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Design Co2 Evaporators

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You are on page 1of 7

Roland Handschuh

Gntner

Paper for GTZ Proklima, published in Natural Refrigerants sustainable ozone- and climatefriendly alternatives to HCFCs, April 2008.

Introduction

Following the replacement of CFCs and HCFCs by chlorine-free refrigerants because of their

damaging effect on the ozone layer, concerns began to be raised at an early stage about the

high risks posed by the new HFC refrigerants and their effect on exacerbating the greenhouse

effect. In recent years, attention has therefore increasingly been focused on natural refrigerants.

The past few years have witnessed a significant increase in the use of carbon dioxide (CO2)

and, particularly since the 2001 conference hosted by the German Association of Refrigeration

and Air Conditioning Technology (Deutsche Klte- und Klimatechnik Verein, DKV) in Ulm, if not

earlier, it was recognised that CO2 has applications that are now economically viable

principally in ammonia (NH3) cascade operations. Plants of this type generally operate at

evaporating temperatures of between 40 and 50 C. There are some special features which

must be borne in mind in designing CO2 evaporators, and these will be examined in this article.

Classification of CO2 evaporators

Essentially the main difference between different types of CO2 evaporators lies in their mode of

operation, i.e., direct expansion evaporators, pump-operated evaporators and evaporators for

generating process gas. From a thermodynamic viewpoint, they may be classified between the

two variants: pump operation and direct expansion (Figure 1). A further distinguishing feature is

the required operating pressure. Provided it has been confirmed at the planning stage that the

operating pressure of 32 bar (the current nominal pressure for Gntner evaporators) will not be

exceeded, any standard materials can, in principle, be used. This is of particular importance in

cases where the direct expansion system is being employed because internally grooved tubes

can be used in such cases. This variant is the most economical in all cases.

Where hot gas defrosting using CO2 is being carried out, the permitted pressure is generally

between 45 to 50 bar. This is difficult to achieve with copper tubes; thicker heat exchanger

tubes would have to be used, and these are not available with internal grooves. In addition, the

joining tubes (header outlets, connecting tubes) would also require thicker walls and would need

1

pressures of 50 bar are relatively easy to achievewould be suitable in these cases.

Design of CO2 evaporators

The CO2 evaporator is designed by using thermodynamic theory and engineering principles,

ranging from mass flow rate, heat transfer, and refrigerating capacity, to selection of materials

for tubing and design of fin structures.

However, when CO2 is being used, an additional factor comes into play: the internal heat

transfer with CO2 is so high that its effect on the evaporating capacity is practically negligible.

For example, an increase in heat transfer at the refrigerant side from 2,000 W/m2 K to 3,000

W/m2 K in a typical industrial air cooler increases the overall heat transfer coefficient by only

about 6%.The effect on refrigerating capacity is even less because a greater heat transfer value

leads to increased air cooling and, thus, to a lower driving temperature difference. Some of the

internal heat transfer coefficients occurring when CO2 is being used are still considerably

greater than 3,000 W/m2 K, so any uncertainty about the calculations in this respect may be

ignored.

Special properties of CO2 in comparison with R22 and NH3

As is widely known, the special property of CO2 as a refrigerant is its high saturation pressure.

On the one hand, this property may lead to considerable reluctance to use CO2 as a refrigerant

because it makes it rather difficult to handle, especially at higher temperatures. However, at low

temperatures, this property is a decisive advantage. For example, a comparison of the

properties of CO2 with those of R22 and NH3 at a temperature of -40C shows that the

volumetric refrigerating capacity of CO2 is about 7 times greater than that of R22, or 8 times

greater than that of NH3 (see Table 1). In other words, the tube cross-sections required in a CO2

plant are only about one-eighth of those in a comparable NH3 plant. This leads to smaller tube

cross-sections and smaller compressors, which in turn lead to lower refrigerant charge sizes

and, ultimately, to more economical plants. However, the high pressure and the associated high

gas density also lead to the above-mentioned high temperature heat transfer during

evaporation.

Table 1: Material properties of CO2, R22 and NH3 at - 40C

Refrigerant

CO2

Vapour pressure [bar]

10

Enthalpy of evap. [kJ/kg]

322

Density of gas [kg/m3]

26.24

3

Gas volume flow for 10 kW [m /h]

6

dp/dT [bar/K]

0.37

Required distributions (ca. 8 m/s)

2

R22

1

243

4.85

41

0.05

12

NH3

0.7

1387

0.64

47

0.04

12

dependency. For example, a pressure change of about 0.37 bar is required to change the

vapour pressure by 1 K at -40 C. When using R22, this could be achieved with a pressure

change of as little as 0.05 bar, or with just 0.04 bar using NH3. Because of this beneficial side

effect, pressure losses have only a negligible effect on the evaporating temperature. However,

this property is ultimately the only thing that makes it possible to use CO2 with normal

evaporator geometries. In order to explain this more clearly it is necessary to illustrate the

relationships by means of a specific example: an evaporator with 6 rows of tubes in the air flow

direction, 12 rows of vertical tubes and a tube diameter of 15 mm would give the following

theoretically possible circuiting variants (pass numbers); assuming a fixed refrigerating capacity

2

of 15 kW, a refrigerant speed of over 7 m/s can be achieved with R22 at -40C with a 6-pass

circuiting (12 distributions). However, it is only possible to achieve a speed barely exceeding 6

m/s with a 36-pass circuiting (2 distributions) when using CO2. This means that, when CO2 is

being used, the distribution length must be 6 times longer. Assuming on an initial estimate that

the pressure loss per metre of tube is the same for all refrigerants at the same speed, there

would be 6 times more pressure loss with CO2. In fact the actual pressure loss using CO2 is

even slightly greater because of the properties of the materials (see Figure 2).

