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Cover Story

Estimating the Total Cost of

Cartridge and Bag Filtration
When changeout and disposal costs are added to the purchase cost of filters,
the total cost of disposable filters can more than quadruple. A proven method of
reducing total life-cycle cost is larger surface-area filters
Frank Buehner
Filtration Technology Corp.

ag filters for industrial applica-
tions have been in existence lon-
ger and are considered by some
to be easier and simpler to spec-
ify than cartridges for a filtration proj-
ect. And although cartridge filtration
is now one of the mostly widely used
filtration technologies in the chemical
process industries (CPI), it is not al-
ways the first choice.
How does one decide which filtra-
tion method should be used? Like any
other technology choice, this decision
is based upon the strengths and weak-
nesses of the two options. Figure 1. The dirt holding capacity of #2 bag filters varies, and is largely depen-
dent on filter surface area
There are many factors an engi-
neer should consider when choosing changeout (MTBC) costs, and (f) dis- • Solids concentration and solids
a filtration system. So when does one posal costs. This article outlines basic characteristics
specify a cartridge filter instead of a design issues, discusses selection • Fluid viscosity, density, specific grav-
bag filter? What are the basic differ- considerations, and presents a cradle- ity, pH, volatility, hazards
ences between the two? How does one to-grave cost analysis of bag and car- • Changeout requirements, frequency
determine filter life for either type? tridge filtration. • Instrumentation, safety and dis-
Often the lack of a logical approach to posal issues
liquid filtration design leads engineers Design factors • Costs of hardware, filters, mainte-
down a “what did we do the last time” Even before selection decisions are nance, disposal
approach instead of determining criti- made, there is a need to address two Important design steps include the
cal properties, such as the total dirt- important criteria: the chemical and following:
holding capacity, filter life, filter sur- physical compositions of the feedstock • Determine stream composition,
face area, flowrates, and other factors. stream going into the filter; and the flowrate and temperature
Schooling in this unit operation is not quality and specification of the de- • Calculate total solids per day removal,
a common university practice, and the sired exit liquid. know total suspended solids (TSS)
lack of ASTM standards, for instance, Other important design consider- and particle size distribution (PSD)
regarding filtration test procedures ations include the following: • Set flux rate (0.5 gal/ft2/min for
and specification of filters adds to sys- • Process specifications (metal- pleated cartridges and bags; 60–120
tem under- or over-design. lurgy, temperature, pressure and gal/min/bag for regular bags)
Besides the capital costs of a filter, instrumentation) • Determine total surface area
there are additional factors that affect • Footprint, weight, clearance • Determine bag or cartridge
overall filtration economics, namely: • Filter flux rate • Calculate best fit (number and size
(a) design considerations and options, • Filter surface area, length, diameter, of filters required)
(b) process requirements, (c) mainte- design type • Calculate number of vessels required
nance requirements, (d) maintenance • Filter type (bag, cartridge, other) • Calculate total pressure drop (clean
procedures, (e) mean-time-between- • Flowrate and pump requirements and fouled)
34 Chemical Engineering October 2009
Figure 2. Cartridge filters are available in various lengths Figure 3. Shown here are a deep-pleat corrugated design
and materials of construction (left) and the flow channels and chambers of high capacity filters

