2 minutes reading time (488 words)

Innovation with Distillation

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Just because things have always been done a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s the best or only way. For Ammonia Service Manager Michael Schram, providing the “usual” solution for a customer was just what he needed to spark a new idea.

In January of 2017, Associated Wholesale Grocers (AWG) had a heat exchanger freeze and break, causing the ammonia system to be flooded with glycol. As part of the repair, P1 Group permanently installed a distillation unit to remove the water/glycol from the system. 

Industrial facilities like food processing plants rely on large-scale ammonia refrigeration systems for their day-to-day operations. Cleanliness of the refrigerant is key to getting the most efficient operation of the ammonia based refrigeration systems.

However, water contamination is quite common and can wreak havoc with the entire ammonia system. Being able to efficiently remove contaminants from the refrigeration systems is an important function of the ammonia service department.

The repair job at AWG lead Michael Schram to believe there should be a better way to deal with ammonia contamination removal, so he came up with the idea for a mobile unit which would eliminate the need for customer sites to install one permanently.

 “Sometimes installing a permanent distillation unit is not cost effective. There are regulatory obligations related to OSHA, as well as the cost of maintaining it,” said Michael.

As part of P1 Group’s preventative maintenance, an ammonia liquid sample is drawn from the system. Then the ammonia is boiled off and what’s left is the water that may have been introduced into the system during repairs or system leaks. 

P1 Group used this same technology to build a large scale of the device used to take the sample and boil it off. This was done with a very large capacity vessel with the addition of electric heaters in the bottom. The unit is tied into the liquid side of the system allowing liquid ammonia to flow into the vessel 500-1000 gallons at a time.

This is controlled by a programmed PLC along with a series of valves and level controls, completely customized by P1 ammonia techs. After the vessel reaches the desired set level it closes the liquid feed and initiates the heaters to boil the liquid ammonia to a vapor and it is drawn via the compressor suction back into the system, leaving behind the water that is manually drained and can be gallons in some cases.

This Ammonia Distillation/Anhydrator Unit was recently used at the Hunt Midwest Subtropolis Underground Facility and Best Harvest Bakery.

“The critical component to this option is many gallons of contaminants can be removed, while the systems remain completely operational, so the facilities can go about their daily business,” Mike said.

Deploying the rental unit has proven to be the more cost effective solution for most small to medium sized facilities. This was made possible by P1 ingenuity and believing the “usual” solution wasn’t good enough.

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