The refrigeration and air conditioning industry is an essential part of the Australian economy. Without its services our major cities and much of our agriculture, energy and chemical industries, telecommunications sector, manufacturing sector, transport sector, food processing, food preservation, food distribution sector and health sector would not be able to function as they presently do.
Although refrigeration was invented for the preservation of food in the mid-nineteenth century, there are many other commercial and industrial uses to which it has been applied since and the technology has evolved for specific functions, often in vital industries.
Refrigeration forms part of almost all aspects of modern life. Some applications include:
- Processing, transport and storage of perishable food from farm or sea to domestic refrigerator, using refrigerated trucks
- Pharmaceutical processing, delivery and storage
- Pathology services
- Cooling plant for environmental control
- Pathology and medical services
- Process cooling in the energy and chemical industries including gas liquefaction
- Data Centres cooling
- Heat pumps
- Industrial drying applications
- Extremely low temperature systems as applied in particle and quantum mechanics research
- Thermal storage.
The air conditioning and refrigeration sectors employs between 170,000–200,000 people including designers, installers, maintenance, plant operators and service staff, equipment providers and controls companies. There is very little research conducted in Australia in the refrigeration sector and there are no tertiary qualifications leading to the career of refrigeration engineer. Mechanics and technicians enter the industry through a Certificate III qualification and do not have a strong culture of up-skilling. The industry and occupations within the industry are very hidden and there is a battle to attract and retain good quality workers.
Globally the HVAC&R industry has faced many changes in refrigerant use and technologies over the last 30 years. CFCs, once the mainstays of refrigerants, have been phased out due to Ozone Depleting Potential (ODP) forcing a transition to HFCs via HCFCs. HCFCs are in their final stage of being phased out and HFCs are being phased down due to their high Global Warming Potential. The European Union has a timetable for HFC phase out under the F-gas legislation and significant moves are under way in the USA under the EPA SNAP initiative to phase-down, phase-out or limit the use of HFC’s by sector.
Australia is a signatory to the COP 21 agreement (12 December 2015 in Paris) meaning it has committed to reducing emissions to net zero by 2050. These reductions include a focus on reducing direct emissions from HVAC&R systems through an HFC phase down and a focus on reducing indirect emissions through improved energy efficiency. For leak tight HFC based systems, the direct emissions represent approximately 10% of the total environmental impact over the life of the system whereas indirect emissions represent approximately 90%. This assumes systems are supplied with electrical energy generated by means of fossil fuels (Velders et al, 2015). This emphasizes the strong challenge faced by industry with respect to improved energy performance for all refrigeration systems.
Australian HFC phase down
The Australian government recently announced an HFC phase-down and the HVAC&R industry needs to understand what this means in terms of risk management, change management, WHS, standards, codes, education, information, implementation, refrigerant options, skills needs, new technology, research gaps etc.
End users of HVAC&R look to industry professionals to provide them with clear cost-benefit analyses to make fully informed decisions not only in relation to the capital costs associated with transitioning to low GWP refrigerants, but also with respect to the benefits of transitioning. Clear and unbiased information in relation to the benefits of transitioning to low GWP working fluids is of significant importance to the AIRAH membership in their endeavours to “sell’ technical concepts to end-users who may otherwise only identify costs.
The next generation of refrigerants bring a range of new safety and environmental considerations from flammability and toxicity issues, asphyxiation potential to toxic by-products of combustion. This needs to be carefully managed in all refrigeration applications including those refrigeration applications that form part of an environment control system for human comfort.
Reducing indirect emissions
Refrigeration systems can be very energy intensive and there is a great opportunity to design, install and operate them much more efficiently, but this will need to be supported by appropriate information, education, training, awareness raising, business cases, legislation, codes and standards development etc.
As the leading trusted voice in technical guidance in Australia it is imperative for AIRAH to work with relevant industry and government stakeholders to identify the challenges and barriers to advancing our industry to a safe, highly skilled and competent cost-effective and environmentally effective one. The AIRAH Refrigeration STG will support AIRAH in all matters relating to the refrigeration industry, providing technically accurate and unbiased information with a focus on energy efficiency, safety, skills needs, environmental impact and sustainability.
