Chiller Controls Company

Blue ammonia chiller with panel open during chiller controls company visit

Chiller Controls Company

Having an effective chiller controls company saves money! We at Maximus Chillers can repair any fault and upgrade where necessary. Read below to learn more…

Non Condensables

One of the non condensables that is found in a chiller is air. It had got into the system of the chiller in the photo due to a poor repair having been carried out. The end user had tried to save money by using a cheaper company to carry out a change of the suction strainer. They had forgotten to purge the pipework of air, leak test, and then pull a vacuum.

High Subcooling

The ingress of air had caused a ‘high subcooling’ message to appear on the PLC display. The controls work out the subcooling by looking at the pressure transducer reading, in this example it was 14 bar. Then, the onboard comparator understands the pressure/ temperature relationship of the refrigerant which is ammonia. This gave the saturation point temperature of 39°C. Also, the temperature sensor reading on the condenser was 25°C. The 14°C difference between the two temperatures was the subcooling. The parameters in the controls trigger this message if the subcooling is more than 12°C.

Air Purging

Our engineer attended site to carry out air purging according to standard industry guidelines. Our Risk Assessment Method Statement outlined the necessary PPE that was needed when handling this refrigerant. It also outlined the training and certification required by our engineer to handle anhydrous ammonia.

Subcooling Readings

He then ran the system up and checked the subcooling readings again. The condenser pressure was now 11 bar which corresponds to a saturation temperature of 31°C. The condenser temperature was still 25°C, so the subcooling was now 6°C. This was now below the alarm trip out level.

Dalton’s Law of Partial Pressures

This gas law states that all gasses in a pressurised vessel will act as if they are on their own. Therefore, with the air that was in the system, the condenser pressure was 14 bar, then after the air purging it was 11 bar. This means that there was 3 bar of air sat on top of the liquid refrigerant in the condenser. The air was causing a false reading of subcooling and therefore triggering the fault condition.

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Electrical Problems

Another fault message which had occurred during the time we have maintained this machine was oil separator low temperature. The oil separator is the vessel, just visible, to the left of the panel in the photo. This alarm is critical to protect the screw compressor from running with cold oil which will cause an expensive failure.

No Heater Burn Out

The oil separator heater was found to be off despite the cold temperature of the oil. The obvious reason was that it had burned out. The breaker was found to be in the 'on' position and there was no electrical charring visible.

Ohms Checked by Chiller Controls Company

When our engineer checked the ohms readings, they were found to be okay and there was no short to earth.

Run Signal

It was found that the 3 phase contactor was not pulling in to bring the heater on. Therefore, the next thing our engineer checked was weather the controller was sending out the run signal. It was- with 24v coming from the controller and the light being lit on the display. Somewhere in between, there was a problem…

Blown Relay

After consulting the wiring diagram, our engineer traced the fault to a blown relay. This relay provides a step in between from the 24v coming from the controller, to the 240v coil on the oil heater contactor. Rainwater had ingressed through a screw hole in the back of the panel. It had dribbled to the location of the A1 coil terminal on the relay. Here, it had been ‘tracking’ a few volts to earth. This was sufficient to burn out the coil without blowing the fuse. A drying agent suitable for electrical components was used, then the hole was sealed using a compound. There was a spare relay of the same type in the panel, so it was a quick job to swap it out.

Monitoring by Chiller Controls Company

Having done this, the contactor pulled in and the oil heater came on. Balanced amp readings were recorded on all three phases of the heater and the oil started to warm up. The oil separator temperature sensor was monitored for an hour on the controller. When the oil temperature rose to above the trip out level of 46°C, the fault condition automatically reset and the chiller came back on.

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Software Upgrade by Chiller Controls Company 

We had also previously found that the controller software was too finicky- causing a lot of spurious trip outs. Therefore, we decided to design our own software and upload it. This is easy to do because the controller is Bejer Electronics. It is a blank control system which can be used for almost any chiller, or other application. Read below to find out how we did it…

Chiller Controls Company Reliability

We rationalised what the customer needed and developed an upgraded program which was much more reliable. Getting a chiller to settle down and cost the customer less money is what we at Maximus Chillers are all about.

Chiller Controls Company's Test Rig

The controller had been removed from the chiller and wiped of its program. Then, the finished program was uploaded to the controller and a test rig set up. This was to iron out any teething problems before sending it back out into the field.

