmy temperatures greeted some 950 attendees.

While the majority of presentations, papers, and panels were in English, a special track of six technical papers and a day-long back-to-basics workshop were in Spanish, in deference to an especially large turnout of members from Mexico, Central America, and South America.

The large attendance of representatives from 21 countries "is a clear indication of the strength of our organization," said outgoing chairman Larry Basel of Dean Foods Co., Rockford, Ill. "A strong IIAR equates to a strong industry.

"Ammonia continues to be the most accepted, cost-efficient, and environmentally friendly industrial refrigerant around the world," he continued. "And it will remain that for many years to come."

While reviewing IIAR's goals and objectives, Basel noted:

  • Efforts to eliminate water diffusion tanks from various local codes - "In the international fire code, we have succeeded in reducing the required capacity of diffusion tanks from one gallon of water per pound of ammonia based on the entire system charge, to that same ratio based on a one-hour release," Basel said. IIAR maintains that there are better ways than water diffusion tanks to ensure system safety.

  • Continuing training sessions for fire officials - "This is an important program that we will continue to support," Basel said.

  • Participation in a chemical sector council coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security - "This council advises the federal government with strategic-level information that enables the government to accurately understand the point of view of our industry and to facilitate and co-ordinate policy decisions on behalf of our industry," Basel said.

  • Completion of Module Four in the IIAR safety series, a video training series that covers emergency response procedures.

  • Expansion of the "Basic Ammonia Refrigeration Video Series"; the education committee has completed the video for Module Six on shutoff valves. Work continues on the workbook and testing element of this module.

    Basel also said IIAR's global presence will be evident at the China Refrigeration Expo in Beijing in April 2005, and a return to the IKK show in the fall of 2005 in Hannover, Germany.

    Representatives from 21 countries attended the IIAR conference in Acapulco, Mexico.

    Insurance And Risk

    Insurance in ammonia refrigeration was explored during one of a number of panel sessions. A recurring theme was safety and preventive measures to control such costs. Panelists also warned that premiums would probably continue to rise, along with deductibles.

    Another panel looked at recent industry research, including projects involving the effects of hydraulic shock on ammonia releases, moisture migration, and two-phase flow. Attendees were assured that IIAR would continue to pursue such issues to the benefit of those in the ammonia sector while still maintaining safety considerations.

    A panel on risk management included a perspective from John Bresland of the U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board. He encouraged those working with ammonia equipment to be open with those who live and work in the areas where such plants are located.

    "Plants need to interact with the community. A facility handling a toxic or hazardous material has a responsibility to its employees and to the community to handle it as safely as possible. Get out and talk to your facility people, your fire officials, and the community about safety."

    He reinforced the need for preventive measures. "Preventing the accident is much easier than dealing with the aftereffects. Yet we see poor maintenance of emergency shutdown systems, wrong materials in construction, and emergency plans that are unworkable."

    Russ Uhl of Wells Dairy, Lemars, Iowa, talks about fine-tuning a refrigeration system during a presentation at the IIAR conference.

    System Optimization

    The presentation of papers offered the latest in technical developments in the ammonia sector. There were 12 in English and six in Spanish. A couple of the English papers are summarized here.

    Russell Uhl of Wells' Dairy Inc., Lamars, Iowa, looked at ways to optimize and fine tune refrigeration systems to improve efficiency and lower operating costs. "Optimizing a refrigeration system requires minimal capital investment, but does require hard work and a high level of attention to detail," he said.

    "It is not as simple as selecting a variable, changing it, and sitting back to wait for the performance of the system to improve.

    "When done correctly, the optimizing and tuning of the industrial refrigeration system is actually a highly structured and analytical process."

    He acknowledged that getting started "can seem daunting," but once the process starts, "progressing methodically is not all that difficult."

    In a paper on liquid feed methods, Alan Simchick of Refrigeracion y Equipos, Mexico City, began with a cautionary note: "Many engineers and technicians select methods to feed ammonia liquid to evaporators based on traditional practices rather than using an analytical approach."

    He reviewed five liquid feed methods: direct expansion, gravity liquid feed (flooded), mechanically pumped recirculated liquid overfeed, gas-pumped recirculated liquid overfeed, and controlled pressure-recirculated liquid overfeed.

    "Determining which liquid feed method is best for your application involves far more than a cost analysis alone, although the cost analysis is a critical criterion," he said. "Other factors such as product/process load characteristics, safety/regulatory concerns, physical constraints, leveraging the use of existing equipment, or a familiarity with a certain feed method often play as big, if not bigger, roles."

    Andy Ammonia Awards

    Presenters of two other papers were given the Andy Ammonia Award for outstanding presentation at the conference.

    Don Faust and Brian Peterson of Gartner Refrigeration & Manufacturing, Plymouth, Minn., were given the award for a report on relief vent piping per ASHRAE 15-2004 standards.

    The paper showed how to use the ASHRAE equation to solve for pressure drop in relief vent piping; how to select a relief valve and three-way valve; and strategies to bring existing nonconforming installations into compliance.

    Andy Pearson of Star Refrigeration, Glasgow, Scotland, was awarded for a paper on evaporative performance in carbon dioxide (CO2) systems. The paper gives rules of thumb for selection of CO2 evaporators and suggests other ways in which evaporator design might be modified in the future to optimize performance.

    Sidebar: Spreading The Word About ‘Wonderful Natural Resource'

    ACAPULCO, Mexico - The new chairman of the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR) calls the refrigerant "a wonderful natural resource." It is also a refrigerant for which the IIAR has provided a wealth of training in installation, maintenance, and safe use.

    Now chairman J.W. (Bill) Bowles wants to spread the word around the world.

    "We have a responsibility to use this wonderful resource in a responsible manner," he said during an interview at the recent IIAR Ammonia Refrigeration Conference & Exhibition. "We have the tools to do that. Now we must improve the dissemination and communication of these tools."

    Bowles has spent 35 years in the industry. He recently retired after 14 years as president and chief executive officer of Evapco in Taneytown, Md. Through much of his career he was involved in international issues, including the development of production facilities in Europe and Asia.

    He said the Internet is the prime way to reach the global ammonia market. IIAR members can access technical information through the association's Web site ( IIAR standards, bulletins, the Ammonia Data Book, and every technical paper presented at an IIAR conference are available to members online. Bowles said he hopes that ease of access will encourage nonmembers to join IIAR and benefit from the same access and information.

    Major ammonia contractors and end users already are IIAR members; Bowles said better efforts are needed to reach others.

    One way to do that, he said, is by reaching out to other associations such as the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (RETA), which is made up of individuals as members. They might be able to provide leads about ends users and contracting companies that could benefit from IIAR membership, Bowles said.

    The new chair said Internet search engines would be used to create a database of associations and organizations worldwide with whom it might be worth developing strategic alliances.

    The changing situation regarding CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs is causing many in the industry "to broaden their investigation of ammonia," he said.

    In many ways, he said, ammonia is no different than electricity, natural gas, and petroleum when it comes to products "that need to be used responsibly" but prove to be a valuable resource.

    - Peter Powell

    Publication date: 04/18/2005