AIRAH’s members and stakeholders need technically accurate, unbiased information relating to issues in the industry, government and the market place. Whilst the volume of information available is increasing, it is recognised that a significant amount of opinion, mis-information and marketing related content exists which does not always stand up to technical scrutiny but is presented as fact. In this context AIRAH’s STGs provide a vehicle for our industry leaders to understand, interpret and provide guidance to our members and stakeholders in an unbiased and fact based manner, hence the primary drivers for the STG are:
- To provide pragmatic advice to our membership and others on how to deliver informed, considered and appropriate outcomes;
- Beyond any prevailing rhetoric and dialogue, our primary aim is to assist our members in making informed and well considered decisions;
- Where multiple requests exceed the resource base our priority will default to those areas where our efforts will deliver the greatest benefits (as defined above) to our membership.
The purpose of the AIRAH Refrigeration STG is to provide members with a platform for involvement in issues that affect their industry including:
- Policy advice
- Regulation development
- Development and/or dissemination of codes and standards
- Sustainability and Environmental impact
- Energy efficiency
- Emissions reduction
- Risk management
- Change management
- Development of, and access to, industry-leading advice
This platform will promote a whole-of-supply-chain integrated view on issues related to the activities of the group and AIRAH, along with best-practice delivery in the Australian and international community.
The AIRAH Refrigeration STG aims to:
- Promote industry leadership best practice approach encompassing the following key focus areas:
i. Energy efficiency and emissions reduction at the design level
ii. Promote safe and responsible use of all refrigerants.
iii. Provide access / reference to current and applicable design guides, case studies and papers.
iv. Keep members up to date with current domestic and international developments.
- Promote awareness of the possibility of reducing direct and indirect carbon emissions by using new developments of technology in the refrigeration industry, or simply by better application of existing technology.
- Be a reference point for government in shaping relevant policy relating to the environmental, economic, safety and social impact of HVAC&R and related systems.
- Make submissions on behalf of members to influence policy setting, as collectively agreed by members, and work with government at all levels to establish workable regulations, frameworks and guidelines.
- Identify and seek external funding for collaborative projects that support the objectives and aims of AIRAH and its members.
- Provide guidance to the HVAC&R industry to develop a considered, integrated and technically objective approach to the specialist focus of the group.
- Create special interest groups directed by industry leaders to help further the interests of the Committee, AIRAH and its members where needed.
- To formalise and track progress toward these aims, the committee will establish a rolling list of projects/outcomes to be accomplished for the calendar year. The list will be updated yearly with interim reviews as appropriate.
- Assist the HVAC&R industry to make refrigerant choices that are rational and sustainable
- Assist AIRAH in training, regulatory issues and policy development in the use of all refrigerants.
Deliverables and communications
The Committee aims to deliver the following:
- Input to AIRAH’s formal responses to government and stakeholder policies and papers. Including the PRIME initiative.
- Develop/adopt a voluntary Energy Intensity Rating system for refrigeration compliance/quality checking. This may also result in software or rating tools being developed or customisation of existing tools.
- Use the above to assist the industry to develop energy efficient solutions rather than relying on unitary equipment default options. This includes architects, end users, building owners, etc.
- Raise the awareness of refrigeration as an industry and attract high quality people at all levels.
- Review of existing international refrigeration design guidelines and standards that would be suitable for adoption or to supplement current Australian Standards and Safety Guides.
- Keep a current data base of papers, presentations and case studies.
- Presentations at forums/site visits etc., including for education of users of HVAC&R systems.
- Julian Hudson, M.AIRAH (President)
- Jonathan Hare, M.AIRAH (Secretary)
- Jonathan Fryer, M.AIRAH
- Stefan Jensen, F.AIRAH
- Shane McBride, M.AIRAH
- Roger Stringer, M.AIRAH
- Andrew Pang, AM.AIRAH
- Basil McKinley, M.AIRAH
- Ian Tuena, AM.AIRAH
- Ben Adamson, F.AIRAH
- Greg Atkinson, M.AIRAH
- Ross Bradshaw, Affil.AIRAH
Membership is open to any financial AIRAH member. If you are interested in being involved please email STGS@airah.org.au or call 03 8623 3000.
Natural refrigerants case studies
East coast chill factor
Aldi supermarkets in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland are reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by using R290 hydrocarbon chest freezers in their retail frozen food departments.
Sirromet Winery Ammonia (NH3) Chiller
The Sirromet Winery, located 40 km south-east of Brisbane, recently upgraded its refrigeration equipment with a new Ammonia chiller plant.
Supermarket energy and TEWI comparisons
This case study compares five different options of providing refrigeration to a large supermarket of around 4000 m2. The TEWI (Total Equivalent Warming Impact) method of calculation has been used to compare the global warming effect of each of the options.