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  1. #1
    Thailand Expat misskit's Avatar
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    Ice factory in Nan faces closure order after ammonia leaks

    NAN, 29th June 2018 (NNT) - An ice factory in the northern province of Nan has been ordered to close for 30 days, following ammonia leaks that have posed a danger to its workers and nearby residents.

    Officials have rushed to the factory in Du Tai subdistrict to bring the situation under control. Despite their efforts, the pungent gas has spread extensively, leading to factory employees and villagers, including a two-month old baby, being taken to hospital with chest pains and breathing difficulties. Ammonia leaks have also caused the deaths of trees, canal fish and village pets in a 100-meter radius.

    A 66-year-old villager said more than 60 households have been affected by the incident and many of them have suffered nausea, and skin and eye irritations. She disclosed the factory was also responsible for ammonia leaks in 2013, adding that it often discharged untreated water and dumped waste into the community sewers at night.

    Inspections by military officers and personnel from the provincial offices of Industry, Public Health, Natural Resources and the Environment, and Disaster Prevention and Mitigation found that the ammonia pipe of the ice making system had cracked, causing the gas to leak. The ammonia dilution process is ongoing. The factory has been told to address the problems during the 30-day operation suspension order.

    National News Bureau Of Thailand | Ice factory in Nan faces closure order after ammonia leaks

  2. #2
    Thailand Expat david44's Avatar
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    not cool

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    Hugh Cow's Avatar
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    Green proponents of "natural" refrigerants have pushed the Ammonia wagon, along with propane, butante, isobutane etc for years.
    The problem with Ammonia systems is they tend to be large industrial plants with high volumes of liquid ammonia. There is the risk of potential damage to surrounding areas and its toxicity can be lethal to local inhabitants. A leak at a large Ammonia plant in inner Melbourne a few years ago necessitated the evacuation of people in a one kilometre radius of a major residential area, a huge undertaking (and cost). The pipe work is mainly steel in a wet environment conducive to corrosion.
    Of course the hydrocarbon refrigerants are highly flammable and create problems in mitigating potential fire and explosion risks.
    CO2 systems which enjoy current popularity in Europe work best as sub critical systems. Trans critical CO2 systems are necessary in warmer climates due to the low critical temperature of CO2 31.1C Or for the metric impaired (America and parts of UK) 87.98F and tends to have lower COPs.(Coefficient of performance). Some use a cascade system to counter this (Using a separate Refrigerant to cool the rejected heat from the CO2 system to keep it sub critical, somewhat like a radiator on a car engine). The problem with the secondary system is that it often uses an HFC to achieve this, thereby reintroducing a refrigerant they were trying to eliminate in the first place. The other problems with CO2 is its high pressures(about 40 times higher than R134a) There is also a risk of suffocation as CO2 leaks will displace air, therefore enclosed areas require CO2 alarms.

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    Yeah but the effects of the HFC's and CFC once leaked or escaped from dumped old equipment is a far worse a scenario than the inconvenience of evacuating a 1 sq km area.

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    Hugh Cow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam View Post
    Yeah but the effects of the HFC's and CFC once leaked or escaped from dumped old equipment is a far worse a scenario than the inconvenience of evacuating a 1 sq km area.
    The problem is in underdeveloped countries. In most western countries, certainly Australia and Europe There is a high degree of regulation and certainly no dumped equipment. So I dont know where you are getting your facts from. All equipment has to have the refrigerant removed first. In addition there is a register that checks on purchases of HFCs (CFCs are almost non existent in many western countries) and a register of how much has been returned for recycling as well as spot checks on companies to ensure they have all the correct recycling equipment. Also a licence to use HFC refrigerants and another to purchase. Fines are quite horrendous for non compliance. Even in Thailand despite virtually no regulation, companies such as Panasonic use R32 in domestic air conditioners to replace R410a due to R32s lower GWP of 675. It is important to remember that the leak rate of HFCs is not the prime source of CO2 from refrigerants. The main source is the energy usage required to run the system. At the moment refrigerants only represent 2% of Global CO2 equivalent emissions. The concentration on these refrigerants is due to their short atmospheric lifetime which gives a fairly quick benefit when they are removed. Although will do nothing to ameliorate the long term effects caused by the other 98%.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh Cow View Post
    Green proponents of "natural" refrigerants have pushed the Ammonia wagon
    Nothing wrong with Ammonia plants, if they are operated by diligent staff, and small leaks dealt with as soon as they appear.

