Cold-storage facility converted to propane

Asocolflores, the association representing flower exporters in Colombia, has replaced an R22-based system with R290 in a 392 m2 cold storage facility for flowers, located in the Savanna of Bogota. The performance of the system was analyzed and results showed that R290 provides 10% less of cooling capacity, but increases the Coefficient of Performance (COP) and reduces energy consumption by at least 10%. To address safety concerns such as system pressure and refrigerant flammability, Asocolfores put in place several measures. In particular, an analysis on flammability based on the EN 378:2008 safety standard for refrigeration systems and a basic risk assessment under EN 1127-1:2011 was achieved. Assuming a 10 kg charge of R290, the maximum concentration level would be 25 g/m3. The high charge is acceptable because the room is only accessible to authorised staff. Finally, technicians were trained to safely handle hydrocarbons. Despite the success of the project, Asocolflores encountered challenges during implementation such as a lack of standards and funding mechanisms, a shortage of qualified technicians and difficulties in finding local equipment and component suppliers working with R290. According to the National Ozone Unit, “The Colombian flower industry requires about 31.1 million kW of cooling capacity. 99% of the installations use R22 and the other 1% use R134a, so there is huge potential to convert those to R290.” Newark Refrigerated Warehouse plans to install what may be the first cold-storage refrigeration system in the US to employ propane as its primary refrigerant. The system will serve two existing buildings and an additional building that will be constructed when the new refrigeration system starts operating. The company originally planned to replace the R22 currently used at its facility with low-charge ammonia systems. However, that idea fell through after the state of New Jersey abandoned a plan to relax its stringent requirements for ammonia operations. It then considered using R32 as a primary refrigerant, but decided on propane because of impending regulatory pressures on HFCs. So, Newark Refrigerated Warehouse is applying to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for permission to use propane for refrigeration under the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program. If approved, the propane system will contain 500 kg of propane, which will be confined to a small one-story engine room attached to one of its two cold-storage buildings. The original building has 12 freezer rooms and four medium temperature rooms, with a total capacity of 880 kW; the second building has one freezer room with a 1055 kW capacity. The propane will be used to cool a calcium chloride brine solution, which will serve as a secondary refrigerant. To ensure safe operation with a flammable refrigerant, the engine room will be IIAR-2 compliant with fully automated controls, and all electrical panels will be located outside the room. Read More
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