ASHRAE issues position on natural refrigerants

By Sabine Lobnig, Mar 04, 2009, 17:38 3 minute reading

For the first time, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers has made public its position as regards natural refrigerants, including ammonia. ASHRAE has now committed to support research, assessment, and strategic growth in the use of natural refrigerants in refrigeration systems and technologies.

A couple of weeks after organizing the first CO2-only seminar “CO2 Systems, Components and Applications”, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has published a position paper on the various uses, properties and potential of environmentally superior natural refrigerants in refrigeration and heating systems.

With this paper, ASHRAE recognises the potential that natural refrigerants offer in improving the environmental performance of refrigeration systems and expresses its support for research, assessment, and strategic growth in their use. The ASHRAE paper further presents the pros and cons of different natural refrigerants uses in heating and cooling systems.

Ammonia as most important refrigerant

With a GWP and an ODP of zero, R717 refrigerant has been used non-stop over the last 150 years. According to ASHRAE’s studies, ammonia’s high refrigeration system energy performance, excellent thermodynamic properties, and high heat transfer coefficient, has made it a great technology for food and beverage processing and preservation. It is also being increasingly adopted for HVAC chillers, thermal storage systems, process cooling and air conditioning, district cooling systems, supermarkets, and convenience stores. Ammonia also provides useful cooling across the range of temperatures, from air conditioning to low temperature. Ammonia air conditioning applications are now being installed in commercial and public buildings.

At the same time, the document does state potential toxicity of the refrigerant at concentration higher than 300 ppm. Nonetheless, it also recalls that the pungent smell of R717 from very low concentrations is self-alarming and hence annihilates any real risk of toxicity in case of leakage. Recent compact refrigerating units are also, according to the document, a very effective way to avoid any leakage.

Regulation and training

The use of ammonia as a refrigerant can be subject to some safety regulations and standards. ASHRAE’s view is that these should, in no case, be considered as legal barriers as proper maintenance and training of personnel is obligatory for any refrigerant. The position paper also recalls that within the Kyoto Protocol framework, it is the use of fluorocarbon refrigerants that has become circuitous and laborious.

It concludes that, if suitable training is offered and safety measures applied adequately, then danger from ammonia use is no different to any other refrigerant.

ASHRAE and AIRAH: on climate change

On 27 February, ASHRAE and the Australian Institute of Refrigeration Air Conditions and Heating (AIRAH) issued a joint resolution on climate change emphasizing the necessary use of renewable energy, education of the building industry and responsible refrigerant use to insure sustainable future of heating and refrigeration. Yet again, ASHRAE stresses the importance for the heating and refrigeration industry to evolve towards greater sustainability and greater environmental concern integration.

“The use of HVAC&R technologies is an essential element of contemporary life,” Bill Harrison, ASHRAE president, said. “Yet, HVAC&R systems contribute to greenhouse gas releases through energy-related effects and through the effects of refrigerant losses. ASHRAE and AIRAH are emphasising a variety of measures to decrease emissions associated with energy use and its effect on global climate.”


By Sabine Lobnig

Mar 04, 2009, 17:38

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