• Modify design to minimize change- method and materials of construction (MTBR), and, this kind of filter will
out frequency require the design engineer to consult easily offer economic advantages when
• Design vessel layout; then optimize the vendor’s data sheet for specific run until it reaches its maximum dirt-
• Calculate volume and weight of waste flowrates and pressure-drop data. holding capacity. The high capacity
filter pays for itself and, in some criti-
Bag filters Cartridge filters cal services (such as amine purifica-
Bag filters come in various configura- Cartridge filters are available in vari- tion loops in sulfur-removal plants),
tions and materials of construction. ous lengths and materials of construc- one high capacity unit can replace
A bag filter usually has inlet flow tion (Figure 2). as many as 200 standard, 2.5-in. car-
through the top of the filter and exit A cartridge filter’s flow is in the oppo- tridges (see box on p. 39). Traditional
flow along the sides and bottom. A site direction of a bag filter — from the single or multilayer bag filters cannot
metal or plastic perforated basket in outside in. This requires that the con- approach the dirt holding capacity of a
the filter vessel keeps the bag from ex- struction of a cartridge filter be strong high-capacity pleated cartridge or bag
panding outwards from flow pressure enough to have a core with a high burst filter, so we must continue this study
as the filter fills. The typical, maxi- strength and does not rely on the filter examining pleated media filters only.
mum fouling pressure for bag filters is vessel itself for compression strength. Available worldwide from a number
25 psi. With a typical fabric bag filter Filter alignment rods, either tempo- of vendors, high capacity filters are
containing 4.0–4.4 ft2 of surface area, rary or permanent, are usually in- pleated and are made from several
the dirt holding capacity of a bag filter cluded with a cartridge vessel to assist types of filter media and pore sizes
varies gradually as the construction with installation and removal. These in order to maximize dirt-holding ca-
moves from a mesh or felt, single or alignment rods allow the filter to slide pacity. Employing the available op-
multilayer construction, to a pleated and be guided over a rod or shaft and tions of high surface area, materials of
bag, which looks similar to a cartridge become increasingly important to sup- construction, and filter efficiency, the
filter. The reason for the dramatic in- port the filter and help with changeout high capacity cartridge can handle a
crease in dirt holding capacity is filter if the filter vessel is horizontal or on an wide variety of fluids at various tem-
surface area (Figure 1). The surface angle. Orientation of the cartridge filter peratures. The technology utilizes ei-
area of pleated bags jump dramati- vessel can be based upon available plot ther an optimized deep-pleat design
cally from 4.4 ft2 for standard single area or the need to reduce the physical (Figure 3, left) or a continuous pleat
or multilayer construction to 30–60 ft2 height of long-length cartridge vessels employing a series of segregated flow
for pleated construction. to help with access during removal, re- channels and flow chambers (Figure 3,
For bag filters, maximum flowrates, placement, and aid with liquid drain- right) to improve the alpha factor (de-
dirt holding capacity, and materials age before filter changeout. scribed below).
of construction and style (microfiber, Cartridge filters are available in A close analysis of the high-capacity,
mesh, felt, needled felt, binder res- much larger sizes (length and diam- filter-flow channels and flow chambers
ins, finish coatings/glazing, seams or eter) than bag filters, and different de- reveals that improved filterability and
seamless, and cap seal) vary widely signs allow filters to have much higher particle removal capabilities are di-
by manufacturer. The design of the surface areas (and dirt holding capaci- rectly related to the increased amount
bag and materials of construction ties). Single 2.5-in.  40-in. pleated car- of filter-surface-area that is available
control the surface area, dirt holding tridges contain from 5 to 9 ft2 of surface with these high capacity units. The
capacity, and maximum flowrates the area per cartridge depending upon the improvement of dirt holding capac-
filter can withstand. A long used rule number of pleats the manufacturer ity is shown in Table 1. These results
of thumb employs an estimate of 100 uses. In comparison, a 20-in.-dia., identify the dirt holding capacities of
gal/min per bag for a full-sized 4.4-ft2, 40-in.-long cartridge filter can contain the filters employing seven types of
surface area, 9–10 oz., 100-micron up to 1,100 ft2 of surface area. test dust from 1 to 70 microns. The de-
nominal-rated felt bag. Vessel inlet sign of a pleated bag is accomplished
velocity is usually limited to an 8–10 High capacity filter cartridges by reversing the pleat pack as shown
ft/s maximum range. As the bag be- Today’s more-efficient filter cartridges in Figure 3, for flow from the inside to
comes tighter, flowrates drop to 85 gal/ are often referred to as high capacity the outside of the filter and employing
min and then to 40 gal/min or less per filters. They offer improved MTBC the bag filter basket as a filter expan-
bag. The manufacturer’s production and mean time between replacement sion control device.
Chemical Engineering October 2009 35
Table 3. Monthly operating Parameters and
Yearly Operating Costs
(36-in I.D. vessel, contaminate load = 72 lb/mo)
Cover Story Monthly operating String Pleated Platinum, Platinum,
parameters wound filter 6.25-in. O.D. 12.75-in.
Housing depreciation, $ 400.00 400.00 400.00 400.00
TABLE 1. Dirt Holding Capacities-
Cartridge Filters Filter quantity 120 120 19 5

