Saudi Chiller Commissioning

Man commissioning a chiller in Saudi wareing head gear

Saudi Chiller Commissioning

We arranged the trip to carry out Saudi chiller commissioning for our Company Director and overseas engineer Dave Thompson. 2x 500kw air cooled chillers had been positioned at high level on a gantry. These were at the back of a newly constructed building at a factory in Jeddah. The factory produces plastic water pipes used for buildings and industry. Their own pipework, produced onsite, was used for the water systems of the plant in this article.

Water System Check Valves

There are two underground water system reservoirs for the plant. A check valve is fitted below the water line on the inlet pipe feeding all of the pumps. This ensures that water is available to the pumps on start up, despite the reservoirs being below the pumps.

Saudi Chiller Commissioning of Chiller Pump Set

The chiller pump set sucks water from the underground chiller reservoir. It then discharges the water through a plate heat exchanger, then it flows up to the chillers. The chilled water then returns 5°C cooler back to the underground chiller reservoir.

Saudi Chiller Commissioning of PHE Pump Set

Another pump set sucks from the separate underground process reservoir and discharges through the other side of the above mentioned plate heat exchanger. The water is chilled by around 5°C which can be adjusted with a pressure regulating valve on the outlet of the PHE. This chilled water then returns to the underground process reservoir.

Saudi Chiller Commissioning of Process Pump Set

A third pump set also sucks from the above mentioned underground process reservoir. It then discharges up to a ring main which goes along the top of 6 lines. Then, it drains down into plastic extrusion moulding machines to cool the newly formed plastic pipe. It does this at just the right rate to prevent bending and distortion. After this, the chilled water drains at gravity pressure back into the underground process reservoir.

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Control Panels for Pump Inverters

All of the pumps run on inverter drives which saves a significant amount of electricity. These drives are located in three panels- one for each pump set. A spare inverter is available in each panel for easy switch over in the event of failure. A touch screen pump control display is fitted to each panel. Each display is wired into a PLC.

Touch Screen Central Control

The PLCs in each panel are in turn wired into a Schneider Electric touch screen central control interface. This is located on the front of the middle panel. All of the analogue sensor and transducer inputs are wired into this interface from around the plant. The underground process reservoir temperature sensor was found to be reading 4°C high, so an offset was put into the program. The digital outputs go from here to the various components around the plant.

3 Way Valve

One of these components is a 3 way valve on the plate heat exchanger. This valve regulates the percentage flow of water through the PHE, relative to the percentage of bypass to the chillers. In high load conditions, 100% of water is pumped through the PHE. With no load, 0% of water goes through the PHE with full bypass to the chillers. In a low load condition, the valve modulates at between 0% and 100%. All of these scenarios achieve a close control of 20°C in the underground process reservoir.

Saudi Chiller Commissioning of Filtration Systems

Chiller Evaporators

The chiller evaporators are protected by a ‘y’ strainer on each inlet.

PHE Chiller Side

The plate heat exchanger also keeps contaminants from the process reaching the evaporators of the chillers. This prevents the premature failure of the evaporators and also prevents heat exchange issues due to thermal insulation.

PHE and Process Bollfilter

Both of these water systems go through a Bollfilter back flush system. As the difference in pressure between filter inlet and outlet reaches a predetermined level, the back flushing operation is initiated with a green light being illuminated. This feature prevents the need to manually clean the filter at scheduled intervals. During the visit, however, these filters were overwhelmed by the residue left in the pipes and a narrow 100 micron filter size. The maximum difference in pressure was exceeded and the filtration system yellow warning light became illuminated. The filters were stripped down, cleaned and reassembled.

‘Y’ Strainer in Parallel

The factory engineer who had designed the system had the foresight to build a second filter into the water system. This ‘y’ strainer runs in parallel to the above Bollfilter and ensures seamless operation of the factory in the event of a blocked Bollfilter.

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Start Up during Saudi Chiller Commissioning

On first start up of the chillers, they were both found to be tripping on high pressure and not loading up. The chillers run on R134a which is a low pressure refrigerant in the UK. In Saudi Arabia, however, the ambient is around 40°C. This translates to an operating pressure of between 15 bar and 18 bar depending on loading and water temperature.

