Title:
Flashgas Removal From a Receiver in a Refrigeration Circuit
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Refrigeration circuit (2) for circulating a refrigerant in a predetermined flow direction, comprising in flow direction a heat rejecting heat exchanger (4), an intermediate throttle valve (6), a receiver (8), an evaporator throttle valve (10), an evaporator (14) a compressor (20), and a flash gas tapping line (26) connected to the receiver (8), wherein the flash gas tapping line (26) being further connected to the compressor (20).



Inventors:
Gernemann, Andreas (Flensburg, DE)
Application Number:
11/659923
Publication Date:
08/21/2008
Filing Date:
02/18/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
62/509
International Classes:
F25B5/00; F25B1/10; F25B9/00; F25B39/04; F25B41/04; F25B5/02; F25B40/04; F25B49/02
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Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
ZEC, FILIP
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BACHMAN & LAPOINTE, P.C. (UTC) (NEW HAVEN, CT, US)
Claims:
1. Refrigeration circuit (2) for circulating a refrigerant in a predetermined flow direction, comprising in flow direction a heat rejecting heat exchanger (4), an intermediate throttle valve (6), a receiver (8), an evaporator throttle valve (10), an evaporator (14) a compressor (20), and a flash gas tapping line (26) connected to the receiver (8), the flash gas tapping line (26) being further connected to the compressor (20).

2. Refrigeration circuit (2) according to claim 1 wherein the compressor (20) is of the type allowing for output adjustment, and further comprising a control (28) adjusting the capacity of the compressor (20) in accordance with the amount of flash gas.

3. Refrigeration circuit (2) according to claim 1, further comprising a receiver pressure sensor (30).

4. Refrigeration circuit (2) according to claim 1, wherein the flash gas tapping line (26) is in heat exchange relationship with the pressure line (24) connecting the compressor (20) to the heat rejecting heat exchanger (4).

5. Refrigeration circuit (2) according to claim 1, wherein the heat rejecting heat exchanger is a gascooler (4).

6. Refrigeration circuit (2) according to claim 1, wherein the compressor (20) is one of a plurality of compressors (20, 22) in a compressor unit (18).

7. Refrigeration circuit (2) according to claim 1, wherein the flash gas tapping line (26) comprises a flash gas valve (36).

8. Refrigeration circuit (2) according to claim 1, further comprising a suction gas valve (38) in a suction line (40) to the compressor (20).

9. Refrigeration circuit (2) according to claim 1, further comprising a flash gas branch line (44) branching from the flash gas tapping line (26), comprising a flash gas discharge valve (46) and connecting to the suction line.

10. Refrigeration apparatus comprising a refrigeration circuit (2) in accordance with claim 1.

11. Method for operating a refrigeration circuit for circulating a refrigerant in a predetermined flow direction, comprising in flow direction a heat rejecting heat exchanger (4), an intermediate throttle valve (6), a receiver (8), an evaporator throttle valve (10), an evaporator (14) and a compressor (20), the method comprising the following steps: (a) tapping flash gas from the receiver (8); and (b) supplying the tapped flash gas to the compressor (20).

12. Method according to claim 11, further including the step (c) adjusting the output of the compressor (20) in accordance with the amount of flash gas.

13. Method according to claim 11, further including the step of measuring the receiver pressure.

14. Method according to claim 11, further including the step of superheating the flash gas in advance of step (b).

15. Method according to claim 11, further comprising in advance of performing steps (a) and (b) a step (d) deciding on the basis of operational conditions of the refrigeration circuit (2) as to whether to perform steps (a) and (b).

16. Method in accordance with claim 15, comprising a step of supplying suction gas instead of supplying tap gas to the compressor (20).

Description:

The present invention relates to a refrigeration circuit for circulating a refrigerant in a predetermined flow direction, comprising a heat-rejecting heat exchanger, an intermediate throttle valve, a receiver, an evaporator throttle valve, an evaporator, a compressor, and a flash gas tapping line connected to the receiver, as well as a method for tapping flash gas from a receiver in such a refrigeration circuit.

Refrigeration circuits are known and particularly useful for supercritical refrigerants like carbon dioxide, CO2. The intermediate throttle valve allows for reducing the pressure from the level at which the heat-rejecting is performed to a level suitable for distributing the coolant to the evaporator throttle valve and particularly allows moving the supercritical condition of the refrigerant to a normal condition thereof. The intermediate throttle valve, however, causes a generation of flash gas in the receiver which should be removed. Typically, a flash gas tapping line is connected to the receiver and comprises a pressure controlled discharge valve for tapping the flash gas for example to the suction line and finally to the compressor. The losses associated with this technique for removing flash gas from the receiver are relatively high.

Thus, it is an object of the present invention to provide a refrigeration circuit and a method for operating a refrigeration circuit of the type as described above where the receiver flash gas losses are substantially reduced.

In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention this object is solved by having the flash gas tapping line connected to the compressor so that the flash gas as tapped from the receiver is supplied to the compressor.

