Central Cooling Question

Over the weekend I had a chance to tour a large central chiller plant at a university. They had several electrically driven chillers with centrifugal compressors. It was all very high tech with variable speed drive. I don't know what ultimately went to motors but a lot of gear was labeled 4160 volts.
H134a was the refrigerant. (I was somehow expecting something else with centrifguals.)
Curious if anyone has ever done central cooling whether for multiple buildings or even just one building where they send out liquid refrigerant and have a suction line as the return. I suppose the cost of refrigerant would make this costly especially if there is a leak but it would give the benefit of the liquid to gas state change (think steam heat vs. hot water) so less to pump around and maybe less wasted cooling along the way. Could such a thing even work?
PS: I knew they operated compressor-type chillers before I went there but still would have been more interested in absorption chillers as making cold with heat is, well, cool.
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On Monday, October 16, 2017 at 11:29:52 AM UTC-4, Steve Kraus wrote:

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Very bad idea. We've done DX systems on smaller buildings and it hasn't be en great. The problem is the refrigerant coil needs the right load to work , and in a big building that just isn't happening enough of the time. Much easier to send chilled water through a 3-way valve.
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