Canadian Plastics

Ambient air closed-loop system offers alternative to cooling towers

By Mark Stephen, associate editor   

Most of us are familiar with the so-called "butterfly effect," whereby the flapping of a butterfly's wings can cause a tornado half a world away. In much the same way, legislation introduced in Italy ...

Most of us are familiar with the so-called “butterfly effect,” whereby the flapping of a butterfly’s wings can cause a tornado half a world away. In much the same way, legislation introduced in Italy in the 1990s to regulate water usage has resulted in an opportunity for today’s North American plastics processors to cut their operating costs.

At that time, Italian process cooling equipment manufacturer Frigel Firenze developed the Ecodry cooling system, a closed-loop system that uses ambient air to cool a closed-circuit heat exchanger containing process water, as an alternative method to the traditional open cooling tower that relies on constant water evaporation.

Now, the company’s North American subsidiary, Frigel North America Inc., has opened its doors in Lake Zurich, Ill., bringing the Ecodry system to this side of the Atlantic, along with its small-footprint Microgel integrated chiller/TCU, and its Turbogel TCU.

According to Steve Petrakis, president of Frigel North America, process water in the Ecodry system is cooled by one or more heat exchangers, and — when necessary — by ambient air flow created by axial fans. As soon as the return water temperature reaches 95 Fahrenheit (F), water is pulsed into the system’s adiabatic chamber, cooling the ambient air before it reaches the heat exchanger. “No matter how hot it gets outside, we can always guarantee that the system will maintain that 95 F or less,” Petrakis said. At the other end of the scale, during cold weather when ambient temperatures are below process setpoints, the fans may not have to run at all, he continued.


Petrakis noted that the Ecodry system offers numerous advantages over cooling towers for North American molders facing increasing demands for cost control, environmental responsibility and maintenance reduction. “First, since the water doesn’t evaporate, there’s a tremendous savings in that regard,” he explained. “Also, processors don’t have to continuously chemically treat the water, which amounts to both a cost and a maintenance saving, as well as a reduction of the greenhouse gases that are created by chemical evaporation.”

Second, the technology is energy efficient. “Depending upon conditions, the Ecodry system can use as little as .05 kilowatts per ton,” Petrakis said. And in the event of an energy failure — or if the ambient temperature drops below the freezing point — the water contained in the pipes is automatically drained by gravity to avoid icing.

And third, when combined with the company’s Microgel integrated chiller/TCU, and the Turbogel TCU, the Ecodry system supplies precisely heated or cooled water throughout a production facility, right up to the press.

Clearly, the folks at Frigel North America hope the time for the Ecodry system has arrived. “There is a lot of legislation right now requiring less greenhouse gas emissions and forbidding the dumping of chemically treated water,” Petrakis said. “Businesses are being forced to rethink the way they handle water cooling, and our technology can assist them.”

Frigel North America Inc. (Lake Zurich, Ill.);; 847-540-0160


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