The International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration hit record attendance numbers, signed agreements with industry organizations ASHRAE and RETA, and drew participation from the Department of Homeland Security at its Conference & Heavy Equipment Show, an event that marked a variety of transitions and new initiatives for the association this year.
The three days of networking at industry sponsored events was an opportunity for IIAR conference-goers to meet other professionals in the industry while taking advantage of the technical knowledge and resources available on the exhibition floor and at technical program presentations.
“This was such a great conference on a number of levels. We saw a record total turnout, including the largest-ever number of international attendees and exhibitors,” said 2014 Conference Chair Tom Leighty.
“We had more participants than ever from the end user environment, and the technology showcased on the exhibit hall floor was really an amazing testament to the advances our industry is making.”
The conference, which was held at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel and Convention Center, March 23 – 26, drew over 1,500 attendees, many of whom were new to the event.
IIAR president Dave Rule said the increase in international attendance at this year’s event underscores the growing momentum of natural refrigerants around the world, a trend that was on display on IIAR’s exhibit hall floor.
“The exhibit hall floor was very impressive this year in terms of the quality and diversity of the products on display,” he said. “With more international exhibitors participating than ever before, it demonstrated that IIAR is growing and our industry is gaining importance, not just here, but around the world.”
The enthusiasm and dedication of the organization’s membership was also on display. Attendees representing a significant cross section of IIAR participated in committee work, discussed new ideas presented in technical papers and focused on safety in two special pre-conference training sessions.
“This level of participation really shows the strength of our membership,” said Rule. “Just walking through the conference rooms and the exhibit hall, I could see and hear the excitement surrounding the different types of technology that are beginning to develop.”
One of the always popular subjects being discussed at IIAR’s conference was the development of small charge systems. But, said Rule, the excitement went beyond small charge, encompassing the many new components and systems that are changing the industry and making it more efficient.
“New design is everywhere these days. So much new technology is being developed by manufacturers. From new designs in controls and valves to changes in larger equipment design, we’re finding ways to operate much more efficiently using smaller amounts of refrigerant in our systems.”
Rule said such conversations about efficiency and charge levels will grow ever more important in the coming years as the industry looks for ways to control energy costs and minimize the impact the regulatory environment can have on operations.
“When we talk about reducing charge, there’s a regulatory component to consider,” he said, adding that reducing the amount of ammonia in a system, even if the total charge remains above ten thousand pounds, makes it easier to manage a system.
“Reducing the charge of a system can provide a company with several advantages when it comes to managing regulatory issues around that system, and ultimately, that reduction lowers the operating costs over the lifecycle of a package being installed.”
Industry input on regulatory issues was also an important theme at the recent meeting, which featured a special panel on Department of Homeland Security initiatives, led by DHS Director of Infrastructure Security Compliance, David Wulf.
According to Wulf, who also participated in a meeting with IIAR’s Board of Directors, engaging with IIAR on the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program is a major goal of the Department this year.
As a special guest at IIAR’s meeting, he shared information on the DHS regulatory program and invited IIAR members to get involved in the stakeholder discussions that are currently advancing the mission of his division.
The Department’s participation was significant for IIAR because the regulatory environment is growing and its impact on the industry is emphasized more than ever before, said Rule.
“It is very important that our membership has the opportunity to interact directly with government officials, and not just rely on IIAR to interact on their behalf,” he said.
“DHS participation in our meeting this year was significant because it allows the industry to have a two-way conversation and gives regulators like David Wulf the opportunity to lay out the plan the government is developing and discuss the direction they’re taking with their programs.”
Given the organization’s focus on regulatory issues, fostering a close relationship with DHS as well as other government agencies – like OSHA and EPA – will be a continued priority for IIAR in the coming year.
“Informing the regulatory environment is increasingly important, especially as new technologies that make use of ammonia and other natural refrigerants open the door to new commercial applications and present new ways to meet the nation’s environmental goals,” said Rule.
Meanwhile, IIAR’s Leighty emphasized the organization’s ongoing effort to provide special educational programs at each conference, in addition to the traditional IIAR technical paper presentations.
“We continued to offer in-depth training sessions on the Sunday before the start of the conference,” he said, adding that the two back-to-back sessions, one emphasizing Safety Training and the other focused on Process Safety Management, were integral to IIAR’s educational goals this year.
“We’re trying to increase the in-depth technical training available to our members and provide any resources that can help end users, contractors and engineers – especially those just coming into our industry.”
Leighty added that IIAR signed two new MOU’s, or Memorandums of Understanding, with organizations RETA and ASHRAE, which will help it further the industry’s safety goals by working more closely on shared initiatives.
Rule said that the MOUs will help IIAR more closely coordinate industry responses to requests for information, or RFI’s, from regulators.
“We’ve already worked together with RETA on an OSHA RFI earlier this year,” he said. “That kind of coordinated response is so important because it shows that the recommendations we put forward have support from a broad segment of our industry.” Looking forward, this year’s conference set IIAR up to pursue a number of exciting projects and work goals, thanks in no small part to the hard work of its staff and membership, said Leighty.
We’re thankful for “the talents and resources that our members bring to this organization, especially the effort of all of our staff in making such a large event a great success,” he said.
“We’re getting ready for another great show in San Diego next year,” he said. “And we’re excited to carry the energy of our sponsors, exhibitors and members into the next IIAR event.”
IIAR’s 2015 Industrial Refrigeration Conference & Exhibition will be held March 22 – 25 in San Diego, California.