Ben Adamson, F.AIRAH

Refrigeration Engineering International

Why is HVAC&R important?
Without refrigeration, our modern society would not be possible. Imagine an Australia with:
  • No refrigerator at home – you’ll have to shop for fresh food every day or so.
  • No cold beer! Or a nice chilled white, or a gin and tonic with ice cubes clinking in it.
  • No fizzy soft drinks – extraction of carbon dioxide from most sources needs refrigeration.
  • No refrigerated storage and distribution of food – there would have to be abattoirs within a couple of hours’ drive, so enough of these on the outskirts of the city to supply all meat freshly killed that day.
  • No fresh fish in Bourke and inland cities. No Queensland prawns in Melbourne for Christmas lunch.
  • No export or import of meat and other perishable products.
  • No antibiotics – these must be kept refrigerated to remain effective. So, nothing to knock off the bugs we get from eating the unrefrigerated meat that cause food poisoning.
  • No blood transfusions, unless you can find a matching donor and do a live person-to-person transfusion. Without refrigeration, there’s no blood bank.
  • No air conditioning – this depends on the refrigeration system at the heart of it. Sweaty offices, sweaty gyms, sweaty homes, sweaty cars…
  • No liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for your barbecue – this is separated from natural gas in a refrigeration process.
  • No gas for many countries not as fortunate as Australia (sorry Japan and Korea), as there would be no liquefied natural gas (LNG). And of course, no LNG export for our economy. And much more coal-fired electricity.
  • No (or very few) plastics – refrigeration is an integral part of the production of polyethylene, polypropylene, PET, ABS and most other plastics.
  • No computers – refrigeration and air conditioning are used in the process of making the silicon chips they depend on. Get out the slide rules again!
  • No satellites for communication or GPS, as these rely on liquid-fuelled rockets to launch them, requiring liquid hydrogen and/or liquid oxygen. Solid-fuelled rockets don’t provide the controllability for accurate positioning.
  • No ammonia-based or urea-based fertilisers – refrigeration is needed to separate and store the ammonia. We’d cut our crop production by 30–60 per cent in Australia’s poor soils.
I’m sure others can add more… Maybe this sounds like an idyllic simpler life, but how many of us really want to go back to all that? Especially warm beer!

What do you do, and what is the most satisfying aspect of your work?
I design and build systems to make all the above possible. I see the results of my work around me every day – that’s pretty satisfying!

What will you be doing to celebrate World Refrigeration Day?
Raising a toast (a cold beer, of course) to James Harrison over a lunch of steak, barramundi or prawns – all of which have been refrigerated at some time, knowing I won’t have food poisoning tomorrow.