Laptop Plug In

When our engineer attended site, he fitted the upgraded controller and plugged it into his laptop. All of the program settings can be adjusted on the controller without the need of a laptop by entering the correct passwords for the program level required. However, a laptop has a bigger screen and so multiple readings can simultaneously be monitored. This facilitated the commissioning process.

Chiller Controls Company Testing and Adjustment

The chiller was run tested under various load conditions to check its performance. Also, all the fault conditions were either simulated or tripped out on the chiller. This was so that the program could be put to the test and adjusted accordingly. There were minor problems with fault timers which were adjusted, one at a time, so that no spurious trips would occur.

Completion

After monitoring the chiller for the rest of the day, it was time to talk to the customer about the job and get a signature. This chiller is in South West Wales, so it is a long, but very scenic, drive back for whichever of our engineers attends site. Read more about chiller upgrade.

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Chilling plant maintenance of grey machines with red warning signs

Chilling Plant Maintenance

We at Maximus Chillers carry out chilling plant maintenance in factories and facilities around the UK and overseas.

HFC Refrigerants

HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) chiller refrigerants were developed to be chlorine free. For a while they were seen to be the great new thing until the GWP (global warming potential) of the refrigerants became more of a concern. The release of these refrigerants from leaking systems dramatically increases the green house effect and so trapping more heat in the atmosphere. For this reason, F-gas regulations are phasing them down to 21% by 2030. Because of the 650kg charge in the chillers in the photo, we carry out leak testing at one month intervals. Where a leak is identified with this refrigerant, the system can be pumped out using the push/ pull method. There are no refrigerant system shut off valves available to allow the systems to be pumped down.

Chilling Plant Maintenance using Leak Detectors

We employ HFC refrigerant leak detectors to identify any leaks around the system. On systems of this size, there may be more than one leak, with a large leak alerting the attention of the engineer and the smaller leaks found subsequently. Our leak detectors are sent off periodically to be calibrated with the internal replaceable components upgraded as necessary.

Static Leak Detectors

Static leak detectors are available for each machine to catch any leaks as soon as they happen- before the one month intervals. This reduces the amount of refrigerant leaking to atmosphere and so adding to global warming. These leak detectors are bump tested on each visit to ensure reliability with replacements available on site, should one of them fail.

Chilling Plant Maintenance for One World

The above measures are essential with this kind of refrigerant in the interests of the environment. Basic checks now, protect the future of the planet. We only have one world, so we need to look after it as best we can. You can rest assured that you are in safe hands with how we handle this range of refrigerants.

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Shell and Tube Condensers

During the maintenance, we assess the subcooling values under part and full load to diagnose the efficiency of the shell and tube condensers. This kind of condenser is very popular with larger chillers in the UK. They are not sensitive to different weather conditions as the heat rejected into the condenser water system is pumped into the cooling towers outside of the plant room.

Chilling Plant Maintenance of Copper Pipework

The nest of pipes inside the shell are constructed using copper. This is because of the excellent heat transferring properties of this metal. On other sites where the refrigerant is ammonia for example, stainless steel is used as ammonia corrodes copper and most other metals or alloys. Thorough maintenance of the pipework is carried out on each visit.

Water System Maintenance

The water loop is inspected at various test points around the system with our range of test equipment. Where there are readings that are starting to go beyond nominal conditions, we carry out adjustment to bring them back into line. If the water system is behaving abnormally, this will in turn affect the efficiency of the condenser. In extreme circumstances, a system failure can occur causing a potential loss of production. Effective maintenance from Maximus Chillers has evolved over time to prevent this from happening in the first place. Each time we encounter a new issue, a thorough investigative process is carried out, the solution is arrived at and this is added into the routine.

Air Bleed Ports during Chilling Plant Maintenance

Air can be pulled into the condenser from the cooling towers outside. This can sit on top of the water in the condenser and so prevent the heat exchange of latent heat from the refrigerant and into the water. An air lock in the condenser amounts to that portion of the heat exchanger from not being in use. This dramatically affects the efficiency of the plant. We carry out checks to each condenser and bleed any air on each visit to ensure the best running conditions of the plant.

