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Handbook of Industrial Membrane Technology

Handbook of Industrial Membrane Technology

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Published by Masha Nikolova

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Published by: Masha Nikolova on Jan 29, 2012
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The preceding example of a reverse osmosis industrial application at a re-
finery showed that the process is capable of:

(1) treating a feedwater with high suspended solids and dissolved sol-
ids concentrations;

(2) reclaiming a water that is considered by most as unusable; and

(3) developing a number of process streams with different quality

Reverse osmosis also has been used to treat municipal water supplies for in-
dustrial purposes even though these supplies are generally low in turbidity, sus-
pended solids and dissolved solids. A large number of reverse osmosis systems
have been installed in industrial plants to prepare industrial process water with
municipal water as the feed source. A significant number of these industrial ap-
plications are to either replace ion exchange demineralization or to pretreat
municipal supplies prior to ion exchange demineralization.
Reverse osmosis systems now commercially available will remove 95% or
more of the dissolved solids normally removed in ion exchange, and as will be
discussed later, a few that are not. The ionized solutes are not all removed to
the same degree by reverse osmosis any more than ion exchange resins have the
same effect on all solutes. Divalent and multivalent ions, such as calcium, mag
nesium, sulfate, iron and manganese, can be rejected to greater than 99%. So-

Reverse Osmosis 297

dium, potassium and chloride are normally rejected to the 95% level or better.
The net effect is to reduce the number of regenerations required of the ion ex-
change columns by a factor of 20 or more. This results in a significant reduc-
tion in the amount of waste regenerant solutions that must be disposed of and
a material reduction in the dissolved solids that might normally be discharged
to the environment. A concentrate or reject is produced by reverse osmosis,
but there is little change in the environmental salt budget. Concommitant re-
sults are a major decrease in the space and equipment necessary for regenerant
storage and an extension of the useful life of the resins, owing to reduced resin
attrition. In addition, substances difficult to remove from the resin, which also
affect its performance, are greatly reduced or are removed by reverse osmosis

When reverse osmosis is used for preliminary demineralization, the variation
in the quality of the ion exchange demineralized water is reduced. The amount
of dissolved solids in the feed to the ion exchange beds is 5% or less than when
the raw water is fed directly. It is, therefore, obvious that the variation in solids
in the finished water will also be less when breakthrough occurs. As a result,
the resins may be utilized more efficiently. Additional reliability and control
can be gained by measuring the solids concentration following reverse osmosis
treatment. This precaution virtually eliminates shock loadings on mixed bed
polishing columns. Where small point of use polishing columns are used, such
as in microelectronics manufacturing, the danger of a rapid breakthrough be-
comes considerably reduced, and there is an improvement in production and
product quality.

An important factor to be remembered is that in some cases water supplies
unsatisfactory for processing to high purity water may be the only sources avail-
able. Preliminary demineralization by reverse osmosis will make this water suit-
able for subsequent demineralization by ion exchange. It is thus apparent that
such an economically important factor as plant site location, which may be de-
pendent on the availability of suitable water, can be made more flexible through
the use of reverse osmosis. It may be possible now to utilize seawater as a source
of industrial process water.
During the 1960’s, reverse osmosis was compared with other methods of
demineralization. It was indicated in these comparisons that reverse osmosis
could not compete favorably with ion exchange at dissolved solids concentra-
tions below 700 mg/P and that its most favorable area of use would be from
about 1,200 to 5,000 mg/Q dissolved solids. This idea has been totally refuted
because some of the most successful applications of reverse osmosis, particularly
as part of the process to produce high purity water, have been in treating low
dissolved solids water. Water containing 200 mg/Q dissolved solids or less has
been treated at costs equal to or lower than those of ion exchange alone.
Two substances that are frequently of concern in ion exchange demineraliz-
ation are silica and organics. The organics are frequently present in natural wa-
ters as aromatic polycarboxylic acid derivatives known as humic and fulvic acids.
Silica may be the limiting factor in the efficiency of the anionic resins, and (par-
ticularly in boiler feedwater applications) the lower the concentration before
ion exchange demineralization, the better. Reverse osmosis will frequently pro-
duce 90% or greater reductions in total silica concentrations. However, perform-
ance should be tested on the specific water to be treated since me results can be
variable and the reason for differences between waters is not yet understood.

298 Handbook of industrial Membrane Technology

Where the silica concentrations in the raw water are high, reverse osmosis has
been most effective. Even in trace quantities, humic and fulvic acids have been
responsible for impairing the life of anionic resins and affecting performance of
ion exchange columns. These organics are readily removed by reverse osmosis

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