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Absorption Cooling Technology

Absorption Cooling Technology

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Published by Andy Malcolm

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Published by: Andy Malcolm on Nov 21, 2011
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The Future of Absorption Technology in America
Edmond Carré developedthe first absorption machinein 1850, using water andsulfuric acid. His brother,Ferdinand Carré,demonstrated anammonia/water refrigerationmachine in 1859, and in1860 Ferdinand received thefirst U.S. patent for acommercial absorption unit.
 Servel was founded in 1902 as the HerculesBuggy Works, and became a manufacturer ofelectric refrigerators (the name is short for"Serve Electrically"). In 1925, Servel purchasedUS rights to a new AB Electrolux gas heat-driven absorption refrigerator invented bySwedish engineering students, Carl G. Muntersand Baltzar von Platen. The new Electrolux-Servel absorption refrigerator entered the USmarket in 1926 and brought absorptionrefrigerators to thousands of homes untilproduction was stopped in the 1950s.
Figure 1. Natural Gas Utility Ad for Absorption Refrigerator 
Thévenot, R. 1979.
A History of Refrigeration Throughout the World.
Translated from French by J.C. Fidler. Paris,France: International Institute of Refrigeration (IIR).
American companies manufactured 100% ofLiBr/H
O absorption chillers worldwide, in thelate 1960’s, using the standard single-effectabsorption cycle. Trane Company introducedthe first mass-produced steam-fired double-effect LiBr/H
O absorption chiller in 1970.Several factors have influenced absorptionchiller sales since then.Natural gas prices, as well as, fuel availabilityconcerns and governmental policies causedabsorption chiller sales to decline in the mid-1970s and throughout the 1980s.Since the early 1990s, absorption chiller saleshave increased modestly in the USA.Absorption chiller use in countries like JapanFigure 2, China and Korea has grownexponentially since the mid-1970s. The generalunderlying reasons for the disparate growthphenomena in Asia are complex, but it is clearthat the economics are being evaluateddifferently between historical America andmodern Asia when it comes to commercial waterchiller technology.
Figure 2. Japan versus USA Absorption Chiller Sales 
In many parts of Asia today, the siting of anelectric water chiller, requires not only the usualeconomic capital of the chiller plant, piping,pumps and cooling tower, and boiler for heating,but also a portion of the electric transformer,wires and generating capacity needed to servethe chiller plant. Therefore, it is easy to see why
Courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Ferdinand Carré
Advanced Building Systems – 2000 Conference, June 8, 2000Track 2: Thermal Energy Management Page: 2
an absorption chiller/heater plant is far morecost effective to install.
Electric restructuring in America, as well aseconomic growth, will lead to a re-powering overthe next 20 years. DOE/EIA projects that theUS will need to build over 360 gigawatts of newelectric capacity to meet growing demand andcompensate for plant retirements. This shortagein electricity supply may be one of the primarycontributors to sustaining, and possibly rising,electricity prices. Electric restructuring is alsothe principle cause behind the development ofthe combined heat and power (CHP) efforts inEurope over the past decade, and the buildingscooling, heating and power initiative in Americatoday.
Impact of BCHP and Innovation onAbsorption
Absorption technology has provided Americanbusiness, industry and homes with refrigerationand air conditioning technology over the past150 years. Absorption equipment was used tosolve problems that could not otherwise besolved. In 1850 it was the only technologyavailable. In 1926, the absorption refrigeratorwas the solution to an increasing number ofconsumer deaths caused by early vaporcompression refrigerators (due to the toxicity ofsulfur dioxide, methyl chloride, and ammoniagases used in earlier mechanical compressorhome refrigerators since 1918). LiBr/H
O waterchillers were an efficient use of summertimesteam from steam-loops and became very costeffect products to build.The success of BCHP technology will focus ontwo key elements:
Optimizing the recovery of thermal energyfrom onsite power generation
Cost effective integration of thermalrecovery/use systemsThe first element has focused the manufacturingcommunity on all aspects of efficiently couplingexisting technologies, and then furtherintegrating these technologies throughinnovative engineering. This process has led tothe following development focus:
Examination of existing power generationsites that can benefit from integration withabsorption chillers
Gas turbine inlet cooling
Focusing attention on advanced direct-firedchiller/heater plants.
Planning new onsite installations withexisting absorption chillers
IC engines
Gas Turbines
Fuel Cells
