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E N E R GY S O LUTI O N S C E NTE R PLANT & BUILDING UTILITIES

Process Applications for


Small Absorption
Chillers
AT A G L A N C E

SMALL ABSORPTION CHILLERS IN


PROCESS APPLICATION
 This technology getting a second look
 Industrial application not confined are usually air-cooled, while lithium further reduced by the application of
to large units
bromide-water systems require condenser low-NOx burners. Absorption cooling
 Equipment as small as 5 tons water-cooling, usually from a cooling tower. equipment has very few moving parts
playing roles and usually has a long service life.
MINIMAL ELECTRIC REQUIREMENT
 Advantages include avoided In either cycle electric energy is needed RECENT EQUIPMENT IMPROVEMENTS
demand charges, long unit life,
only for pumps, fans and controls. Important improvements in absorption
ability to recover process heat
Absorption chillers can be direct-fired or equipment in the last 10 years have
 Units being used successfully in indirect-fired, and they can be single- included improved heat exchange mate-
wide range of commercial, effect or double-effect. Double-effect rials, more reliable pumps and motors,
industrial applications absorption machines recycle some of and controls that permit precise process
the internal heat to provide part of the management. Many energy observers

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bsorption chillers make energy required in the generator to feel that a new age of process absorption
sense in many applications create the high-pressure refrigerant cooling is coming. Opportunities are
for process water cooling. vapor. Natural gas is an attractive pri- being explored for application of small
Instead of mechanically mary fuel for direct-fired machines. With absorption units for a variety of
compressing a refrigerant gas firing, emissions are low, and can be applications. Is it possible that small-
gas, as in the familiar vapor compression
process, absorption cooling uses a The basic operation cycle of the single-effect absorption chiller
thermo-chemical process. Two different
fluids are used, a refrigerant and an
absorbent.
Heat directly from natural gas
combustion, or indirectly from a boiler,
or other waste-heat source drives the
process. The high affinity of the refriger-
ant, water, for the absorbent (usually
lithium bromide or ammonia) causes
the refrigerant to boil at a lower temper-
ature and pressure than it normally
would and transfers heat from one place
to another.
Lithium bromide-water systems are
used for larger tonnages in process
applications. Ammonia-water systems
are more common for small tonnages
and for lower temperature applications,
with achievable temperatures as low as
-40° F (-40 C). Ammonia-water systems

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Yazaki gas-fired
absorption unit

scale absorption units may lead the absorbers for process applications in
way into the future? other countries, including pharmaceutical
Use of the absorption principle for processing plants, bottling plants, and in
smaller units is not a recent the food industry. He feels that similar
development. The Robur Corporation, opportunities exist in the U.S.
with U.S. headquarters in Evansville, Also available are units from Yazaki
Indiana, manufactures and sells Servel Energy Systems, with headquarters in
gas-fired central air conditioners and Dallas. The firm offers double-effect gas- A RENAISSANCE FOR
small commercial chillers in sizes from 3 fired chiller-heater packages in sizes from ABSORPTION
to 25 tons. The Servel units are air-cooled 10 to 100 tons, and single-effect hot water Another example of industrial applications
and use the ammonia-water cycle. These systems in the same size range. of absorption is the F.B. Manion
units are commonly installed to cool Another important supplier of absorp- Company in Manchester, Connecticut,
commercial buildings, but the same tion equipment in the U.S. and Canada where a 15-ton gas-fired absorption
chiller unit can be used for small process is Thermax-USA. Thermax absorption system is used for cooling water in a
applications. For example, at Bryan’s chillers include steam and hot water units grinding shop serving the automotive and
Cleaners and Laundry in Pasadena, up to 1400 tons, and direct-fired units as aerospace industry. At the Foster
California, three 5-ton Servel units are large as 1,100 tons. However Thermax Company in Dayville, Connecticut, gas-
used to cool dry-cleaning chemicals. offers a wide range of small chillers, in fired absorbers provide cooling water for
According to Robur spokesman Rick sizes down to 10 tons, using the lithium plastics processing operations, and at NE
Halbig, there is growing interest in spot bromide water cycle. Electronics in Milford, Connecticut, over
industrial applications. Halbig says, “We Rajesh Dixit, an applications engineer 100 tons of absorption units provide
see this as a real growth opportunity.” from Thermax, suggests that there are cooling for electronics manufacturing.
Robur’s 5-ton units are also sold in mod- numerous potential applications for With rising electric costs, facility owners
ules of up to 50 tons, delivered factory- process absorption in smaller scales. He are beginning to consider absorption as
mounted on a rail system with all inter- says that industrial users are attracted by a serious option. Because process and
connecting gas and water piping in place. the absorption chiller’s ability to reduce comfort cooling is the major part of
At the Bayview Medical Center in summer peak electric demand, plus many facility energy budgets, the word
Newport Beach, California, a 3-unit Servel avoiding problems with halogenated is getting out. Regardless of the size of
system is used to cool X-ray equipment refrigerants. The Thermax direct-fired the process cooling load, absorption
and for comfort cooling. Another brand unit operates using natural gas to produce needs a second look. GT
is the Cooltec5 unit from Cooling chilled water temperatures as low as 44°F.
Technologies, Inc. of Toledo, Ohio. Both An example of the application of hot
the Robur (Servel) and the Cooltec5 units water absorption is the use of an absorp-
utilize an advanced absorption cycle tion chiller to provide process chilled For More Information
called GAX. water at Medway Plastics in Long Beach,
California. Here three 375 kW DTE Energy Robur
GAX CYCLE ENHANCES EFFICIENCY Technology natural-gas fired engines http://www.robur.com/
This approach, developed with support provide a large part of the electric energy Cooling Technologies, Inc.
from gas utilities and the DOE, used on the site. The jacket water from the http://www.coolingtechnologies.com/
improves unit efficiency and reduces fuel engines goes to a Thermax single-stage Broad USA
http://www.broadusa.com
consumption. The GAX cycle makes small absorption chiller rated at 150 tons. This
absorption systems even more competi- machine produces chilled water for cool- Yazaki Energy Systems
http://www.yazakienergy.com
tive with electric cooling. ing operations related to the injection
Larger absorption units are available molding process. Thermax
http://www.thermax-usa.com/
from Broad USA, with U.S. headquarters Hot water absorption chillers often abcoolingbottom.htm
in Hackensack, New Jersey. Its smaller use a heat byproduct from other
York International
units range from 50 to 100 tons in size industrial processes that might otherwise http://www.york.com/
and are available both as direct-fired go unused. An example of this type Carrier Corporation
and as indirect-fired types. These use application of hot-water absorption is http://www.global.carrier.com/
the lithium bromide water cycle. the PSM Print Shop in Lake Forest, Trane
According to applications engineer California, where a 40-ton absorption http://www.trane.com
Nitin Pathakji from Broad USA, the chiller is used to cool printing press McQuay
firm has had success marketing small components. http://www.mcquay.com

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