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Standing Pressure

One of the ways to assess the condition of the refrigerant is the standing pressure. Only during factory shut down are all the chillers off for long enough for the system pressures to stabilize and so have a consistent standing pressure around the system. The pressure readings can be taken and added into our software to determine the composition and purity of the refrigerant and the presence of non condensables. Where the refrigerant is found to be in poor condition, maintenance can be arranged to rectify the issue.

Coefficient of Performance

The coefficient of performance is the cooling effect compared to the amount of electricity used. In an inefficient system, a small amount of cooling is achieved relative to a large amount of electricity used. In this age of environmental concerns, we carry out extensive measures and adjustments to improve the COP. Not only is an efficient plant cheaper to run, it is better for the environment too.

Control Panels

The control panels for the chillers in the photo are defunct. That is to say- the component parts are no longer manufactured. I am sure there is the odd circuit board rolling around on a shelf somewhere, but we fit state of the art controls. Our supplier builds bespoke panels exactly suited to each particular machine. They are plug and play with associated sensors, transducers and vane loading actuators supplied. The panel is fixed next to the chiller, wired in and ready to go. All settings come as default, so just the odd one needs to be modified. The panel can be easily integrated into the existing remote start stop and variable speed drives.

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400 kw white chillers with panels open during air cooled chiller maintenance

Air Cooled Chiller Maintenance

A nice day to carry out air cooled chiller maintenance at a new site we have taken over in the South East.

News Article No.6

Our engineer attended site at around 9am with the risk assessment method statement having been sent in advance. A site survey was carried out to see if there were any additional risks. Should there have been any changes- the RAMS have a section for the additional risks and control measures. After gaining a permit to work, our engineer was issued with a security pass to access the chiller compound. Three chillers are located in the compound which feed air handlers for a critical application. Two of the chillers are multiple system, scroll compressor, air cooled chillers. The other is a single system screw chiller.

Program Settings During Air Cooled Chiller Maintenance

A complete download of the program settings is available in our engineer’s phone. This is to cross reference the settings, should one of them be accidentally changed by the maintenance engineers. On site engineers are the first port of call for chiller trip outs, with the responsibility to get the plant up and running. We offer real time assistance, over the phone from our Technical Support Desk and can send user manuals in PDF form, direct to their computer. The settings were found to be nominal, so a detailed analysis of the alarm history was carried out:

Alarm History During Air Cooled Chiller Maintenance

In reverse date order, the alarm history of all the systems was interrogated. There had been several system shut downs to carry out the periodic maintenance by the onsite personnel. The electricity having been shut down, there was a subsequent oil pre heating timer in the history too. On Chiller 2, System 1 however, there had been several low pressure trip outs. Our engineer decided to start the maintenance with this system by carrying out a full diagnosis of the low side of the refrigerant system:

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Superheat During Air Cooled Chiller Maintenance

The system runs on R410a refrigerant. This refrigerant has higher operating pressures in comparison with other HFC refrigerants. It has an efficient temperature range which can be seen on a pressure enthalpy chart. Below or above this range- the refrigerant loses efficiency and so has a lower coefficient of performance. The most common saturation point for this refrigerant is 0°C which corresponds to a 7 bar suction pressure in the evaporator. Above this is the superheat of the refrigerant returning to the compressor. On this occasion there was found to be 26°C of superheat and a suction pressure of 4 bar- close to the low pressure trip out. After careful diagnosis, our engineer decided to focus his attention on the expansion valve:

Thermostatic Expansion Valve

There are 4 forces acting on a TEV:

Liquid line pressure coming from the condenser.
Versus
Suction pressure down the equalising line from the far side of the evaporator. This compensates for the pressure drop across the evaporator and shows the true compressor side pressure.

Spring pressure acting upwards and closing the valve.
Versus
Bulb pressure forcing the valve open.

To reduce the superheat, the bulb should have forced the valve open. The refrigerant charge in the bulb acts upon the bellows to achieve this. The reason for the malfunction, on this occasion, was found to be the failure of the expansion valve orifice. It had become jammed- causing a shortage of refrigerant in the evaporator and high superheat.

Latent Heat

Our engineer was carrying out the above fault finding with one compressor running and the other two being held off. This was to prevent a low pressure trip. Where chillers are left running with a high superheat condition, the reduced amount of latent heat causes a higher cost in electricity relative to refrigeration effect (COP) The refrigerant carries on superheating without absorbing latent heat- pointless and inefficient for a chiller.