While with the conventional technique of supplying the flash gas of the receiver to the suction gas results in a substantial pressure reduction of the flash gas from the relatively high pressure level in the receiver to the relatively low pressure level in the suction line and the resulting losses, the present invention teaches to supply the flash gas directly to the compressor essentially at the same pressure level at which the flash gas is tapped from the receiver. The compressor is either a separate compressor which only compresses the flash gas from its respective intermediate pressure to the high pressure of the refrigerant flowing to the heat-rejecting heat exchanger, or a compressor which allows for supplying the flash gas at an intermediate pressure level between the suction gas low pressure level and the high pressure level so that the compressor may be switched between intermediate and low pressure level at its input. Alternatively, the compressor may be of the type allowing for input at the intermediate and low pressure level at the same time.

In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention the compressor may be of the type allowing for an output adjustment, i.e. an adjustment of the performance level of the compressor, for example by way of adjusting the rotational speed thereof, etc. The refrigeration circuit may further comprise a control for adjusting the capacity of the compressor in accordance with the amount of flash gas in the receiver and/or as produced at the intermediate throttle valve. The compressor can be operated very efficiently if its output or performance level is controlled so as to keep its power consumption as low as possible.

In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention the refrigeration circuit may further comprise a receiver pressure sensor which can be located in the receiver. Such receiver pressure sensor can be connected to the control and the respective receiver pressure data can be used for determining the amount of flash gas and the output of the compressor, respectively. The output adjustment can also be made on the basis of any other information like other measurement parameters or on the basis of a calculation of the amount of flash gas taking into account the characteristics of the refrigeration circuit, the refrigerant, the throttles, the compressor, etc., and/or the environment. It is also possible to provide a means like a flash gas valve, etc. for blocking flow of flash gas from the receiver to the compressor or for example in case of low receiver pressure, low generation of flash gas, etc.

In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, the flash gas tapping line can be in heat exchange relationship with the pressure line connecting the compressor to the heat-rejecting heat exchanger. Such construction allows for super-heating the flash gas before delivery to the compressor. Thus, the presence of any liquid refrigerant in the flash gas can be omitted or at least substantially reduced.

In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention the heat-rejecting heat exchanger is a gascooler. This is particularly true if a supercritical refrigerant like CO2 is used. In other embodiments the heat-rejecting heat exchanger may also be a condenser.

In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention the compressor may be one compressor out of a plurality of compressors which can be arranged in a compressor unit. Depending on the output requirement of the compressor unit all or only a number of individual compressors can operate between low and/or intermediate pressure level and high pressure level at a certain time.

In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention the flash gas tapping line may comprise a flash gas valve for blocking the flow of flash gas to the compressor. The refrigeration circuit may further comprise a suction line connected to the compressor and a suction gas valve within the suction line. With a flash gas valve and a suction gas valve, a conventional compressor operating between two pressure levels can be used alternatively for compressing flash gas and for compressing suction gas, respectively. I.e. in case of low generation of flash gas the compressor can be used as a conventional compressor for compressing the suction gas in the refrigeration circuit. The compressor can be switched to the flash gas compression mode only if too much flash gas is present in the receiver. Particularly if CO2 is used as refrigerant, depending on the ambient temperature the refrigeration circuit is operating in the supercritical condition, i.e. at a pressure above the critical pressure of the refrigerant, or in “normal” condition, i.e. at a pressure below the critical pressure of the refrigerant. The generation of flash gas in the receiver is high in typical summer operational conditions with ambient temperatures of about 20° C. and low in winter operational conditions with temperatures of about 0° C. The flash gas valve and the suction gas valve allow for switching over between summer and winter mode. Such switching over can be performed manually or by means of a control, for example based on ambient temperature, etc.

In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention the refrigeration circuit further comprises a flash gas branch line branching off from the flash gas tapping line, comprising a flash gas discharge valve and connecting to the suction line. The flash gas discharge valve can be pressure-regulated so as to allow flowing of the flash gas directly to the suction line if the receiver pressure exceeds a predetermined threshold value. Typically, a compressor and/or flash gas valve will be controlled so as to supply flash gas to the compressor at a threshold value which is below the threshold value of the flash gas discharge valve so that in normal winter mode flash gas is supplied to the compressor but not through the flash gas discharge valve to the suction line.

The present invention further relates to a refrigeration apparatus comprising a refrigeration circuit in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The refrigeration apparatus can be a refrigeration system for a supermarket, etc. for providing refrigeration to display cabinets, etc.