    They were also popular for use in Ice rinks.

    You can smell a leak down at the 3 PPM level, by the time it reaches 20 PPM its unbearable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh Cow View Post
    The pipe work is mainly steel in a wet environment conducive to corrosion.
    It has to be carbon steel pipework, as NH3 will attack Brass, Aluminium, and Copper.

    Again nothing with carbon steel pipes, providing they are sufficiently protected against corrosion with a good 2 pack epoxy paint system.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh Cow View Post
    There is also a risk of suffocation as CO2 leaks will displace air, therefore enclosed areas require CO2 alarms.
    No different to any other HFC refrigerant then, as they behave in exactly the same way.

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    No they dont. The lowest observed toxicity level of CO2 is much lower in terms of PPM than HFCs. Ammonia is a toxic gas.

  8. #8
    peckerwood SKkin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh Cow View Post
    The problem with Ammonia systems is they tend to be large industrial plants with high volumes of liquid ammonia. There is the risk of potential damage to surrounding areas and its toxicity can be lethal to local inhabitants.
    Question...Is this liquid ammonia different from what US farmers use when planting crops? re: toxicity

    Why then do farmers continue to make use of anhydrous? Here's why:


    It's the most efficient and thus most environmentally friendly choice. Farmers use ammonia to obtain the element nitrogen. Ammonia is stored in its liquid form in a pressure tank at about 100 pounds per square inch, until it's injected under the soil from a tank pulled by a tractor, carefully controlled by an intricate system of valves and meters according to the calculated requirements of the crop. As the ammonia is released from the pressurized tank into the distribution system, the sudden drop in pressure causes it to boil, releasing the elemental nitrogen that can be immediately used by fast-growing plants that demand a large supply of nitrogen.
    Translating Food Technology: Why Use Anhydrous Ammonia? - Nebraska Farmer Goes to Market


  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by SKkin View Post
    Is this liquid ammonia different from what US farmers use when planting crops?
    Not sure, google required but from high school chem, I think you are talking about ammonia and ammonium, two different things by a hydrogen atom, but makes the difference. Both may be toxic...google time.

  10. #10
    peckerwood SKkin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam View Post
    Not sure, google required but from high school chem, I think you are talking about ammonia and ammonium, two different things by a hydrogen atom, but makes the difference. Both may be toxic...google time.
    Sounds like the same thing per CDC...

    Anhydrous ammonia, a colorless gas with pungent, suffocating fumes, is used as an agricultural fertilizer and industrial refrigerant.
    https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunicat...usammonia.html

    And we use it to plant crops...In the words of Yakov Smirnoff, "what a country."

  11. #11
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    Obviously a gas is not used as a fertiliser. The ammonium has something done to it. It's a source of nitrogen for the plants.
    I admit I'm shaky on this...it's high school chemistry, many years ago. Google required.

  12. #12
    peckerwood SKkin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam View Post
    Obviously a gas is not used as a fertiliser.
    It's put into those tanks I pictured above in liquid form then injected into the soil. CDC doesn't mention ammonium.

    Maybe this helps?

    https://www.differencebetween.com/di...d-vs-ammonium/

    The fundamental understanding required is that ammonia is uncharged, and a molecule by itself; it exists as a gas at room temperature and atmospheric pressure, and as a liquid at very low temperatures and high pressures. This pure form of ammonia is also called anhydrous (water-free) ammonia. Ammonium on the other hand, is a positively charged ion that could exist as free ions in solution, or as an ionic salt compound forming a lattice structure with ananion, for example, ammonium chloride. The word ammonium, therefore, is generally not used as a word by itself, but followed by the words ‘ion,’ ‘salt,’ or the respective negatively charged ion. For example, it has to be ammonium ion, ammonium hydroxide, ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate, etc., and not just simply ammonium.
    or:

    In brief:
    Difference Between Ammonia and Ammonium
    • Ammonia is an uncharged but polar molecule existing as a gas at room temperature, whereas ammonium ions are charged and exist as free ions in solution or as crystallized salt compounds.
    • Ammonium hydroxide solution is also called aqueous ammonia.
    • The “ammonia” present in fertilizers, cleaning solutions, detergents, dyes, etc. are actually derivative ammonium compounds; however, anhydrous ammonia in its pure form is used as cooling refrigerants.
    • Ammonia is a toxic gas, but free ammonium ions by themselves are not.
    • Ammonia has a set of characteristics by itself, but ammonium compounds’ characteristics depend on the associated anion, as well.
    clear as mud...
    Last edited by SKkin; 06-07-2018 at 05:51 PM.