Developing new absorption technologies asa result of new BCHP requirements
Development of Next Generation Single-Effect Absorption Systems
Development Co-FiredMicroturbine/Absorption Systems
Developing Air-Cooled LiBr/H
O waterchiller design
Developing combined NH
O / desiccant residential system
Combustion turbines are mass-flow engines.Power output increases within limits, in inverseproportion to the temperature of the inlet air.Cooler air is denser and consequently providesmore mass flow. Output will typically increase by10% to 18% for every 20°F of reduction in inletair temperature.Historically, evaporative cooling was used wherethe air temperature is reduced as a percentageof the difference between dry bulb and wet bulbtemperatures. This means that, in relativelyhumid areas, this method is not effective.However, even in hot and relatively dry climates,the temperature drop may be as little as 25
F.This is far higher than the standard ISO ratingcondition of 59
F.For example, cooling the inlet air to the gasturbine system to 50º F from 110º F increasesthe turbine output power up to 60%, dependingon the turbine performance.
Refrigeration Inlet Cooling:
Refrigeration Inletcooling is used to provide power enhancement
Advanced Building Systems – 2000 Conference, June 8, 2000Track 2: Thermal Energy Management Page: 3
for base load operation. Since the cooling is tobe provided on a continuous basis, a chiller(Absorption or Mechanical) or direct refrigerationsystem is used.An on-line chiller circulates a secondaryrefrigerant (glycol, water) to the cooling coils infront of the turbine. This system uses anabsorption chiller or vapor compression chiller,water-cooled condensers, cooling tower andcooling coils. Absorption chillers typically coolthe inlet air to about 50ºF. This temperature isusually low enough to maximize potential gainsin gas turbine power output. If additional turbinecapacity is required today’s advancedabsorption chillers can cool inlet air to as low as42ºF. Cooling the air to below 42ºF is notgenerally recommended because it could lead toice formation, unless the air has beendehumidified appropriately.
A direct refrigeration system uses compressors,condensers, a low-pressure recirculationsystem, a high-pressure receiver, and coolingcoils. The refrigerant is directly circulated to thecooling coils in front of the turbine.Refrigeration inlet cooling provides constantpower output, regardless of weather, andconstant moisture content of inlet air to facilitateNO
Direct Water Injection:
Inlet air evaporativecooling with direct water spray offers a relativelysimple, low cost method to increase poweroutput from existing gas turbine installations.The concept is simple; a high-pressure pumpsystem pressurizes water (
typically deionized water for gas turbine applications 
). Normaloperating pressures are from 1000 to 3000 psi.The high-pressure water flows through anetwork of stainless steel tubes to specialnozzles. The nozzles atomize water into micro-fine fog droplets that evaporate quickly.
 Evaporative Media Water Cooling:
Evaporative pads have also been used toincrease the production and efficiency of gasturbines. The evaporative process also addsmoisture to the air, which reduces the inlet airtemperature and reduces the NOx in theexhaust, thus reducing pollution. An additionalbenefit derived from the water distributionmechanism of the pads is that some dust in theair will be removed, thus reducing dust loadingon the filters.
Economic Benefits Of Turbine Inlet Cooling
Gas turbine power plants are ideal for providingcertain midrange and peaking electric power tothe grid for onsite power generation, as theyprovide a clean source of energy. Gas turbinesare responsive to load and are very costeffective, however, they have one drawback.Gas turbine power performance falls off rapidlywith ambient air temperature. Economicallyreducing inlet air is highly beneficial.
Table 1. Installed Cost of Inlet Cooling Equipment 
System Installed Cost
Single-Effect Steam $800/RTDouble-Effect Steam $970/RTDouble-Effect Direct-Fired $1,030/RTElectric Centrifugal $800/RTEvaporative Cooling $4/kW
Using the installed cost estimates from Table 1,Figure 3 can be constructed showing the relativecosts of various inlet-cooling schemes.Providing no inlet cooling clearly shows up asthe most expensive, and the three types ofabsorption chillers show up as the leastexpensive options.
   T  o   t  a   l   P   l  a  n   t   C  o  s   t   $   /   k   W
Single-EffectSteamDouble-EffectSteamDouble-EffectDirect-FiredElectricCentrifugalEvaporativeCoolingNo Cooling
Figure 3. Plant Cost of Inlet Cooling Options 
The right inlet cooling systems depend upon thespecific power plant economic requirements.For example, an 83.5 MW gas turbinedistributed generation plant located in Houston,Texas
; Figure 4 shows that a gas turbine usingan absorption chiller air inlet cooling system canproduce over 4,000 MWh per year more than
Example form GRI Absorption Chiller Application Brief 

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