Loading Solenoids

Unloader switches are available on each system. These feed back to the PLC, from here the program energises the loading solenoids. They had been set to 14 bar which was the cause of the unloading issue. Our overseas engineer set the switches to 19 bar.

High Pressure Switches

He then changed the high pressure cut outs from 15 bar to 20 bar.

PRVs Checked during Saudi Chiller Commissioning

The pressure relief valves vent at 23 bar which is enough of a difference in pressure from the high pressure cut out.

Low Load Trips

Because only one line was running at the time of commissioning, one of the chillers was found to have tripped on a low temperature related trip. This fault had occurred the following morning when the water temperature had become too low due to the minimum run time of the compressors. The freeze up set point was also found to be too high at 7°C. Our overseas engineer entered a password into the front end of each chiller and modified the parameters to prevent this fault re occurring.

Full Load Testing

The water system temperature was allowed to build up to 30°C when production in the factory was offline. Then, the chillers were ran in anger until set point was achieved. An efficient superheat value of 3°C was recorded on all of the systems. This is due to electronic expansion valves being fitted. When the factory came back online, the systems were found to be off cycling or unloading to match the load.

Chiller Redundancy

Redundancy has been considered in the capacity of the chillers to allow for future factory expansion and systems being offline during repairs.

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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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Open chiller controls panel showing PLC, relays, contactors and wiring

Chiller Controls

Chiller controls can be remotely operated and monitored, but in this article, we will be looking at chillers operating in local.

Each chiller has a panel where the lead or the lag chiller can be switched from. They have N+1 redundancy built in, so one of two chillers will normally be in standby with the other one running. The chillers in the photo are equipped with kilowatt hour meters because the customer wants to monitor their efficiency. He has targets to meet and wants to gauge the effect that our maintenance has in reducing his energy costs.

Condenser Pressure

The condenser pressure control is external and stand alone from the panel.

Transducer

A transducer is fitted to the discharge pipe near to the compressor. This gives a 0 to 5vdc control signal to the fan speed controller which is bolted to the frame. There is a minimum and a maximum value on the transducer, so the FSC is programmed to work out the pressure from the voltage.

Fan Speed Controller

415v on three phases are the input to the FSC. It uses solid state thyristors to regulate the output to the fans. This is according to the demand received by the transducer. Solid state means that all the parts are electronic with no moving parts. Fan speed controllers are really good at extending the life of the fans. This is because all of the fans operate together- smoothly and reliably.

Chiller Controls Digital Inputs

There are three essential digital inputs to the controls of any chiller. All of them have a volt signal out to them, which returns back to the panel. If there is a fault- the volts drop out.

LP Switch

This protects the chiller from a low pressure condition. Compressor and evaporator failure would result, so this device is set below the running pressure of the system, but high enough to offer protection.

HP Switch

If the head pressure control mentioned above were to fail, this device would save the chiller from damage from excessive pressure in the system. Components or the pressure relief valve can blow causing a catastrophic refrigerant leak.

Flow Switch

This device detects a lack of flow in the water system. Serious system failure would result if this part is not maintained properly. It needs to be periodically tested and adjusted at regular intervals.

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Chiller Controls Analogue Inputs

The essential analogue inputs on a chiller are the Water In and the Water Out sensors. These are usually NTC (negative temperature coefficient) that is to say: if you hold one in between your fingers and warm it up- the resistance will start to drop off. They usually read in kilo ohms which can be read on a standard multi meter. The program looks at these two sensors and using an algorithm, it calculates the loading requirement of the compressor. They can read incorrectly, so a sensor offset function is available in the software for adjustment. This is just one of the many checks and procedures that we carry out during our maintenance visit.

Chiller Controls Relays

In the photo you can see wires from the various devices around the chiller, wired into a row of relays. These, in turn, are wired into the white relay board at the top. This relay board has several expansion boards linked into it which are held together with an electrical ribbon. Next, the relay board is wired into the PLC... 

Chiller Controls PLC

The reason for these steps in between a device and the PLC is for protection. Sensitive electrical components can be blown due to an earth shortage. At each stage there is a volt drop from 240v to 24v and then to 5vdc.The programmable logic controller is the nerve centre of the chiller. This is where all the inputs go to and where all the digital outputs are sent from. The controller on this chiller is Beijer Electronics- it comes blank from the factory. User keys to operate the chiller are positioned below the display. It can be programmed to run most chillers and indeed it is often seen in factories running anything. A laptop plugs into it and the software for the chiller is uploaded. On one visit, we found a fault with this controller. We bubble wrapped it and took it to our electronics laboratory at Head Office. The issue was easy to resolve- it was just dust tracking across the back of the PCB and so corrupting the program.

