There is no standard refrigeration duty that cannot be done by natural refrigerants says Klaas Visser

By Janet Thompson, Jul 16, 2014, 15:57 5 minute reading sat down for an exclusive interview with Klaas Visser, Owner of KAV Consulting with over 45 years of extensive international experience, to find out more about his experience using natural refrigerants and his take on their future. Can you tell us about your extensive experience in refrigeration and the HVAC&R sector?

Klaas Visser: I started out as a marine engineer, where I was responsible for refrigeration and air conditioning aboard ships. In my early days, I worked with CO2 as the refrigerant on a ship where we carried frozen meat from Buenos Aires to Yokohama in Japan eastbound via South Africa and Singapore. I also learned how to work with ammonia on ships. When I later migrated to Australia, I found a job as a refrigeration system designer and estimator for custom built plants, primarily for the meat industry but also for other food industries such as fish and breweries, generally for large industrial refrigeration applications. That was in 1966 and I’ve done this ever since.

I am absolutely convinced that there is no standard refrigeration duty in the world that cannot be done by natural refrigerants. There is only one hole at the moment and that is big enough CO2 compressors. There are compressors available in the world that could be very simply converted to large CO2 applications. I know where they are but they are not being made available. This may be a project we need to undertake as an industry. I have had one unsuccessful attempt together with two other strong proponents of CO2 a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try again. You have now retired but you are still passionate about accelerating the uptake of natural refrigerants. What drives you?

KV: It all started as an accident. I had a customer who was very favourably inclined towards my ideas about freezing meat. This was a project funded by the Australian government in 1979, where we reduced the energy consumption of freezing by some 33%. We were also able to produce frozen meat in a form that allowed for much higher utilisation of container space, so the meat companies saved one in ten containers.

The interesting thing with marine engineers is that they are fanatics about energy efficiency, because a ship carries its own fuel and you burn fuel to carry fuel, which adds weight to the ship. So, like on an airplane, if you carry too much fuel on a ship, you cannot carry as much cargo or passengers and they pay the bills!

However, I was never happy with the packaging of the frozen meat. I wanted to freeze meat in blocks without any packaging because it is bad for the environment to use the paper and cardboard, but also because the packaging has a plastic liner that got stuck in the meat. So I felt it was much better to freeze the meat without any packaging. After I had retired 12 years ago, the customer, who is a friend of mine, reminded me that we had looked at this some years ago, and he asked me to look at it again. I agreed and then someone else found out I was working again and I’ve never been busier since. CO2 was in its infancy then but, having worked with it before in 1958-1959, I felt that it had good potential. One thing led to another, people found out that I was working and started making requests. You are still working with and promoting natural refrigerants, is it your extensive marine engineering background that pushes you to do this?

KV: Oh no, it is my grandsons. I have a very black outlook on the future. I’m convinced we are too far down the track of anthropogenic global warming causing unstoppable, irreversible climate change. The calamity is going to happen, all we can do is mitigate it. My two grandsons motivate me because I want to try to make a better future for them. Since 1981 I have been a “Greeny,” and I was conscious of energy but not concerned about the future generations, which is really what drives me now. What are some of the other latest projects that you have been working on?

KV: A totally integrated CO2 plant at an Australian government prison facility where they are going to make 15,000 meals a day for a 10,000 prison population The plant will do cooling, product chilling, product freezing, cold storage, chilled storage, chilled process water, hot water, process water, domestic hot water and the defrost with hot glycol. The CO2 heated glycol is also used to heat the cold store door frames and apply heating under the insulated cold store floor. Virtually all heating functions, except high temperature cooking, will be done from the CO2 refrigeration plant.

I’m glad to be associated with the project because it gives me an opportunity to correct the mistakes I made on the first one, which was in Melbourne. A customer who needed help with his refrigeration was referred to me. It was a mess: he had 22 different systems. I proposed that it could be fixed with an ammonia plant but because there were houses close by in a 30 meter range, he did not want this. Instead I suggested a CO2/NH3 and he told me to build him a total CO2 plant. I refused. I had a lot of ideas but we weren’t ready yet. He said there was money available from the government and asked if I could help him make an application. In the end, we received an AU$ 500,000 grant but I was disappointed, because that meant I was locked in and had to do it. I had a good reputation but also knew it only takes one bad job and your reputation is gone. At that stage in my career I didn’t really fancy that. So I designed the system and sounded out specialists I knew – Petter Neksa, Sergio Girotto and Andy Pearson. I told them what I planned to do and ask if it would work. They said yes, and it does work. But I still made some mistakes. So what improvements have you made to the second system?

KV: Improvements are mainly in the more efficient operation of the compressors. Water heating was also improved. And there were some things we had that were absolutely impractical in the original design, four or five things. So I set about to improve the new system. I am no longer afraid to admit to mistakes. By admitting mistakes I hope I help other people and prevent them from making the same mistakes.


By Janet Thompson

Jul 16, 2014, 15:57

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