Held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Pyle Center on January 8, Industrial Refrigeration Consortium's 2003 Research & Technology Forum was a success.

Held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Pyle Center on January 8, Industrial Refrigeration Consortium's 2003 Research & Technology Forum was "Both entertaining and extremely informative," says Rob Bedelis, a project engineer from the state of Wisconsin's Focus on Energy in Port Washington. Attendance has doubled each year that IRC has conducted its forum. This year, the number of presentations increased as IRC expanded its program to a full-day meeting.

IRC is a collaborative effort between the University of Wisconsin-Madison and industry. They share a common goal of improving safety, efficiency and productivity of industrial refrigeration systems and technologies. The organization works to realize this goal by conducting applied research, holding educational seminars and training programs, and providing technical assistance.

In one of the opening presentations at the January 8 event, Todd B. Jekel, Ph.D., an assistant scientist at the university, highlighted IRC's research activities and offered an overview about energy efficiency as it relates to process cooling. Opportunities to be more energy efficient lie in compressor control, floating head pressure, increasing suction pressure and mechanical pumping.

In another session, IRC's Daniel Dettmers, a research engineer at the university, explained why every industrial refrigeration manager should have a mechanical integrity inspection program, which he defined as "activities undertaken to provide assurance that mechanical equipment is designed, fabricated, procured, installed and maintained in a manner appropriate for its intended application." For refrigeration systems, this includes preventing failures due to corrosion and erosion, stress corrosion cracking, brittle fracture, and blockage or restricted flow. Verifying pipe thickness, detecting foreign objects, verifying valve position, and locating and defining welds also are important for mechanical integrity. Dettmers highlighted a range of inspection methods, including surface inspection methods such as visual, liquid penetrant and magnetic particle. Volumetric inspection methods include ultrasonic, radiographic and eddy current.

In the "Around the Industry" section of the forum, Madison, Wis.-based Kraft Foods' Don Stroud offered an update about the company's ammonia process management improvement strategy, which incorporates IRC's Internet-based ammonia training and certification program. After reviewing the company's current position, Stroud explained that Kraft's primary gaps are inconsistent ammonia safety programs at its 37 North American plants, incomplete documentation, lack of effective program implementation, and lack of a single point of oversight and leadership. Kraft's overall goal is to "institutionalize" an effective ammonia process management approach that maximizes safety while optimizing program performance.

IRC Director Doug Reindl conducted his presentation from another room in the Pyle Center to illustrate IRC's Internet-based ammonia training course. He explained the content and format, which is instructor-led and held for two hours a day, three days a week for two-and-a-half weeks. Homework is given, and questions and answers are conducted via the conference phone call or the computer. Each session is recorded for later review. To date, roughly 240 operators have completed the course.

Richard M. Ahlgren of Ahlgren Associates, Waukesha, Wis., discussed the current practices and emerging trends in industrial refrigeration water treatment. He categorizes conventional practices such as internal chemical treatment, softening, filtration and external chemical treatment as "Generation One" techniques. His definition of "Generation Two" methods include new softening techniques (hardness reduction), ultraviolet (bacteria destruction), ozone (bacterial destruction and fouling control) and electrochemical (bacteria destruction of suspended solids reduction). "Generation Three" consists of techniques such as magnetic, electromagnetic, cavitation and electrostatic.

Other highlights of the program included:

  • Mike Haller, a refrigeration engineer at Wells' Dairy Inc., LeMars, Iowa, highlighted the pros and cons of internal vs. external process safety management audits based on the dairy's experience.

  • George Yoksas, area director for the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) in Milwaukee, offered statistics about possible process safety management citations in the food processing and refrigerated warehouse segments.

  • Vern Karman of Kraft reviewed the ammonia operator training and certification retreat that was held in June 2002.

  • James S. Elleson, P.E., director of technical services at IRC, spoke about three separate energy case studies, including the phasing out of halocarbon systems, thermosiphon oil cooling and ice banks.

For more information about IRC, its interactive web course, or next year's forum, visit www.irc.wisc.edu or call (866) 635-4721.