(2.5-in. O.D. x 40-in. length) Filter price, $ 7.00 44.00 266.00 1,053.00

String wound filters 0.3 lb nominal filter Pounds of dirt per filter 0.30 2.0 18.0 100

Spun bonded filters 1.0 lb nominal filter Change outs per month 2 0.3 0.20 0.15

Pleated media filters 2.0 lb absolute filter Change out time, h 4 4 2 1

(6.25-in. O.D. x 40-in.length) Labor cost, $/h 30.00 30.00 30.00 30.00

Pleated media filter 18 lb absolute filter Disposal cost, $/filter 1.00 1.00 15.00 60.00

(12.00 -in. O.D. x 40-in. length) Yealy operating costs, $

Pleated media filter 100 lb absolute filter Depreciation 4,800 4,800 4,800 4,800

(20.00-in. O.D. x 40-in. length) Filter cost 20,160 19,000 12,129 9,477

Pleated media filter 300 lb absolute filter Labor cost 5,760 864 720 360
Disposal cost 2,880 432 684 540
Table 2. Design considerations Total cost 35,600 25,096 18,333 15,177
Filter media temperature limitations Alpha factor (Å) 23.3 22.0 14.8 10.5
Polypropylene Max: 180ºF
Polyester Max: 270ºF
Bag versus cartridge filters otic materials, such as Viton, Cal-Rez,
Fiberglass Max: 270ºF
Now, the question of bag versus TEV, or Teflon are required.
Cellulose Max: 385ºF
cartridge filter is addressed. Maximum dirty pressure drop (DP)
Metal Max: 550ºF
Bag filter considerations. An for pleated bag filters is also 25 psi
often overlooked consideration is to avoid extrusion or destruction, or
Filter temperature and chemical compatibility
considerations that non-pleated bag filters may both. In some cases, the dirt can act as
Not only filter media but also cap, gasket, cores, extrude into the vessel basket a filter cake and allow for longer filter
webbing, netting, and joining materials. holes making removal time con- life and dirt holding capacity for both
suming and ripping more likely. pleated and non-pleated designs.
Holding vessels Not only can maintenance personnel Cartridge filter considerations.
The vessels that hold bag (Figure 4) and have a problem but robotic equipment Flow is outside-in requiring strong
cartridge (Figure 5) filters are designed cannot operate efficiently when this core cages to handle the pressure drop
to hold single or multiple bags and car- situation exists. through the filter without crushing it.
tridges. These vessels can obviously be- Each bag vessel manufacturer has Common end-cap designs include 222,
come quite large, and their footprints slightly different sealing and seating 226, 335, and 339 double O-rings and a
can take up large parcels of valuable features that may require that a vari- variety of builtin end-cap compression
real estate. Weight can also be an issue ety of filters be stocked for each vessel devices that are used to ensure a 100%
for offshore platforms and where ves- type in a facility, even if the design pa- seal in the vessel receiver. Cartridge
sels are elevated in the deck structure. rameters are the same. Absolute rated, filters can be built with metal end caps
Design and process engineers must high-efficiency bag filters, are avail- and other high-temperature (450°F),
recognize that both the filter housing able in multi-layer non-pleated con- solvent-resistant materials. The O-
and the pump size are dictated by the struction. Filter hold-down devices are rings employed on a cartridge filter are
desired flowrates, pressure drop limi- available to assist with filter sealing, smaller in diameter than those on bag
tations and the required level of filtra- and many vessel manufacturers have filters, reducing costs when exotic O-
tion (micron size of the particles that devised proprietary locking or snap-in ring materials are required. Cartridge
must be removed). The recommended systems. The 7.25–7.5-in. dia. inlet for filters can be built with very large sur-
flow capacity of the filter element is bag filters require large diameter ves- face areas and dirt holding capacities.
used to determine the total number of sels or multiple vessels for large flow- Maximum dirty DP for a cartridge fil-
cartridges required. rates. The bag filter tubesheet must be ter is normally 35 psig, but can be in-
Housing size must be synergistic designed to withstand pressure and creased by designing the core to handle
with filter size, and if absolutely no temperature fluctuations to eliminate higher pressures. Cartridge filters can
downtime can be tolerated, then par- warping. Newer fabrics and methods incorporate cores of oil absorbent ma-
allel filters (sized to handle the total of construction allow the use of single, terials and internal flow chambers to
flowrate of the processing line or the multilayer, and pleated bag filters up to offer unique high-volume, oil-absorp-
effluent line) should be considered. In 385°F (Table 2). Pleated-bag-filter caps tion features and also improve uniform
doing so, footprint and overhead spac- cannot always be economically fabri- flow in large diameter filters to ensure
ing are both important — particularly cated of metal to fit all bag vessels for that the surface area is “effective”.
overhead spacing if a mechanical lift high temperature applications. Nylon, Employing corrugated media and
is used to remove the element from fiberglass, acetyl (polyoxymethylene), metal cages, filter lengths of 80 in.
the vessel. Another approach is to and other plastics can extend the tem- and longer with diameters of 20 in.
employ horizontal filter vessels with perature range beyond polypropylene are available. However, original car-
single or multiple filters up to 80-in. (PP). For pleated bag filters, the O-ring tridge filter designs, and those in
long. These vessels can be loaded and cap seal or gasket is large in diameter, service today are largely based on
unloaded without a mechanical lift. and that cost must be considered if ex- 2.5-in.-dia. filters. This means that to
36 Chemical Engineering October 2009
Figure 4. Figure 5.
Shown here This car-
is a typical tridge filter
bag-filter (left) and its
housing with housing has
a capacity of a capacity of
150 gal/min 150 gal/min