Chiller Pump Down

For convenience, this chiller can be pumped down and valved off using the service valves. The evaporator can be worked on after breaking in procedures are carried out. Therefore, we have arranged for this to be carried out before fitting the new expansion valve parts. These chillers also have the ability to pump down the refrigerant on receiving a fault feedback from the electronic leak detector. This is an added measure to lower the environmental impact of refrigerant leaks.

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Subcooling During Air Cooled Chiller Maintenance

This is cooling the refrigerant vapour down, through the latent heat phase and then subcooling the liquid down further. On System 2 of the same chiller, a subcooling issue was identified. 21 bar/ 36°C saturation was normal for that system as defined by the fan speed controller. Now, the system pressure was higher at 28 bar/ 47°C saturation, so our engineer decided to work out the subcooling. A very high reading of subcooling was recorded at 28°C this was diagnosed to be due to non condensables in the refrigerant:

System Non Condensables

Non condensables are gases that will not condense, such as, air and nitrogen. If nitrogen is not vented properly and a deep vacuum then achieved, the gasses will remain in the refrigerant system. When calculating the subcooling, the readings work out incorrectly due the presence of the gasses. This can lead to false diagnosis. The remedy for the issue was to arrange a full refrigerant decant, pressure testing and dehydration, before charging with new refrigerant.

Efficiency

Having good subcooling values on a refrigerant system is critical to efficiency. Where there is no subcooling- the refrigerant has not fully rejected all the latent heat from the condenser. This can be seen when looking at a PH chart and plotting the pressures and temperatures. This heat remains in the refrigerant and adds to the system along with heat added from the compressor and heat from the process. This is another reason the coefficient of performance is reduced and so incurring increasing electricity costs for the plant.

Economizer

These chillers are also fitted with refrigerant economizers- one for each system. They work by diverting some of the refrigerant from the condenser, through a small expansion valve, then through a plate heat exchanger. The rest of the liquid refrigerant passes on the other side of the plate heat exchanger and so is further subcooled.

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An engineer filling blue oil drums during industrial chiller maintenance

Industrial Chiller Maintenance

Reciprocating Compressors

Industrial chiller maintenance including a reciprocating compressor with 8 cylinders. They always have an even number of cylinders so that the compressor is balanced.

Open Drive

Because the refrigerant being used in this article is ammonia, the compressor is open drive. This is because ammonia corrodes the copper windings of the electric motor. An open drive compressor needs a shaft seal to prevent oil and refrigerant escaping from the system. These shaft seals are prone to wearing down and leaking. They have two mating surfaces that have a finish so smooth that it is like glass. Any oil leaking out of the system collects in a pot. This pot is monitored for the rate at which it fills up and so the deterioration of the shaft seal can be monitored. The swap out of the shaft seal can be arranged at a convenient time. This evolves the splitting of the shaft coupling to allow access to the seal.

Semi Hermetic

This means that the electric motor is internal to the compressor. Hermetic meaning sealed and semi meaning that you can bolt components off, such as, the cylinder heads. There is a significant advantage with this type of compressor design as there is no shaft seal. The compressor motor windings are also cooled by the suction vapour returning to the compressor from the refrigerant system. This compressor design is used with HFC, HFO, CO2 and Propane refrigerants. There are some semi hermetic compressors that are suitable for ammonia where the windings have been sealed from the refrigerant.

Scheduled Strip Down

This kind of compressor has a lot of moving parts that need to be replaced according to the run hours of the compressor. Failure to do so will lead to the compressor going out of balance and an expensive compressor smash up occurring. Usually during a smash up, a connecting rod will fly off causing oil to spurt out from the gallery. This causes a low oil pressure fault which stops the machine. One smash up which I have seen involved all the con rods staying on and flailing round the inside of the compressor. One cylinder was still working, the compressor still running and a sump full of different sized triangle pieces of metal! This highlights the importance of scheduled maintenance.

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Major Industrial Chiller Maintenance 

On a recent Major maintenance visit, the scheduled oil change was carried out. The required oil being selected by our oil analysis process to the correct viscosity for a Grasso reciprocating compressor operating at a 1°C saturation.

