The city of Fernie, B.C. Canada has announced that a new refrigeration system for ice production using a fluorocarbon refrigerant thought to be a HFO/HFC blend will replace the ammonia plant following a tragic incident caused by an ammonia leak in 2017. The incident resulted in a review of inspections, training and staffing requirements for ice rink ammonia systems. According to a report, of the 40 ammonia leaks from refrigeration systems investigated between 2007 and 2015 in British Colombia, the province’s safety authority says 10 resulted in the injuries of 34 people — and most occurred at ice rink arenas. The report found seven of the 10 incidents resulting in injuries occurred at arenas or recreation centres. It also found the top reason for leaks was equipment failure, followed by lack of training for the maintenance staff.
A comparative study of refrigeration systems for ice rinks states that in Canada, there are approximately 2500 arenas with artificial ice rinks. Many were built between 1960 and 1970. It is therefore not surprising that refrigeration systems are, in most cases, now outdated and obsolete. Refrigeration systems traditionally used HCFC-22 refrigerant or ammonia (R -717). HCFC-22 leaks in ice rink refrigeration systems had become common and significant due to this obsolete technology, which is also why replacing the HCFC-22 refrigerant had become an important concern. The National Hockey League (NHL) of the USA & Canada has recently announced a partnership to identify cost-effective, sustainable refrigerants for North American ice rinks, taking into account the replacement of HCFC-22. The need to reduce energy costs is a major requirement of the initiative to help more rinks stay operational. According to the study, modern ice rink refrigeration units have undergone significant energy improvements both in terms of equipment performance and waste heat recovery, which was previously being rejected into the atmosphere. Recovering and using the heat rejected alone can reduce energy consumption and costs by over 40 % and GHG emissions by 80% assuming the waste heat recovery replaces the fuels used for space heating and domestic hot water.
The REAL Alternatives for LIFE project, provides “train the trainer” sessions on low GWP refrigerants (hydrocarbons, CO2, ammonia, HFOs, R32) in order to ensure safe, efficient, reliable and cost-effective implementation. Module 1 provides an Introduction to Alternative Refrigerants and module 2 an Introduction to Safety and Risk Management with Alternative Refrigerants. Find the information on our website or at the REAL Alternatives website.