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Sizing up potential damage
Scott Ward of Stevens Engineers figured out the hypothetical environmental costs if all the 450,000 pounds of Freon in Minnesota rinks seeped out into the ozone: A leak that size would be the equivalent of emissions from more than 63,000 vehicles or the CO2 emissions from 34 million gallons of gasoline. It would require 250 acres of forest land to counter its effects.
At the Plymouth Ice Center, rink manager Bill Abel lost about 100 pounds of Freon last year in what he called a typical, slow leak that cost him about $700 to repair with the higher refrigerant prices. Abel intends to convert the two Plymouth rinks still using Freon to an environmentally friendly ammonia system at a cost of $1 million.
Where does he plan to get the money? “That’s a good question,” Abel said. He’s hoping the city or state helps out.
Freon works by changing from a gas to a liquid to a vapor. Ice stays frozen because the chemical pulls heat away from the floor and absorbs it, changing from liquid to vapor as it does the job. Then it goes back through the refrigeration cycle, expels the heat to cool down, turns back into a gas, and is ready to start pulling heat out of the rink floor again.
Craig Flor, president of the Minnesota Ice Arena Manager’s Association, said every industry that uses refrigeration knows about the pending rule changes, it’s just that ice arenas are more affected than, say, grocery or convenience stores. “Most people don’t have a 40-year-old refrigerator anymore,” he said.
Allison Sherry • 202-383-6120