However, from a thermodynamic viewpoint, it is only the temperature drop caused by the

pressure loss that is important, since this lowers the driving temperature difference at the

evaporator and, as a result, the refrigerating capacity. This is however only slightly greater than

with R22 and NH3 because of the weak temperature pressure/dependency (see Figure 3). If this

were not the case, other heat exchanger geometries would have to be used for CO2, i.e., tubes

with a considerably smaller diameter would have to be used without increasing the number of

tubes.

Results of design calculations

By way of an example, let us assume that a comparison of the three refrigerants, CO2, R22 and

NH3, was to be carried out using the evaporator described above. The conditions chosen would

be:

to = -40C (evaporating end temperature)

t1 = 30C (air intake)

RH = 95% (relative humidity of air)

In order to exclude other influences, the same quantity of air was used in all cases. Similarly,

the calculations were based on the use of copper tube throughout, even though this was purely

a theoretical assumption for NH3. The capacity was set at a constant value. Circuitry appropriate

to the respective refrigerant was used.

Figure 4 shows the internal heat transfer coefficients in relation to the refrigerant speed using

direct expansion. As can be seen, values can be achieved with CO2 with plain tube that can

only be achieved with internally grooved tube when using R22. In this comparison, it should be

noted that the values for NH3 are purely theoretical since, as previously mentioned, the

calculations were based on the use of copper tube and on superheating of 5 K, which is difficult

to achieve with NH3. However, the fact that the temperature drop caused by pressure loss is

more important than the refrigerant speed makes Figure 5 more meaningful, showing as it does

the internal heat transfer coefficient in relation to the temperature drop caused by pressure

loss.

However, Figure 5 does not provide much help in creating an optimum design for an evaporator

either. What ultimately matters is the product of the total heat transfer coefficient (U) and the

average logarithmic temperature difference (T), which is often also expressed as the thermal

load. Figure 6 shows this again for the three refrigerants (CO2, R22 and NH3) for evaporators

with plain tubes and internally grooved tubes. This clearly shows that the optimum speed for

CO2 is markedly less than the speed achievable with R22, and substantially less than the speed

achievable with NH3. This is due to the greater pressure loss of CO2 (because of the circuitry)

and to the greater heat transfer. Both result in a situation where, when using CO2 even at

relatively low speeds and on increasing the speed, the negative effect of the pressure loss has a

greater effect on capacity than the positive effect caused by the increasing heat transfer. Exactly

the opposite situation applies when using NH3, where good heat transfers can be achieved only

at very high speeds. However, to make up for this, the pressure losses at these speeds remain

relatively low because of the circuitry. However, it must be stressed again that the values for

NH3 shown in Figure 6 are practically unachievable. With this in mind, the advantages of using

CO2 in pump-operated evaporators are even more evident.

Figure 7 shows a comparison of the internal heat transfer coefficient at a pumping rate of 2.5.

The internally grooved tube has been dispensed with here, since it produces no significant

advantages when pump operation is being used. In this case, calculations for NH3 were also

based on an assumption that copper tube was used. The difference between the other

refrigerants and CO2 would therefore be even greater in a real heat exchanger.

Figure 8 again shows the thermal load of the different variants. The values for direct expansion

are shown again for comparison purposes. It can be seen that CO2 excels in pump operation.

Again, this is because when CO2 is being used, the driving temperature difference plays a more

important role than the heat transfer coefficient (which is high in any event). Because of the

absence of superheating, the average logarithmic temperature difference using pump operation

is generally greater than when using direct expansion. The total thermal load during pump

operation is therefore greater than when using direct expansion, although there is somewhat

less heat transfer. When using NH3, the same effects again result in the opposite outcome: the

greater heat transfer with direct expansion outweighs the disadvantage caused by the smaller

temperature difference such that direct expansion has an advantage, at least in this theoretical

case.

5

Summary

By using CO2, greater heat transfer coefficients can be achieved both in pump operation and in

direct expansion than with all other refrigerants currently available. Because of the high

pressure level and the resulting weak pressure/temperature dependency, all standard heat

exchangers can be used just by altering the circuiting to an increased number of passes or

smaller distributions. Should operating pressures of 32 bar be insufficient, either thicker walls or

other materials (i.e., steel, stainless steel) must be used. In that case, the cost advantage

achieved by the greater heat transfers is again offset or even reversed. It would therefore be

sensible in the long term to introduce a specific fin geometry which has a smaller tube diameter

with the same tube spacing. In this way, the long distribution lengths could be dispensed with.

Moreover, there would be the advantage that tubes of smaller diameters have greater stability

under pressure and that the required wall thicknesses would thus be kept within reasonable

bounds. However, it is only worth investing in such a tool if greater quantities of CO2

evaporators are required.

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