We at ASTI believe that it is important for all of us in the ammonia industry to promote the fact that ammonia is a natural chemical and great alternative to products like Freon that have a negative impact on the environment.

Why is ammonia a considered a natural chemical?

Here is a helpful article from the New York Health Department.

Ammonia (NH3) is one of the most commonly produced industrial chemicals in the United States. It is used in industry and commerce, and also exists naturally in humans and in the environment. Ammonia is essential for many biological processes and serves as a precursor for amino acid and nucleotide synthesis. In the environment, ammonia is part of the nitrogen cycle and is produced in soil from bacterial processes. Ammonia is also produced naturally from decomposition of organic matter, including plants, animals and animal wastes.

1. The first is the Green Peace summary of why the natural refrigerants are being promoted by international environmental movements such as the Montreal Protocols and the Kyoto Protocol.

2. The Eurammon article which provides the following quote:

Ammonia is also an ideal refrigerant from a climate protection point of view, as it contributes neither to ozone depletion nor to global warming. Of all known refrigerants, ammonia requires the lowest primary energy input to create a given refrigerating capacity, thanks to its excellent thermodynamic properties. This means that its indirect global warming potential is also very low. Thus, plants that use ammonia as opposed to other refrigerants have a better TEWI (Total Equivalent Warming Impact). The TEWI is the sum of the direct global warming impact – caused by the refrigerant lost through leakage and recovery – and the indirect global warming impact, in relation to the energy used over the life of the plant.

Ammonia is sustainable not just from an ecological, but also from an economic point of view. Unlike synthetic refrigerants, it is an inexpensive feedstock. The difference in price becomes evident when initially charging a plant, but also and especially when topping off leakage losses. Experts assume annual losses of between 2 and 17 percent for ramified industrial refrigeration plants, depending on a plant’s age and condition.[1] In addition to their high cash costs – for instance, the HFC refrigerant R 404A is much more expensive than ammonia – the HFC leakage naturally also puts a considerable strain on our climate.

3. American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc. 1791 Tullie Circle, NE. Atlanta, Georgia 30329-2305, USA www.ashrae.org

Driven by international agreements such as the Montreal and Kyoto protocols (UNEP 1999 and United Nations 1998) as well as a desire for a higher degree of sustainability, there is a renewed interest in increasing the application of natural refrigerants. The class of refrigerants commonly referred to as “natural refrigerants” offers the potential to improve the environmental performance of refrigeration systems. Because of its alignment with sustainability initiatives, ASHRAE supports research, assessment, and strategic growth in the use of natural refrigerants such as ammonia, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, air and water in refrigeration systems and technologies.

Ammonia is the most important of the natural refrigerants because of its longstanding and widespread use in food and beverage processing and preservation, and because of its growing adoption in HVAC chillers, thermal storage systems, process cooling and air conditioning, district cooling systems, supermarkets, and convenience stores. Since the middle of the nineteenth century there have been many changes in types of refrigerants, but ammonia is unique because it has seen continued use over this 150 year period.

Ammonia has Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) and GWP (Global Warming Potential) equal to zero. It has inherently high refrigeration system energy performance, excellent thermodynamic properties, and high heat transfer coefficients. In a vapor state it is lighter than air. It is easily detected by smell, or by a variety of electrochemical and electronic sensors, and is readily available at a relatively low price. Less than 2 % of all ammonia commercially produced in the world is used as a refrigerant; however, ammonia enjoys low cost due to the large volume of production for use as a fertilizer.

ASHRAE Position Document on natural refrigerants.

Eurammon report on ammonia as natural refrigerant.

Greenpeace report “Natural Refrigerants: The Solutions”.

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The sponsorship of these industry-leading companies helps us continue our mission to make ammonia (NH3) the safest managed hazardous material in the world. We invite you to learn more about them and the benefits of becoming an ASTI sponsor. 

About ASTI

Established in 1987, the Ammonia Safety & Training Institute (ASTI) is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to making ammonia (NH3) the safest managed hazardous material in the world. Bringing together leaders from industry and public safety organizations with hundreds of years of combined experience, ASTI provides safety management support through effective use of Prevention, Mitigation, Preparedness, Response and Recovery (PMPRR) training. All courses meet OSHA standards.