handle large flowrates, vessels con- petitors’ product data sheets to obtain ciency equates to a beta ratio of 5,000.
taining 50–250 or more cartridges the information needed. In contrast, a 99% efficiency filter has
per vessel are employed in petroleum a beta ratio of 100. The engineer can
refineries and chemical plants. Car- Beta ratios now describe the differences in filters in
tridge filters can be arranged in se- The tried and true use of efficiency as easy to understand terms: a beta 5,000
ries to increase surface area and dirt a percent is difficult to understand and filter will only pass 1 particle in 5,000
holding capacity. explain to purchasing or management greater than 2 microns. A beta 100 filter
who wants to know why a 99.98% effi- will pass 1 in 100 particles greater than
Filter changeout ciency filter may be significantly higher 2 microns. So, while percent efficiency is
Liquid holdup in the filter itself and in price than a 99% filter. A simple-to- typically what is published in the litera-
in the filter vessel must be considered calculate parameter, called the beta ture or on a data sheet, the beta ratio
in design. The vessel will normally be ratio (see box on p. 40), is much easier better describes what is happening.
blown-down with nitrogen or air or to understand (and explain) and can
employ pumps to remove liquid from eliminate a host of uncertainties. Nominal versus absolute rating
the vessel prior to filter changeout. As an example, consider a filter with The absolute rating of a filter is the
The value and type of fluid will de- an absolute efficiency rating of 99.98% diameter (in µm) of the largest par-
termine the most economical method at 2 microns. Performing the simple ticle that will pass through the filter
of removing the fluid. Hot fluids and calculation, we find that a 99.98% effi- (roughly, the pore size). In contrast,
those that might vaporize may require
a cool-down time, which adds to the
cost of the changeout. Some vessels
may require a steam-out or vacuum
system to remove hazardous fluids and Where the Know-how is
vapors prior to opening the vessel. In

