AIRAH’s Refrigeration 2017 Conference attracts record attendance

Taking place March 27–28 at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium, the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) held its first major event for the year – the Refrigeration 2017 Conference. Headlined by a brace of international keynotes speakers, the two-day conference attracted a record-breaking number of delegates.  

Now established as the leading gathering place for the Australian refrigeration industry’s leading minds and trendsetters, the Refrigeration 2017 Conference looked at the state of the industry, how it may respond to the challenges initiated by COP 21 and the global HFC phase-down, and how this will impact upon educators, legislators, regulators, end users, engineers, consultants and technicians.

Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium provided an eye-catching the backdrop for the two-day event, which attracted a record 150-plus delegates. 

Labelling the event a bona-fide success, AIRAH CEO Tony Gleeson, M.AIRAH, says Refrigeration 2017 highlights AIRAH’s commitment to help shape an efficient, productive and resilient industry.  

“Although we didn’t quite reach Etihad Stadium’s 50,000 capacity, we’re still extremely pleased with the turnout and reception from all delegates at Refrigeration 2017,” Gleeson says. “At a key juncture for the refrigeration industry, the conference organising committee led by Stefan Jensen, F.AIRAH, was committed to curating a program that addressed the most critical issues from both an Australian and international perspective. 

“Those in attendance have the capability to shape the refrigeration space for years to come. So to have these influencers gathered in the one space, and to witness so much robust conversation throughout the two days was wonderful to see.”  

Opening proceedings on day one, vice-chair of European natural refrigerant initiative Eurammon Monika Witt outlined the role of natural refrigerants in the future. 
Providing an update on the situation in Europe, Witt outlined the status of refrigerants, the steps required to meet climate targets, and other aspects to consider for a sustainable future.

“Using HFOs is simply ‘quick fix’,” says Witt. “The future is natural. The smartest decision is to leapfrog other refrigerant options and turn to the natural choices.” 

President of US-based Colmac Coil Manufacturing, Bruce Nelson, M.AIRAH, headlined day two with a rousing keynote presentation on the “Donald Effect”. 

Nelson, vice-chair of the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR), discussed the developments in low-charge ammonia refrigeration systems in light of an uncertain and shifting political environment following the inauguration of US President Donald Trump.

“We need to make ammonia great again!” says Nelson. “The politics of climate change has driven the phase-out of HFCs via the EPA SNAP rule. However, the politics of public safety still limits application of ammonia and hydrocarbons. The “Donald Effect” on regulations and enforcement is unclear, but low-charge technology has expanded applications for ammonia.”   

Day two also provided arguably the most insightful session of the conference, as a panel consisting of Witt, Nelson, Robert Kebby from Honeywell, and Jan Dusek from

Shecco discussed the international implications from COP21 and the future of the refrigeration industry.

With questions opening up to the delegates, the session provided a platform for passionate – and at times, intense – discussions regarding training, licensing, and the participation of women in the industry. 

“There’s evident concern surrounding the industry and its attractiveness as a career for those entering the workforce,” says AIRAH executive manager, government relations and technical services Phil Wilkinson, F.AIRAH. “Yet many in the room felt that now was an exciting time to get involved in refrigeration, as the uptake of CO2 and ammonia technologies becomes more commonplace. AIRAH looks forward to working with the key stakeholders in the space to promote this, and ultimately boost the number of skilled apprentices.”

Wilkinson says two of the exciting facets of the conference were its decidedly international flavour, and its future focus.

“One of the fantastic things about the conference was its distillation of the brilliant ideas and new technologies coming through,” Wilkinson says. “For example non- refrigerant apparatus such as magnetic refrigeration was raised in discussion. 

“It’s incredibly exciting that the vapour-compression cycle may not be the only option available to us.”    

AIRAH thanks the sponsors of Refrigeration 2017: A-Gas, Bitzer and Heatcraft.

The Refrigeration 2018 Conference is slated to be held in Sydney in March 2018.