Ammonia: The Green Alternative Refrigerant

J & E Hall safety and environmental manager Malcolm Coates explains why training and the right preparation is important before installing ammonia systems.

Ammonia is a versatile, effective and efficient natural refrigerant. The F-Gas stepdowns now make it the refrigerant of choice for many installers and end-users. Ammonia is a green alternative to more commonly-used industrial refrigerants and there are excellent reasons for choosing it for an application.

Primarily, it is a natural refrigerant which does not deplete the ozone layer and has excellent thermodynamic qualities which give it a wide temperature range.

Like any refrigerant, ammonia has to be treated with respect but it has a fine safety record and is used in many applications in the food processing and drinks industry. This includes facilities involving meat, poultry, dairy, brewing and soft-drink production where cooling is a necessity.

The benefits are many. With zero ozone depletion and zero global warming potential it is a future-proof alternative to high GWP HFCs which are being phased out under the F-Gas stepdowns.

Ammonia is more efficient than some other refrigerants which can make a significant impact on energy bills. This can make a big difference to the bottom line at a large scale cooling operation.

As with any refrigerant, safety is a key issue and you would not dream of installing a new system without ensuring that all the checks and balances are in place before work begins. We take safety very seriously at J & E Hall and before starting any job we take a long, hard look at what’s needed on an individual basis for each installation.

With systems now capable of running on only a few kilograms of ammonia, the potential for leaks can be controlled easily. As with any refrigerant it’s all a matter of understanding that risk. Refrigerants are not bad in themselves – its how you handle them.

The J & E Hall safety package offers a bespoke risk assessment for every installation. Before any work takes place we visit the site, speak to the managers, operators and maintenance engineers, and from these discussions complete a full risk assessment for the customer. This gives them a true picture on what to do to keep the site running efficiently and how to react in an emergency.  They may also be considering installing a glycol-based secondary system and so its important to provide a clear and detailed insight into how this dovetails with the ammonia package.

From my point of view it’s efficiencies and environmental properties make it a superb choice for a refrigeration system where cooling is needed on a large scale. But the key to success is to ensure that the system is installed and designed correctly and that the people using it are well trained.