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Chiller Controls Digital Outputs

The main digital outputs on this chiller are:

Compressor Run Signal

240v is sent to the compressor starter contactors. There are three: Star (lower amps for a soft start) then a timer switches over to Delta (higher amps for a more powerful running of the compressor) On the other end of the compressor windings is the Line contactor. This contactor runs with both the Star and the Delta contactors.

Float Valve

This is a camber where the level of refrigerant which is coming in from the condenser is detected. The level is transmitted to the PLC, where the program sends a signal to the expansion valve. It opens to the correct degree according to the load on the chiller.

Slide Valve

The compressor can run at 0% with the slide valve shut. When load is sensed from the Water In and Water Out sensors by the controller- the slide valve opens up. The position of the slide valve is detected by a potentiometer. This is calibrated from a minimum to a maximum position. The signal is 4-20 mA which the controller translates into the position of the slide valve.

MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™

Whatever the problem with the controls, we can find a solution to resolve it. With years of industry experience and a fast supply chain, we offer a service that is second to none. Being able to retrofit is part of what we call the MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™ Any Chiller- Any Problem- Any Part- Any Refrigerant- Anywhere.

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Chiller Controls Company

To read more about chiller control systems hit the Tag at the top of the page.

Read more about Chiller Control Basics on the Engineering Mindset | Click Here


Large air cooled brown chiller with test equipment during planned preventative chiller maintenance

Planned Preventative Chiller Maintenance

Featuring planned preventative chiller maintenance, which is part of a series of longer, in depth articles.

News Article No.2

This time concentrating on the checks, adjustments and diagnosis our engineer carries out while on site. We can extend the life of your plant and reduce energy costs- just with the effect of our maintenance. As well as completing a detailed checklist, which is sent to your office in PDF form, our engineer carries out extensive F-gas leak testing.

Planned Preventative Maintenance of Chiller Controls

The first part of the maintenance is carried out to the controls of the redundant systems. This is because all the pressures and temperatures should be reading the same. If not, this is an opportunity for:

Sensor Calibration

Before calibrating a sensor that is reading out, our engineer carries out a diagnosis to assess the serviceability of the sensor. With NTP (negative temperature coefficient) and PTC (positive temperature coefficient) sensors, the resistance is taken at a given temperature, which is then compared with a chart. With pressure transducers the 0-5vdc feedback signal is analysed to see if it is within the allowable tolerance. Once this diagnosis is complete and the sensor is deemed to be in good working order, our engineer will then calibrate the sensor. A password is entered into the PLC (programmable logic controller) to gain access to the service menu. From here, he can select the particular sensor, then offset it by the required amount. A lot of controls are not linear, that is to say, a sensor reading 2°C high being reduced by 2°C may not calibrate correctly. An amount of trial and error is often required. Also, monitoring the sensor against a digital thermometer at various temperatures is carried out.

Program Settings and Timers

Each program setting and timer in the various menu levels is checked against the previous maintenance checklist. Sometimes these are changed accidentally by the onsite engineer when looking for something else- it is easily done.

Planned Preventative Chiller Maintenance of Safety Chain

Each component on the safety chain is manually tripped or the fault condition is replicated to cause the device to trip. This part of the PPM (planned preventative maintenance) is essential to ensure the safety chain protects the chiller during a fault condition. Compressor failure or evaporator freeze up can occur with dramatic cost implications. We routinely prevent small problems, such as a faulty switch, becoming big problems.

Planned Preventative Chiller Maintenance of Wiring

Each wire on the chiller is checked for tightness including the fans (on air cooled chillers) This includes the compressor motor connectors and compressor contactor contacts. Loose line wiring will cause breaker and fuse faults. Loose control wiring will cause error messages and chiller faults. This is a call out in between visits that can be eliminated. With the effect of our maintenance, any chiller becomes more reliable and has lower energy costs.