some systems the contaminant may be
pyrophoric so additional safety issues
regarding handling and disposing of
spent filters must be considered. SEPARATION OF GLYCERIN FROM BIODIESEL
Flow rate 2 x 40 gal/min.
Filter efficiency Highest separation efficiency
A filter has an optimum flowrate to No operating costs
maximize dirt holding. One can push
a filter to higher flowrates, but the
dirt holding capacity will decrease as
shown in Figure 6. By knowing the fil-
ter surface area (in this case, 94–115
ft2) and varying the media micron size
and the recommended flux (usually op-
timized at 0.50 gal/ft2/min) for pleated
cartridges, the dirt holding capacity of
the system can be maximized.
Some filter manufacturers do not
wish to disclose dirt holding capacities
or filter surface area. This can be due
to competitive pressures to keep this As a worldwide supplier of HIGH-QUALITY SEPARATION PLANTS we stand for:
information secret or the lack of a full- • Outstanding process technology & cost-saving solutions
scale, test flow loop that validates the • Long standing technology experience with over 700 units installed worldwide
dirt holding capacity of the filter. Fil- • Customized all-in solutions supplied by one partner
• Own Research & Development Department & pilot plants
ter data sheets are notorious for their
lack of critical information and may For additional information please contact: FRANKEN FILTERTECHNIK KG, Germany
require careful inspection and phone Phone: +49 (0) 2233 974 40-0, e-mail: info@franken, web: www.franken
calls, examining the fine print or com-
Circle 26 on p. 66 or go to
Chemical Engineering October 2009 37

Water and silica test dust Water and silica test dust
Cover Story @ 40 gal/min @ 80 gal/min
Surface area Surface area

Dirt holding capacity, lb

Dirt holding capacity, lb
20 20
94–115 ft2 94 –115 ft2
16 16
the nominal rating of a filter is an ar-
bitrary value determined by the man- 12 12

