Vahterus making refrigeration industry history

When the Vahterus Plate & Shell heat exchangers entered the market in the early 1990s, the refrigeration industry was in the process of slowly taking a new direction. Previously considered rather conservative by some, the industry started seeing an increasing demand for components compatible with natural refrigerants. The promotion of the use of natural refrigerants was spurred by the need to phase out ozone-depleting freons, which cause climate change.

In the late 1990s, Vahterus was accepted into the C-Dig development group, joining many multinational enterprises in looking for solutions for utilising CO, among other goals. Information produced in the project was freely distributed for refrigeration businesses to use. One of the key goals on the project was to put a stop to the use of the R22 refrigerant, which is very harmful to the ozone layer.

The use of natural refrigerants, such as ammonia and carbon dioxide, created a need for products that can handle higher levels of pressure. Leakproofing was also an important factor to consider, as ammonia and carbon dioxide are hazardous com- pounds. Due to their safety and ability
to tolerate high pressures, Vahterus heat exchangers were perfect for natural refrigerants. Working with the client, Vahterus was able to meet the demand with pro- ducts that could be used under even higher pressures than before.

“In R&D, the starting point should always be the client’s future needs. It’s not enough for the client to just be happy with the solutions available at the time, and for this reason we have to keep our eyes open for signs of changes in the market and take them seriously. Vahterus was in the right place at the right time when its clients started to need more and more products that could be used under conditions suited to PSHE heat exchangers,” says John Wijbenga, who has worked with Vahterus for over 20 years.

Vahterus heat exchangers are well suited to demanding conditions. In the early 2000s, energy efficiency and heat recovery created fresh demand for heat pump applications. These applications require high pressures (40 or 60 bar), so manufacturers began to develop new components to meet the increased demand. Thanks to suitable components becoming more widely available, the sales of heat pumps have been on the rise for the past decade or so.

The early 2000s also marked the start of the work to develop the Combined product both within Vahterus and at external laboratories, which sped up the R&D process. In the Combined model, the evaporator and droplet separator are mounted on the same shell. This structure allows for the unit requiring droplet separation to be compact, while also decreasing refrigerant consumption. For this reason, the Combined model is an ideal choice for fluid power unit manufacturers. Later on, the Combined model was used as a basis for the Vahterus PSHE & VES, the external droplet separator.

PSHE in a cold store in Japan

Joint R&D efforts by Vahterus and one of their clients have resulted in over 200 PSHE heat exchangers being supplied to numerous cold store applications over a period of more than 10 years.

The Vahterus NH3/CO2 heat exchangers have reduced the volume of the units by approximately 20% and their ammonia loads by 75%. The compressor unit developed by the client and equipped with a PSHE heat exchanger has been met with a very positive response in the market, and the demand for these units is still rising. Most of all, clients appreciate the unit’s low leak risk and the ease of preventive maintenance.

The key component in a heat pump unit in Denmark

A heat pump solution developed by a Vahterus client has been considered an important factor in meeting the energy saving requirements of industry end users. The pump uses only ammonia as a refrigerant and employs the same heat recovery features that refrigeration unites use. The equipment developed by the client achieves high efficiency, and the heat generated by the condenser can be harnessed to heat water even up to 90 degrees. The heat pump is designed to be used in applications such as processing the waste heat generated in industrial applications, and heating systems based on natural heat sources. The client uses Vahterus heat exchangers in the machinery for subcooling, condensing, superheat removal and oil cooling.

From ammonia to CO2 in Switzerland

NH3/CO2 cascades are popular solutions in applications such as ice rink cooling plants. A few years ago in Bern, Switzerland, the owners of a local ice rink complex decided to upgrade the old pump-fed ammonia cooling system to partly run on carbon dioxide. The cooling plant utilises one PSHE9 cascade installed between two circuits. The upgrade was made with Vahterus heat exchangers, bringing the total number of these in the complex to 20. Their key benefit compared to the previous units was their compact size, while the new system also decreased the volume of ammonia used in the plant from 7000 kg to 500 kg.

Green heat in Switzerland

In the early 2000s, Vahterus heat exchangers were installed in the heat pump unit of a busy hotel. The hotel wanted the system to be as green as possible, so the only refrigerant chosen for the system was ammonia, while the system’s heat source was water pumped from a nearby lake.