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After the above stop checks are carried out, system run checks are carried out:

Superheat

Using R134a refrigerant as an example, the refrigerant pressure will be 1.9 bar at 0°C This refrigerant is in the HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) family- a commonly used refrigerant. If the refrigerant vapour returning to the compressor is excessively superheated- this is a sign of system issues. Here are some of the causes for a high superheat condition:

Refrigerant Shortage

Not enough latent heat being absorbed by the refrigerant in the evaporator. This allows the refrigerant to carry on superheating with the available heat load. Refrigerant leak testing is required to identify any leaks. The history of maintenance checklists can be consulted to see if the issue has been deteriorating over several visits.

Expansion Valve Failure

A thermostatic expansion valve operates with a higher superheat value, whereby an electronic expansion valve has a much closer control. In either case, our engineer will be accustomed to the nominal readings.

Thermostatic Expansion Valves

This type of valve is operated with a power element and orifice. A bulb is clamped onto the suction pipe which is connected to the power element via a capillary tube. The power element is pressurised with the same refrigerant as in the chiller. Some of this refrigerant is in its liquid phase, so with an increase in temperature, there is a corresponding increase in pressure. This pressure acts against the diaphragm and so pushes the orifice open. The orifice allows more refrigerant through the valve. When load conditions change and there is a reduction in heat load, the reverse happens- the orifice closes and reduces the amount of refrigerant through the valve. When the power element looses its charge- the orifice shuts down causing a high superheat condition. A low pressure trip out can also occur.

Electronic Expansion Valves

This type of valve uses sensors on the liquid and vapour sides of the evaporator, or a transducer and sensor vapour side of the evaporator. This is so the program can work out the superheat value. If the sensors are faulty, the valve will not operate correctly and a high superheat condition may occur. If the step motor or driver have failed- replacement parts are required.

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Subcooling

This is the measurement of the refrigerant condition in the condenser. Air cooled condensers are particularly popular in the UK as the ambient conditions make them very efficient. Shell and tube condensers are used on lager systems- these are cooled down using a water tower. When there is a refrigerant shortage, the liquid does not stay in the condenser long enough for it to subcool sufficiently. Some of the refrigerant stays in its vapour phase. With not enough latent being rejected in the condenser- the chiller’s COP (coefficient of performance) will be reduced. This means high energy consumption relative to the refrigeration effect of the chiller. This condition can be remedied with a scheduled visit from one of our team.

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To read more about chiller control systems hit the Tag at the top of the page.

For further reading on the subject of preventive maintenance on Wikipedia | Click Here


R134a chilling plant maintenance showing screw compressor and oil separator with tick sheet and digital thermometer on top

R134a Chilling Plant Maintenance

We recently carried out R134a chilling plant maintenance at our customer’s factory in the North West. The chiller is 600kw with 2 single compressor systems. It has an ‘in house’ controller on it with occasional spurious trip outs. We are working with the problem so far, but an option if the problem persists is to fit a reliable, cheap, off the shelf controller. The factory requires a process water temperature of 6°C. The plant is around the middle of the lifespan and has been properly maintained.

Unlock Controller during R134a Chilling Plant Maintenance

The customer had accidentally locked the controller by pressing the wrong buttons. The machine still functioned as it should, but the customer was unable to modify User settings or look at the readings. Our engineers carry a book with an extensive list of information for any controller which has been built up over time. The procedure was followed to unlock the controller, then the settings were checked.

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R134a Chilling Plant Sensor Maintenance

The sensors can be offset to compensate for a sensor reading out slightly. No offsets were saved and the sensors all read to within a degree or two of our digital thermometer. Our engineer then checked the sensor locations to ensure they were fitted correctly and insulation had not deteriorated.

Fan speed Controllers and Subcooling

During the R134a chilling plant maintenance, particular attention was paid to the fan speed controllers and the subcooling of the refrigerant. This is because of occasional spurious high pressure trips. All the wiring was tightened and the plugged connections were checked and tested. The controller sends a variable run signal to the fan speed controllers. This is worked out from the analogue input signal from the high pressure transducer. If the problem persists, we will have to look into fitting more reliable head pressure controls.

Compressor Slide Valve

The oil solenoids which push and pull the compressor slide valve were operating correctly. The controller sends volts to the solenoids to control the position of the valve. A slide valve potentiometer sends feedback so the controller can work out the percentage position of the valve.

To read more about chiller control systems click the Tag at the top of the page.

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Follow this link to read more about pressure sensors on Wikipedia Click Here


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