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Industrial Advantages of Ammonia Refrigeration System and Product Contamination

Updated on March 31, 2011

Industrially, the process of cooling and storage of food is mainly done with the use of ammonia, which is highly efficient and economical. There are many global industrial organizations that support research and development of new applications for ammonia refrigeration system. Interestingly, the development of refrigeration and cold storage systems revolutionized the process and distribution of food available to us. The implementation of cold chain management system enabled the refrigeration training, freezing, storage, and distribution of food products towards more varied food items, providing us with highest standards of quality and freshness, anywhere in the world and any time of the year. As you may know, the development of mechanical refrigeration dates from the early years of the industrial revolution and today, the ammonia refrigerant has become the most widely used industrial refrigeration system for processing and preserving of food items and beverages, including but not limited to fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, and milk products. Approximately 85% of industrial refrigeration systems employed in food sector are ammonia refrigerants. Ammonia has been in the leadership with the progress of refrigeration and industrial technology. Even NASA (National Aeronautics & Space Administration) has recognized the advantages of ammonia refrigeration system for use in space stations.

ADVANTAGES OF AMMONIA AS A REFRIGERANT

  1. Ammonia as a refrigerant does not contribute to the greenhouse effect associated with global warming and does not destroy the ozone layer as it is biodegradable.
  2. In fact, ammonia is a common compound found in nature and is essential in the nitrogen cycle of earth and its release into the atmosphere and is immediately recycled.
  3. From an industrial standpoint, ammonia containing refrigerants have been generally accepted as the best industrial cooling systems that are much more efficient and cost effective than fluorine and chlorine containing refrigerants or in simple words chlorofluorocarbon CFC used in refrigerators.
  4. Another advantage of ammonia to consumers is lowered cost of foodstuffs due to lowered operating costs of ammonia refrigerants.

Cold food storage units using ammonia
Cold food storage units using ammonia

DISADVANTAGES OF AMMONIA AS A REFRIGERANT

  1. Long-term exposure of industrial ammonia release in the environment causes a corrosive effect on tissues causing obstructive breathing due to laryngeal edema or bronchial spasm.
  2. Product contamination due to ammonia leak or release is a serious problem, which is mentioned below.

Many decades ago, the food and beverage industry adopted ammonia refrigeration. The economic advantages made ammonia as the refrigerant of choice for cold storage units and plant and food industry. Nowadays, almost all the food of our day passes through an ammonia refrigeration system before it reaches supermarkets and other food stores.

Ammonia refrigeration system should be monitored for any leaks.
Ammonia refrigeration system should be monitored for any leaks.
Mini cold storage systems for restaurants
Mini cold storage systems for restaurants

AMMONIA AS A NATURAL REFRIGERANT

Ammonia is a common compound existing naturally in the environment, which decomposes into molecules of hydrogen and nitrogen in the air consisting of 80% of non-nitrogen and hydrogen. Ammonia is a key element in the nitrogen cycle of our planet and therefore it becomes really important for the survival of many biological processes that take place in water, land, and air. Ammonia is also an essential nitrogen source for plants and animals.

INDUSTRIAL USE OF AMMONIA REFRIGERATION SYSTEM

Ammonia refrigeration system is most economical and energy efficient for the food processing industry and also for storage of frozen foods. It helps in cooling of mostly all types of fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, and seafood. Ammonia refrigeration system is also used by the beverage industry for cooling of milk and milk products, like cheese, curd, yoghurt, and ice cream.

INDUSTRIAL SAFETY ISSUES OF AMMONIA: PRODUCT CONTAMINATION FROM AMMONIA RELEASE

Despite the cost effective and economical nature of ammonia refrigerants, the most important problem that arises is product contamination from ammonia release. According to some recent studies, it has been found out that a number of factors are responsible for this release such as the temperature, product and packing, and duration of time the product is in contact with ammonia release. Foods most susceptible to ammonia damage are high fat foods including milk and ice cream and acidic foods including some fruits and vegetables, but interestingly ammonia release can be controlled with good work practices, safety training to workers, and implementation of industrial precautions like industrial relief valve use, continuous ventilation, eliminating protruding pipe connections, routine checking of all connections for ammonia release, and using control valves or seal cap valves for safety and security.

Use refrigerant leak detectors
Use refrigerant leak detectors
A worn out and mulfunctioning refrigerant valve can cause a major leak triggering ammonia release from an industrial cooling system
A worn out and mulfunctioning refrigerant valve can cause a major leak triggering ammonia release from an industrial cooling system

Ammonia Refrigeration Training at Garden City Ammonia Program (GCAP LLC)

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    • soni2006 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajinder Soni 

      5 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thanks refrigeration.

    • profile image

      refrigeration 

      7 years ago

      Excellent article, many thanks!

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