Potential for NH3 in U.S. Chiller Market

ATMO America: Potential for NH3 in U.S. chiller market, by Charlotte McLaughlin

Professor Pega Hrnjak of CTS outlined the market potential for ammonia in the U.S. chiller, he addresses ATMOsphere America yesterday.

During the first day of ATMOsphere America 2018, Pega Hrnjak, president of Creative Thermal Solutions, Inc. (CTS), outlined the huge market potential for ammonia manufacturers to enter the chiller market in industrial and HVAC applications.

“The chiller market is huge. It’s worth $5 billion per year for positive displacement compressors alone,” Hrnjak, who is a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told the natural refrigerants conference in Long Beach, California yesterday (12 June).

Hrnjak said that for manufacturers of ammonia-based equipment to take advantage of this huge market, they must overcome four key challenges.

The first, and the key one for Hrnjak, is technical. “We need to make them sound like and feel like what they are competing against,” he said. “We need to do [it] the same way.”

He explained that hermetic compressors for ammonia, suitable for use in chillers, are already available but are not yet widespread enough to compete with existing HFC-based compressors suitable for chiller applications.

Hrnjak conceded that the cost and weight of chillers would need to be reduced. The entry of more ammonia system manufacturers into the chiller market will also lower costs, according to Hrnjak.

CTS has been testing ammonia chillers. “CTS has developed and made several ultra-low charge (18 g/kW – 23 oz/ton) and efficient chillers, but is probably too small a player to change the game,” Hrnjak conceded.

◇ Other Players Enter Ammonia Game

Star Refrigeration – known as Azane in the U.S. – has also developed ammonia chillers, he noted, while German company GEA launched one at Mostra Convegno in Milan earlier this year.

Secondly, education is key for Hrnjak. “We need to support and educate technicians,” he said, “[and] reduce initial resistance”.

Some of this education, he noted, will need to come from manufacturers who will have to adjust the way they sell units – as buyers of chiller technology are different customers than industrial refrigeration end users.

Fourthly, he noted, some will gain from being first movers in bringing their ammonia chiller technology to Europe. “Many may lose or will need to shift [and we will need to] find them a role to avoid internal confrontation instead of making them obstructive losers,” he said.