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There are many facets to industrial processes — raw materials, skilled labor, well-designed equipment, and sound methodologies. Optimizing those manufacturing processes requires consistent, reliable feedback on performance efficiency and output quality. Here are several guidelines for implementing continuous monitoring to keep process integrity at optimum levels.
Regardless of the industry — pharmaceutical, biotech, chemical or petrochemical production, pulp and paper, food and beverage, semiconductor, plating, or other manufacturing process — knowledge gained from monitoring changing water properties offers multiple performance and cost advantages:
Both laboratory and online analyzer options can deliver satisfactory readings at a particular point in time. The value of online monitoring vs. grab sampling, however, can have a big impact on the ability to adapt to process changes more quickly, particularly where supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems can respond automatically to changes in water quality readings.
Whatever the industry application, monitoring water quality at the source — surface water, groundwater, recycled water, or municipal supply — has impacts throughout the process (Figure 1). For example, surface water quality can be highly variable based on the time of year or a storm event, making organics monitoring a high priority.
Even if organics are not a concern with water entering the plant, they could be a concern if the nature of the industrial process ends up creating higher than allowable organics content going out in the wastewater effluent.
Figure 1. Process optimization benefits from water quality monitoring at multiple points throughout the process — from source water intake, to heating/cooling processes, to wastewater effluent.
Part of optimizing production processes includes keeping boiler water chemistries under control to minimize issues that can lead to unnecessary and costly maintenance or downtime. Both lab analysis and test kits offer multiple ways to track boiler water composition, but online monitoring provides the most timely information for quick reaction and informed decisions that can keep emerging problems in check and keep operating efficiency high.
Figure 2. Continuously tracking boiler feedwater and condensate conditions aids in maintaining optimum use of water treatment chemicals.
The challenges are numerous — corrosion, scaling, fouling, microbial growth, iron, hardness — but with appropriate monitoring and treatment options, they are manageable. Accurate, online monitoring of characteristics such as dissolved oxygen (DO), pH, conductivity/total dissolved solids (TDS), oxidation-reduction potential (ORP), total organic carbon (TOC), and hydrazine/oxygen scavengers can signal the need for preventative or remedial actions to protect boiler operations (Figure 2).
Continuous online monitoring of those critical characteristics helps to keep processes running at optimum levels by identifying problematic conditions before they result in an upset condition. Condensate-return monitoring can provide early detection of condenser leaks, allowing operators to divert the minimum volume of contaminated water to waste to prevent upset conditions. This capability minimizes loss of expensive water-conditioning and rust-inhibitor additives in the contaminated water and reduces chemical treatment costs for the makeup water.
Cooling water systems face a variety of process efficiency challenges related to physical blockages or poor heat transfer characteristics. Nutrients, solids, and minerals in that environment combine to create efficiency-robbing conditions. Timely monitoring (Figure 3) can help:
Figure 3. Continuous monitoring of cooling water systems promotes efficient operation and minimizes product losses in the event of cross-contamination leaks.
After optimizing water quality throughout an industrial process, wastewater analytics create a final opportunity to optimize the cost and effort of maintaining regulatory compliance. Online analyzers for conductivity, nutrients, TOC, TSS, pH, turbidity, hardness and other attributes provide the insights needed to identify hidden product losses and fine-tune wastewater treatment processes.
Keeping biological wastewater treatment processes active and efficient typically requires maintaining the balance among carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus in the waste stream for an appropriate food-to-microorganism (F/M) ratio. This is another area where continuous monitoring pays dividends in terms of real-time data that enables small adjustments to be made before a situation drifts out of control. Maintaining the ideal balances without excessive costs or labor helps to stretch budgets without compromising process quality, efficiency, or profitability and without risking costly penalties for non-compliance.
Hach has a complete portfolio of instruments and chemistries with support and services to help you get the right results.