ufacturer, and is expressed in terms of









8 8
percentage retention (normally 90, 95
or 98 wt.%) of a specific contaminant 4 4
of a given size.
Most nominal-rated filters are found 0 0
Micron rating @99.98% (Beta 5000) Micron rating @99.98% (Beta 5000)
in single-layer bag filters and car-
*Data for 6.15-in. x 40-in. cartridge Polypropylene media
tridge filters employing coiled string
or media that does not have a uniform Figure 6. A filter has an optimal flowrate to maximize the dirt holding capacity.
pore size, a large average pore size, or Doubling the flowrate (right) reduces the dirt holding capacity (left)
if the media can move during filtration
(not-fixed in location by binders or of flowrate is decreased due to clogging, fects bottom line production income by
uniform pore size), so its efficiency rat- so the purpose of the dust is to eventu- as much as $10,000/h or more. While
ing is not uniform from filter to filter or ally blind-off the pores of the filters. batch operations have more flexibility,
within the same filter or is low in the Certainly, the engineer needs to the choice of the filter is still a major
ability to reproduce uniform tests of ef- know a filter’s dirt holding capacity concern. Potential product sitting in
ficiency and must be averaged to report for various micron ranges to design holding tanks that cannot be shipped
a result. Nominal rated filters are used any filter system. Vendors’ data sheets because the filtrate does not meet qual-
extensively in water and wastewater- should contain this information. The ity control specifications can halt pro-
treatment applications. data must be reliable and reproduc- duction just as in a continuous process.
A nominal filter cannot have a beta- ible. Most manufacturers have flow Up to 70% of a firm’s products may
ratio rating because the tests of nomi- loops and in-house laboratories to test be in a suspension during processing,
nal rated filters are not reproducible their own and competing filters. These and filtration is often used for recov-
under tests that include changes in laboratories can also be of help to the ery of an expensive end-product rather
flowrate and pressure, including pres- engineer by measuring PSDs and than to remove an unwanted contami-
sure surges that can move the media or TSSs from samples from pilot plants nant. In these cases, filtration becomes
dislodge bridged particles that would or similar operations at other loca- the most important of all processes uti-
change the actual pore size. There are tions. For field work, the engineer can lized by many chemical giants.
attempts to relate a nominal rated employ a portable filter-test kit and Consequently, higher efficiency and
filter to an absolute, but the designs turbidity meter to zero in on a filter higher product-holding capacity (in
and materials of construction of the of choice. Knowing the flowrate of the lieu of dirt-holding capacity) is essen-
two different ratings do not allow a stream in question along with the PSS tial to assure profitable operations.
true comparison. Figure 7 shows that and TSS, one can calculate the pounds And, time online becomes even more
even though this filter is rated at 5 of dirt per day by size. In turn, a fil- critical in these situations. It is not
microns, reductions in filtered versus ter meeting the required dirt holding unusual for a return-on-investment
unfiltered particles do not become sig- capacity, while considering changeout (ROI) analysis to include consider-
nificant until after 19 microns. frequency, is then selected. ations for a duplexed system (two par-
Since no ASTM standards exist for allel filters) to service a process line so
Filter testing and sizing filter or media testing (ASTM F-795 that there is never downtime due to
The typical material used to chal- was withdrawn), the engineer must changeout requirements.
lenge test filters is ISO test dust, for- trust the data supplied by the vendor. Even in light of the above, most plant
mally SAE test dust, which comes in Test results and procedures for a sup- managers and many engineers do not
ultrafine, fine, medium, and coarse plier’s filter claiming to be nominal realize that the filtration operation
varieties. Test dust is certainly not a or absolute and of a removal percent can be the most expensive process that
common contaminant, so why use it or specific beta ratio should be made takes place within the production unit,
for filter testing? The answer is that available to the engineer. especially when the filter is handling
although dust itself is not normally a toxic or hazardous (or lethal) materi-
fluid contaminant, it does have prop- Costly shutdowns als, and especially when the employees
erties of two commonly occurring con- Filters used in refineries and petro- have to “suit up” in order to perform
taminants: particulate matter and chemical plants handle very large filter maintenance or replacement.
turbidity; dust can be a source of both. volumes of product or processing flu- Consequently, remaining online is
However, the main purpose of test ids on a continuous basis. Other plant imperative, and that means improving
dust, in terms of liquid filter testing, is operations found throughout the CPI MTBC and MTBR are critical issues
to provide a source of clogging to test are batch. Regardless of whether the in filtration. The subtle difference
mechanical reduction properties of fil- process is batch or continuous, online between MTBR and MTBC is that
ter systems. These mechanical filtra- time is extremely critical to optimize changeout sometimes occurs before a
tion properties are most stringently profitability. Shutting down due to a cartridge is totally full, while replace-
tested when pressure drop is high and filtration problem (or any problem) af- ment optimally occurs when a filter
38 Chemical Engineering October 2009
Different departments´ needs

t the heart of a plant design are the needs and wants of the decision makers in the
flow chain from raw materials in, to finished product out. There are usually conflict-
ing interests that can challenge the filter choice.
For example, the maintenance department wishes to minimize overall costs including
number of filter changeouts, time to changeout, number of filters requiring changeout,
individual filter cost, disposal cost, loss of product due to filter changeouts, and also to
meet plant safety requirements.
The process department requires the quality of the product to meet customer specifica-
tions (specs) or intermediates to meet specs, which ultimately produce a finished product
that meets customer specs. The intermediate streams must be clean as not to foul heat
exchangers, process equipment, and instrument probes. The process engineers usually
have selected several products that meet their specs.
The purchasing department desires a minimum number of vendors that they deal with
and also to minimize the costs of the filters and number of different filters they purchase.
The budget is always tight and purchasing wishes to find alternatives that meet constantly
changing pricing requirements, without intentionally disregarding process specs. The fil-

