Understanding Process Cooling

Process cooling is a critical requirement for cooling, refrigeration, heat extraction, and maintaining temperature during manufacturing or other processes. Process cooling systems are used in a variety of industries including petrochemical, pharmaceutical, food and beverage, plastics, and healthcare. Various systems operate at a wide range of temperatures – high, medium, low, or ultra-low – depending on the desired result.

One of the most widely used process cooling systems is the 5C/41F used for most process air handlers, isolators, down flow booths, walk-in boxes and process heat exchangers. These systems typically operate at plus or minus one degree of set point. Because they are used in many critical applications, they are usually commissioned and validated.

Process cooling systems run year-round. Depending on their criticality, they are often safeguarded by redundant chillers and pumps and emergency power. They usually have a 10% high-grade glycol mix as well as sophisticated instrumentation to monitor pressure, flow, and temperature.

Low-temperature process cooling systems are used in a wide variety of applications such as lyophilization, or freeze-drying, liquid nitrogen freezers or heat exchangers, and MRI equipment, whose superconductor magnets must be cooled to -200c to -600c for maximum performance. For ultra-low temperature requirements, cryogenic chiller technology, which uses liquid nitrogen or helium for cooling, is often used. Other uses for low- and ultra-low temperature process cooling include freezing food, blood and cell storage, and underground power transmission. These systems require specialty chillers, piping, instruments, and insulation because of the extreme cold and its effects on materials.

As opposed to comfort cooling, process cooling requires an advanced skill set and understanding, not only for the differing temperatures and physics behind the technology but for the refrigeration knowledge of low discharge and suction parameters required to achieve low temperatures. MSC got its start in process cooling for vapor recovery systems in the petrochemical industry over thirty-five years ago, and our technicians are exceptionally well-versed and experienced in this area.