Ammonia in Traditional HFC Territory: How Does It Compare?
Ammonia in Traditional HFC Territory: How Does It Compare? (2013)-During the lead-up to the historic passing of the Carbon Tax Bill in the Australian Senate on the 11th of November 2011, refrigeration plant users in Australia explored ways of minimizing the impact of this new legislation. Not only does the legislation assign a price on carbon pollution thereby increasing electricity costs. It also includes a special levy on hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants. The latter has increased the retail price of HFC’s by 300 to 500% as of July 2012. There are several pathways available to Australian refrigeration and air conditioning plant users of avoiding the impact of the levy on HFC refrigerants. It has been a common misconception that these pathways are generally characterized by a capital cost penalty and lack of acceptable benefit(s) in terms of return on additional investment. By way of practical, real life comparisons, this paper details the end-user business benefits associated with giving ammonia a chance in those medium size applications, which prior to the advent of the Carbon Tax Bill were reserved for HFC refrigerants. These real life comparisons are based on four dual stage ammonia refrigeration systems in different geographical locations in Australia ranging from temperate to subtropical environments. The plant designs are characterized by the application of a range of relatively innovative design concepts including automatic ambient air defrost in frozen storage facilities, automatic oil return and oil distribution to the compressors, office air conditioning by means of ammonia refrigerant, variable speed drive semi-industrial and industrial reciprocating compressors, employment of secondary refrigerant in chilled storage rooms, automatic venting of ammonia vapours from frozen storage rooms in the event of leaks, floating evaporating and condensing pressures and so on. The facilities described would traditionally have been reserved for HFC based refrigeration systems. This is commercial reality based on plant capital costs, plant simplicity, the cost of electrical energy and the cost of maintenance. The paper describes the decision process on the part of the four end users that led to a departure from traditional thinking and what the practical and commercial consequences have been of a decision in favour of natural refrigerants and high energy efficiency plant design. In the case of one particular end user, the paper will compare the annual energy consumption of two facilities that are almost identical in terms of floor area and refrigerated volume, but where the two facilities are serviced by two different types of refrigeration systems. One plant is serviced by a traditional HFC based refrigeration system, the other by a new generation ammonia based refrigeration system.
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