North Cowichan will spend up to $435,000 for compressor and chiller upgrades at the Fuller Lake Arena.
Don Stewart, the municipality’s director of parks and recreation, told council at its meeting on Dec. 5 that, because of the incident in Fernie, B.C. last year in which three people died in an ammonia-related incident, a number of inspections are being conducted by Technical Safety BC on arena chillers across the province.
He said the inspection of the chiller, which is a key part of an arena’s refrigeration plant where the exchange of heat and cold occurs, at Fuller Lake Arena is scheduled for 2019, at a cost of approximately $75,000.
“Replacing the chiller would still proceed as planned at year 17 of its life (in 2026), based on overall life expectancy,” Stewart said.
“This inspection requirement sparked a capital plan to reduce the long-term cost of the plant, from an inspection and operating point of view, increasing efficiencies and reducing ammonia load.”
Stewart said the inspection of the current chiller at Fuller Lake Arena is a complicated, costly, process that is known to lead toward a lower life expectancy.
He said that, based on that knowledge, his department has engaged a refrigeration engineer to review the current plant design and develop a replacement plan.
The replacement plan calls for changing from a “shell and tube” chiller to a “plate and frame” one.
“This would eliminate $75,000 in operational expenses and reduce future inspections to under $10,000,” Stewart said.
“It would also increase the lifespan of the chiller from 17 years to more than 25, without the inspection affecting its life span. As well, it would also reduce our ammonia load from 600 to 330 pounds overall.”
Stewart said the plan also calls for replacing the arena’s three compressors with two highly efficient ones.
According to a report from Technical Safety B.C., released in July on the incident in Fernie, the three deaths were caused by the decision to operate an ice chilling system with a known leak.
Staff at the Fernie Memorial Arena identified a small hole in a metal tube in the arena’s ammonia-chilled heat exchanger in the summer of 2017.
The system was taken off-line until Oct. 16, when it was returned to service with the decision to monitor it.
The report states that the day after the system was brought back online, ammonia began leaking into a brine solution used to cool the arena’s ice surface, and then into the machine room creating ammonia levels well above those considered “rapidly fatal”.