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Moving The Needle On Refrigerants

Moving The Needle On Refrigerants

From the ASHRAE Journal Newsletter, February 14, 2017

By Amy Wilson, Associate Editor

The needle is moving when it comes to refrigerants, and during this year’s Winter Conference in Las Vegas, refrigerants and their possible changes topped many agendas. Toward that end, the February 2017 ASHRAE Journal is focused on the topic of Refrigerants of the Future.

“ASHRAE has been in the forefront of refrigerant issues, as reflected by the Winter Conference program, which had several sessions devoted to low global warming potential (GWP) alternatives,” said Karim Amrane, Ph.D., Member ASHRAE, ASHRAE’s Refrigeration Committee chair. “These technical sessions conveyed vital information needed to help ASHRAE members transition to lower GWP alternative technologies.”

During this year’s meeting:

ASHRAE reaffirmed its position document, “Refrigerants and Their Responsible Use” for a three-year period. A more comprehensive revision of the position document will start shortly to incorporate recent developments. A revised “Ammonia as a Refrigerant” position document was approved by the Board of Directors in Las Vegas.

Updates were received on three ASHRAE research projects regarding flammable A2L refrigerants:

  • 1806-RP, “Flammable Refrigerants Post-Ignition Simulation and Risk Assessment Update,” is underway. It is expected to be completed in 12 months.
  • A bidder was approved in Las Vegas for 1807-TRP, “Guidelines for Flammable Refrigerant Handling, Transporting, Storing and Equipment Servicing, Installation and Dismantling.” Completion is expected in the fall.
    1808-TRP, “Servicing and Installing Equipment Using Flammable Refrigerants: Assessment of Field-Made Mechanical Joints,” is currently out for bid. Bidding closes February 20.
  • The Global Refrigerants Management Institute (GRMI) met during the conference in Las Vegas to set its 2017 work plan. ASHRAE is a member organization of the GRMI, which is focused on education initiatives and training related to refrigeration management.

ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 34, Designation and Safety Classification of Refrigerants, maintains a list of refrigerants with a standardized system of assigned refrigerant numbers and well-defined safety classifications, including toxicity and flammability ratings. The list continues to grow.

Environmental concerns are driving regulations and the HVAC&R industry toward lower GWP alternatives to the HFC refrigerants currently in use. Existing lower GWP refrigerant alternatives include, but are not limited to, hydrocarbons like propane (R-290) and isobutane (R-600a), as well as carbon dioxide (R-744), ammonia (R-717), and R-32. With the exception of carbon dioxide, all of these existing alternatives are either mildly flammable (ASHRAE Safety Classification 2L for ammonia and R-32) or have higher flammability (ASHRAE Safety Classification 3 for propane and isobutane). In an effort to determine the impact that new lower GWP alternative refrigerants would have on system performance, the HVAC&R industry and various research organizations have been investigating the performance of these refrigerants in HVAC&R systems and components.

In the February ASHRAE Journal article, “Overview of Fluids for AC Applications,” the authors explore the framework in which this new generation of refrigerants can be compared. “Reaching Near-Zero GWP: Packaged Ammonia/Carbon Dioxide Systems” provides a case study of an installation of a small, packaged ammonia/CO2 system in a food manufacturing facility in Irvine, Calif.