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Artificial ground freezing (AGF) is a process used to strengthen soil and rock by freezing trapped pore water. Freezing is accomplished by pumping calcium chloride brine, chilled to approximately – 30˚C in ammonia refrigeration plants, through heat exchangers drilled into the ground. A knowledge gap exists in the field of AGF regarding the relationship between the performance of the refrigeration plants and the ground heat removal process. The coupling of these two aspects of AGF requires knowledge of the plant’s refrigeration capacity as a function of many factors; the most important of which is the temperature of the brine returning from the freeze pipes. However, refrigeration plant manufacturers do not provide sufficient information about the plant’s performance as a function of brine temperature. Typically, AGF plants are only rated at one operating point due to the impracticality in experimentally rating such large plants and the lack of any standard test methods. Refrigeration system models available in the existing literature do not emulate the compressor control system responsible for preventing compressor overloading. Therefore, the goal of this research is to develop a model that can predict the performance of an AGF refrigeration plant over a range of operating points, using plant specifications that are readily available in the documentation provided by the manufacturer of the plant. To fill the knowledge gap, a thermodynamic model is developed of an existing 1500 TR AGF plant at Cameco’s Cigar Lake mine. The Cigar Lake plant uses flooded shell-and-tube evaporators, two-stage economized twin screw compressors, and air cooled condensers packaged into five refrigeration modules. Each component in the system, including the evaporator, compressor, and condenser, is modeled individually, and then the individual models are combined to calculate the overall system capacity. The model emulates the behavior of the compressor’s slide valves, which are used to limit the plant capacity, limit suction pressure, control intermediate pressure, and control the discharge pressures in the system. In addition, the model accounts for the effects of the oil injection into the screw compressors, which cools the compressors and seals the spaces between the lobes of the compressor rotors. The model is validated using operating data from the Cigar Lake plant, which was collected over a period of eight months by plant operators. After calibration, the modeled plant capacities and the temperature of the brine leaving the refrigeration plant are found to be in agreement with the measured capacities and brine temperatures. The overall plant capacity results match measured capacities within ±14%, and the predicted brine temperatures match the measured values leaving the plant within ±5%. The modeled capacities match the measured capacities within the uncertainty in the measured data. The simulation of the Cigar Lake plant demonstrates that the performance of the plant is highly dependent upon the temperature of the brine returning to the plant. For example, a ±10% change in brine temperature causes a 22% overall change in the capacity of the refrigeration plant. The simulation also demonstrates that, even with the plant’s air cooled condensers, changes in the ambient temperature have little effect on the performance of the plant with the existing equipment. Furthermore, the results show that the selected suction pressure of the second compression stage, or intermediate pressure, affects the performance of the refrigeration plant. These findings lead to important plant performance optimization opportunities. An optimization study using the model demonstrates that, by selecting a lower intermediate temperature than what the existing literature suggests, an improvement in overall refrigeration plant capacity of 3% can be achieved. Additional simulations identify the brine tank, which allows for different brine flow rates to exist on the field and plant side of the tank, as an inefficient component in the system. The brine tank not only cools the brine returning from the field before it is pumped to the refrigeration modules but it allows heat to be transferred between the warm and cold brine. By eliminating the tank, plumbing all of the refrigeration modules in parallel, and installing appropriately sized evaporators, the capacity of the refrigeration plant can be increased by 17%. Further capacity gains can be realized by upgrading the evaporators to increase their capacity.



Artificial Ground Freezing, Refrigeration, Industrial Refrigeration, Modeling, Simulation, Mining, Soil freezing.



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering


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