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    Ahh, there we go. Ammonium can exist as a salt, ie a solid.
    I didn't know they pumped ammonia gas directly into the soil (it's a liquid under pressure but a gas as it's released from pressure).
    My simple understanding of fertilsiers is that nitrogen is supplied via a solid state molecule.

    But I learn something every day.

  14. #14
    peckerwood SKkin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam View Post
    I didn't know they pumped ammonia gas directly into the soil
    Better living through chemicals and chemistry. Hooray!


    There's no chance at all that the toxicity mentioned earlier could pass through into the food chain, right? Not being facetious or rhetorical, just don't honestly know. I see those tanks of anhydrous ammonia all the time during planting season but never thought much about it...

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by SKkin View Post
    Better living through chemicals and chemistry. Hooray!


    There's no chance at all that the toxicity mentioned earlier could pass through into the food chain, right? Not being facetious or rhetorical, just don't honestly know. I see those tanks of anhydrous ammonia all the time during planting season but never thought much about it...
    No. The amonia is a source of nitrogen. Whatever chemistry occurs in the plant breaks down the molecules.

    Think of this: water is H2O, add one oxygen atom to a water molecule and it becomes H2O2, hydrogen peroxide, toxic. Oxygen isn't toxic, per se, neither is water, but add the two together... The same happens in reverse: take one atom (say) away and it's a completely different substance.

    Let me confess, chemistry was my worst subject, so don't pull me up on my ignorance.

  16. #16
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    Originally Posted by Hugh Cow (Ice factory in Nan faces closure order after ammonia leaks)
    There is also a risk of suffocation as CO2 leaks will displace air, therefore enclosed areas require CO2 alarms.



    No different to any other HFC refrigerant then, as they behave in exactly the same way.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh Cow View Post
    No they dont. The lowest observed toxicity level of CO2 is much lower in terms of PPM than HFCs. Ammonia is a toxic gas.
    First you talk about suffocation, then you change the goalposts and start talking about toxicity levels.

    As almost all HFC gases are heavier than air, so like CO2 they will sink to the lowest area in a building, hence you are equally at risk of suffocation from both CO2 and HFC's.

    Agreed HN3 is toxic, at 20 PPM it's unbearable to be in the same room as a leak, at 50 PPM its enough to incapacitate you

    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam View Post
    Obviously a gas is not used as a fertiliser. The ammonium has something done to it. It's a source of nitrogen for the plants.
    I admit I'm shaky on this...it's high school chemistry, many years ago. Google required.
    Your possibly thinking of Ammonium Nitrate Fertiliser. Also good for making cheap explosive mix with 6% diesel oil and you have ANFO

  17. #17
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    No. The subject of suffocation was in regard to CO2. Ammonia is toxic pure and simple. You are most unlikely to be accidentally taken unawares and suffocated by Ammonia due to its pungent smell. Don't know if being used by farms is any indication. Farmers once sprayed crops with DDT. Farm chemical run off has caused pollution to rivers and coastal waters. The Cane toad introduced to control the sugar cane beetle has caused massive environmental damage and has spread through vast areas of northern Australia. Farming is not a good example when it comes to the environment.
    Last edited by Hugh Cow; 07-07-2018 at 08:49 AM.

  18. #18
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    Closing an ice factory in Thailand is a big disaster. No one in Thailand can survive a day without ice cubes, even in the last village. And even in the wintertime in the mountains...

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    if they kept their ice hole clean they wouldn't be in this mess

  20. #20
    peckerwood SKkin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh Cow View Post
    Farming is not a good example when it comes to the environment.
    Especially so when it comes to large scale corporate ag operations.

    I know for a fact that on my grandfather's small 40 acre farm in the 1960s, he was not injecting annhydrous ammonia into the soil while planting his crops.**

    That process is all about chasing unrealistic yields and bumping up the corporate farm's profits to please those who hold the notes.


    **edit: Neither did the family dairy farmers I worked for in my teens/early twenties(1970s to early 1980s).
    Last edited by SKkin; 07-07-2018 at 07:53 PM.

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