Embodiments of the present invention are described in greater detail below with reference to the Figures, wherein the only Figure shows a refrigeration circuit in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

In the Figure a refrigeration circuit 2 is shown for circulating a refrigerant which consists of one or a plurality of components, and particularly CO2, in a predetermined flow direction. The refrigeration circuit can be used, for example, for supermarket or industrial refrigeration. In flow direction the refrigeration circuit 2 comprises a heat-rejecting heat exchanger 4 which in the case of a supercritical fluid like CO2 is a gas-cooler 4. Subsequent to the heat exchanger an intermediate throttle valve 6 serves for reducing the high pressure as present in the gascooler 4 in use to a lower intermediate pressure. Subsequent to the intermediate throttle valve 6 a receiver 8 collects and stores the refrigerant for subsequent delivery to one or a plurality of evaporator throttle valves 10 of one or a plurality of refrigeration consumer(s).

Dependent on the refrigerant and the operational conditions, additional to liquid refrigerant more or less gaseous refrigerant which is called “flash gas” is present in receiver 8. In case of a CO2 refrigeration circuit, which will mainly be discussed in the description of a preferred embodiment, it can be said that only a reduced volume of flash gas is present if the gascooler 4 operates at ambient conditions with temperatures in the range of 0° C. while a substantial amount of flash gas will be present if the refrigeration circuit operates at ambient temperature of 20° C. or more. Thus it can be said that there is a distinct difference in the working conditions between “summer mode” and “winter mode”.

The evaporator throttle valve 10 with the refrigeration consumer(s) 12 connects to an evaporator 14. In the refrigeration consumer(s) 12 the liquid refrigerant is expanded and changes into a gaseous condition while it provides cooling. The gaseous refrigerant then circulates through the suction line 16 to a compressor unit 18 comprising a plurality of compressors 20 and 22. The compressor unit 18 is connected via high pressure line 24 to the gascooler 4, thus closing the main circuit.

In operation the compressed refrigerant in high pressure line 24 is of relatively high pressure and high temperature. The high pressure level in a typical CO2 refrigeration circuit can be up to 120 bar and is typically approximately between 40 and 100 bar and preferably above 85 bar in the summer mode and between 40 and 70 bar and preferably approximately 45 bar in winter mode. The intermediate pressure level is typically independent from summer and winter mode and between approximately 30 and 40 bar and preferably 36 bar. Also the pressure in the suction line is typically independent from the summer and the winter mode and typically between 25 and 30 bar and preferably 28 bar.

A flash gas tapping line 26 is connected to the receiver 8 and the input of compressor 20. Flash gas tapped from the receiver 8 is compressed by compressor 20 from the intermediate pressure level up to the high pressure level. A control 28 can be provided for controlling compressor 20 based on the amount of flash gas as present in the receiver 8 or as generated at the intermediate throttle valve 6. A pressure sensor 30 can be present in the receiver 8 with a sensor line 32 connecting the pressure sensor 30 with the control 28. A signal line 34 is connecting the controller 28 to the compressor 20 and allows the control of the compressor output for example by adjusting the rotational speed, etc. of the compressor 20 on the basis of the amount of flash gas.

A flash gas valve or stop valve 36 is provided in the flash gas tapping line 26 and a suction gas valve or stop valve 38 is provided in the suction line section 40 leading to the compressor 20. The stop valve 36, 38 can be of any type of for example magnetic stop valves. The stop valves 36, 38 are connected to control 28 and control 28 can cause closing of the flash gas valve 36 if there is only a relatively small amount of flash gas in receiver 8 or for winter mode operation. By alternatively switching the stop valves 36 and 38 it is possible to connect either the flash gas tapping line 26 or the suction line section 40 to the compressor 20, thus allowing for switching over between winter mode and summer mode.

In the embodiment as shown in the Figure the flash gas tapping line 26 is in heat exchange relationship with the pressure line 24 by means of an heat exchanger 42. The heat exchanger 42 superheats the flash gas in line 26 before delivery to compressor 20 in order to avoid delivery of liquified flash gas to compressor 20. A flash gas branch line 44 branches off from the flash gas tapping line 26 and connects to suction line 16. The flash gas branch line 44 comprises a flash gas discharge valve 46, for example a pressure-regulated valve allowing for discharge of the flash gas to the suction line 16 if too much flash gas is generated for the compressor 20 to handle, or if the compressor 20 is not available for compressing flash gas.

A backup cooling circuit 48 comprising a backup heat-rejecting heat exchanger 50, a throttle valve 52, an evaporator/heat exchanger 54 and a compressor 56 is provided for cooling refrigerant in the receiver 8 in a backup mode, for example if the compressor unit 18 is shut down for maintenance reasons, etc. It is preferred to use the same refrigerant in the backup circuit 48 and in the refrigeration circuit 2. It is particularly preferred to use CO2 as refrigerant in the backup circuit 48.

In order to ensure the supply of substantially gas-free refrigerant to the refrigeration consumer(s) 12, a self-cooling for the refrigerant is provided by means of the self-refrigeration circuit 58 comprising a self-refrigeration heat exchanger 60, for example a plate heat exchanger, and a self-refrigeration branch line 62 leading to a throttle valve 64, through the self-refrigeration heat exchanger 60 and then through line 66 to suction line 16.