Four Questions with On-Site Reclamation and Chiller Refrigerant Services Leader John Bryant

November 5, 2015

Emergency services?
Hundreds of thousands of pounds of refrigerants?
Geothermal heat exchangers?

Ask John Bryant, Airgas Refrigerants’ new manager of On-Site Refrigerant and Chiller Refrigerant Services. John is a 10-year veteran of Airgas Refrigerants with deep experience in other areas of the HVAC and refrigeration industries. He helps contractors plan maintenance and survive emergencies.

John is helping mechanical contractors and facilities managers schedule preventative maintenance, shutdowns and coordinate emergency services by providing refrigerant flush and dehydration for chilled water, refrigeration and geothermal systems. These services along with refrigerant processing to AHRI-700 specifications can all be performed on site, where they are needed most. We asked John a few questions central to his new role:

What does down time mean to your customers?
“When you look at plants, manufacturing sites, refineries and campuses, they really focus on down time and try to schedule it for preventive maintenance. One of our advantages is that we’re on-site but out of the way, working with their contractors and keeping our equipment outside. For down time that’s not planned, it’s critical for customers to have experienced partners who can get there quickly and work continuously to get them back up and running. We can process more than 1,000 pounds of refrigerant an hour bringing it back to AHRI-700 specifications. Between the time saved and the cost of not having to buy new refrigerants, that can represent a huge savings.”

Airgas is now working in geothermal energy. What’s that about?
“We’ve just finished a 4-month industrial site project in Nevada and we’re hoping to have more work there soon. This particular project involved shifts working 24/7 and thousands of pounds of refrigerant. Two recent projects involved 45,000 pounds and 300,000 pounds of R-134a. These are heat exchange systems—binary systems—that drive turbines to create electricity. They are exposed to a lot of moisture that can penetrate systems via heat exchanger failure. In both cases, we were contracted to remove moisture from the systems in a hurry. Keep in mind, these are remote locations without access to many services, so they were looking for a team that could come on site and stay on site.

For the 45,000 pound job, we were contracted to remove moisture down from 100 ppm to 40 ppm. We nailed it and got it down to 16 ppm. For the 300,000 pound job, we removed the entire refrigerant charge from the system. That’s an incredible amount of refrigerant to store on-site. We reduced its moisture content by more than two-thirds, from 1,800 ppm to 500 ppm.

There are not a lot of companies working with refrigerants in large-scale geothermal facilities. We’ve been hearing people say ‘I didn’t know you did that’ so, I guess this interview is good timing.”

You’ve mentioned site training. Tell us more about that.
“Many of our customers have groups that share responsibilities on site. Their rules change when hazardous materials such as refrigerants are moved on their site. Our customers typically train us on site for 4-8 hours to ensure their safety, our safety and full compliance with their required practices. While we have many accreditations among our staff, there’s still no margin for error, so we’re happy to be trained by our customers’ regulatory teams to ensure 100 percent compliance of EPA, OSHA and DOT regulations as well as the company’s own site and entity-wide policies.”

What do you want people to take away from our conversation?
“Ha! Think of Airgas BEFORE you have a crisis. Seriously, we get on maintenance schedules months ahead of time, especially when there is a scheduled equipment maintenance downtime. We make life a lot easier for contractors who are expanding, improving or retrofitting a system.

Here’s what we do:

  • We process refrigerant to AHRI standards in large volumes, sometimes really large volumes
  • We can side-stream refrigeration processes, which is processing the refrigerant while the system remains running
  • We flush & dehydrate systems to remove particulates, oil & moisture after system repairs.
  • We can provide on-site storage of large volumes of refrigerant–REALLY large.

Refrigerant systems take a beating and there are a lot of corrosive factors. Weak systems or a loss of refrigerant can drive costs up, and increasingly, refrigerant leaks are drawing fines. A little planning can save a lot of money, potentially prevent an emergency and deliver peace of mind.”