Oil Drain Out During Industrial Chiller Maintenance

The compressor was valved off from the rest of the system. The standing pressure of the vapour in the vessel was 5.8 bar. On the bottom of the sump is located an oil drain port, this is because it is the lowest part of the system. Using hoses and a valve, the oil was drained into empty oil drums.

Oil Pumping during Industrial Chiller Maintenance

Our engineer removed the old oil for recycling, then lifted the new oil to the work location. He used his portable oil pump to pump the oil in using the same port from which the oil was drained. The oil came to the correct level on the oil sight glass and the vapour was bled from the oil filter so that the compressor was primed with oil. When the system starts, the oil pump pushes the oil through to the cylinders of the compressor.

Industrial Chiller Maintenance Monitoring

The oil heater was switched on until the oil was 46°C. The chiller was then started and run tested. The Delta P across the oil filter was found to be nominal at 0.5 bar. The oil level remained at the correct level as the three way valve opened to the oil cooler. The oil cooler, in turn being cooled by a cooling loop which uses some of the tubes on the air cooled condenser.

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Industrial Chiller Maintenance and the MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™

Any Chiller

We work on all kinds of chillers from the smallest Italian process chillers, through to large air cooled chillers and centrifugal chillers used for industry.

Any Problem

Problems are our bread and butter- that’s what we do best! Whether you require centrifugal compressor remanufacturing, or the system drying out after a burst heat exchanger- it’s all in a day’s work.

Any Part

We have an excellent supply chain where we pride ourselves on sourcing any part for your chiller. Where a part is no longer manufactured or is not available- we fit a different part. A chiller is just a chiller at the end of the day- we can achieve the same or better design characteristics and efficiency with a different part.

Any Refrigerant

HFC refrigerants are being phased down but are still the most popular variety. They are being superseded by HFO refrigerants which will become more popular over the coming years. We are also adept in the handling of natural refrigerants, such as, ammonia, propane and carbon dioxide.

Anywhere

When you do something as niche as what we do- you cannot expect to just work outside your back door. With blue chip customers around the UK and around the world- nowhere is too far for Maximus Chillers.

To read more about reciprocating chiller compressors hit the Tag at the top of the page.

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Ammonia refrigerant cylinder being winched up a cat ladder using a block and tackle

Industrial Refrigeration Ammonia

The industrial refrigeration ammonia visit was at a site in Aberystwyth. We look after 2 ammonia chillers for a blue chip customer. They are 10 year old chillers that have been designed to need ongoing attention. Quite easy job as the faults they go into are reoccurring round in a circle. They have previously had the same problems.

Ammonia Shaft Seal for Industrial Refrigeration

The shaft seal had started to leak ammonia. It was replaced by removing the shaft seal cover, splitting the coupling and sliding the shaft seal over the shaft. After removing the non condensables, we reintroduced the ammonia back into the compressor- now the 'o' rings leaked.

Leaking Industrial Refrigeration Ammonia 'O' Rings

Leaks on ‘o’ rings occur because they become flattened and plastic like. This is caused by heat around the high side of the screw compressor. When there is pressure in the system- the oil if forced against the gap- making a seal. After the ammonia refrigerant had been handled- the oil ran away- causing a leak when the ammonia was reintroduced.

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Lift and Shift Visit

The pipework and ancillaries had been removed from the compressor prior to the visit. Our lift and shift guys arrived and set up their lifting equipment. They raised the compressor and manoeuvred it on across the roof. They then manoeuvred it up then down some steps. They used lifting equipment to get the compressor, end on- down a cat ladder.

Compressor Strip Down

It is always better to strip down this kind of compressor in a workshop- on a bench with compressed air and all the tools nearby. We unbolted the castings and slid the screw out. The various castings being laid out in a line. We replaced the ‘o’ rings for new the rebuilt the compressor.

Industrial refrigeration ammonia being charged by an engineer wearing breathing apparatus and gloves
Ammonia refrigerant being sucked into the low side of a flooded evaporator

Ammonia Refrigerant Charge

Part of the ammonia refrigerant had been handled during the visit. This left the compressor pipework, compressor and the oil separator open to atmosphere. The non condensables were evacuated. In the photo we are lifting the cylinder up a cat ladder into the plant room. From there it needed to be man handled up some steps, down some steps and out onto the roof. We charged the ammonia plant with liquid ammonia until the superheat and subcooling values were within industry known limits. The sight glass levels and condition were monitored too.

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