Thursday, May 26, 2022

More than 120 professionals from across the width and breadth of Australia’s refrigeration industry met in Sydney and online from May 16–17 for AIRAH’s Refrigeration Conference to reflect on whether this crucial sector is ready and willing to tackle climate change. The answer was a resounding “yes”.

AIRAH Chief Executive Tony Gleeson, M.AIRAH, opened proceedings by harking back to the challenges that Australia’s refrigeration industry has faced during AIRAH’s 100-year history, such as preserving supplies of medicine and food in wartimes.

“Today HVAC&R engineers are again challenged to embrace innovation in their battle against a seemingly insurmountable foe,” said Gleeson. “This time it’s climate change.

“We all know that our industry is a big user of electricity and emitter of CO2. However, it also continues to innovative, to improve, to become more energy-efficient. If we are to keep the increase in global temperatures to well below 2°C, the work of our industry will be critical.”

The keynote presentation, delivered by Dr Paul Bannister, L.AIRAH, repeated this call to action, and explored the role refrigeration will play in reaching net zero. Dr Bannister noted that the cold chain sector on its own represents more than 4 per cent of Australia’s total emissions, and there is plenty of low-hanging fruit for reducing both direct and indirect emissions.

Australia’s key strategy for reducing direct emissions is the phase-down of highly global warming refrigerant gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Pat McInerney from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment provided an update on the program, and showed how it is enabling Australia to meet our commitments under the Montreal Protocol. Rodney Cumming, Affil.AIRAH, from the Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC) was also on hand to explain how the ARCtick licensing scheme is supporting the HFC phase-down.

When it comes to reducing indirect emissions, the path forward is improving energy efficiency. Accordingly, many of the presentations at Refrigeration 2022 delved into topics such as component selection, pipe sizing, control strategies and design principles.

But, as the delegates pointed out, having greener gases and systems is not enough. Perhaps the biggest challenge of all is to support workers to familiarise themselves with the new technology – particularly when many of the incoming refrigerants are flammable, toxic, or work under very high pressures.

“Industry has basically said that keeping up with trends is quite difficult and understanding the best practice for the latest products would be an advantage,” says Rene Le Miere, Affil.AIRAH, SuperCool Asia Pacific, who sat on the organising committee.

“It is also very clear that the industry is losing knowledge every year. We need to educate and train new people coming in and also refresh concepts to enable better system design as we move to a lower carbon footprint.”

In response, the entire first day of Refrigeration 2022 was dedicated to education sessions. This included fundamentals of refrigeration, guidance on energy efficiency, and a coolroom design workshop.

During the education sessions, contractors and technicians sat side by side with engineers and designers. Gleeson says this was one of the highlights of the conference.

“It was fantastic to see the range of professionals in attendance,” says Gleeson. “For our sector to play its part in reaching net zero, we need to break down the siloes and work across traditional boundaries. AIRAH’s mission is to strengthen the industry, and we are confident that this year’s event achieved that.”

AIRAH thanks the Refrigeration 2022 industry partner, the Australian Refrigeration Council, and supporting sponsor ARBS 2022.