ter spec may now be secondary or just moved further down the line in importance.
When the maintenance shift begins a changeout, does the process group know what
filter was purchased and if it meets their specs? Were they informed of any changes in
the selection process? Who actually controls what filter ends up in the process stream?
Given different needs and desires within a process plant’s internal structure, what hap-
pens later may not be immediately obvious. Let’s consider a real-life example: an amine
system in a petroleum refinery.
An amine system
The main purpose of an amine system is to remove H2S from the process stream and,
as part of the sulfur unit’s source, carries one of the dirtiest streams in the refinery. This
example amine system is similar to many found around the world. Filtration is limited Ź CONTROLLING
to 10–15% of the circulation stream. Why? The total amine flow circuit can be greater
than 3,500 gal/min. The vessels and equipment to handle 100% of that stream did not
exist in an economical size or cost range 15 years ago. So in this case, we are filtering Ź COOLING
a dirty stream with several filter systems; usually the lean and rich streams, before and
after the carbon bed, and those protecting coalescers. What happens when a filter that
is less expensive and not very efficient at removing particulate matter is is introduced Ź DISCHARGING
into this system?
From outward appearances, all is fine initially and can be for months. Maintenance is
happy because they change filters less often, purchasing is happy because the filters are Ź DRYING
less expensive. But, because the filters are not removing the particles they should, these
build up in the towers, vessels, piping, low points and any other hiding place they can.
All gas plants have surges or an increase in capacity that will fluidize the particles that
have now accumulated in the hundreds of pounds throughout the system and create a
full system upset. When an upset occurs, the filters are quickly fouled and may require
changeouts every 30 min for days or weeks before the system settles down. The finger
pointing begins and consultants are called in, the filter distributor or vendor is called in,
production has halted and the plant manager wants to know what happened? Even if the
plant manager is given the answer, the same situation can happen over and over again.
In truth, a filter that lasts long may be bypassing solids or releasing solids at its capacity
but not performing the job it was intended to do. It looks good on paper but costs in the Ź MIXING
long run. Particulate matter helps create stable foams, and when active corrosion loops
form when pipe passivity is upset by high acid from heavy crudes, filters can quickly foul
from iron carbonate (Siderite). Heat exchangers are fouled requiring increased energy Ź CONVEYING
to the regenerator reboiler, velocities in the towers increase, amine carryover occurs and
trays foul. The system becomes unstable and the sulfur plant upsets.
Fortunately, many plants are replacing or upgrading their amine filtration systems to
handle flows up to 100% of full circulation flowrates. These systems are more stable,
and upsets are shorter in duration. Stable systems still require filters that keep the
system clean. EMDE Industrie-Technik GmbH
What micron range is best for amine systems? Micron ranges for filters range from 10
Koppelheck Ƈ D-56377 Nassau
to 48 microns are in the field with an average at 20 microns for most systems at beta 100
efficiency (99%). ❏ Telephone +49 (0) 26 04-97 03-0 Ƈ
has completely reached its capacity begin with an economic analysis tied
to remove particulate matter, that is,
it has reached its maximum dirt- (or
to the original filter specification.
solids in
product-) holding capacity. But it is Filtration costs
important to recognize that cost-sav- The goal of the filtering process is to
ings associated with improved dirt- obtain the lowest total cost of removing
(or product-) holding capacity should one pound of solids from the system. Circle 27 on p. 66 or go to

Chemical Engineering October 2009 39

20 micron (Absolute)
Upstream particle count at specified size and larger Beta 5,000-rated
Beta ratio = polypropylene cartridges
Downstream particle count at specified size and larger
Filter Dirt-hold- Typical Alpha
The beta ratio (β) at a Beta Filter Each filter element will type ing capac- cost, factor
given particle size can ratio (β) efficiency (%) have a different beta ratio ity, lb dollars
be correlated to the filter for every specified particle 2.5-in. O.D., 2.0 44.00 22.0
efficiency at that particle 100 99.00
size. The determination of pleated
size according to the 1,000 99.90
a variety of beta values for 6.25-in. 18.0 266.00 14.8
following formula: 5,000 99.98 the same filter provides a O.D.,
Filter efficiency (%) = filter efficiency profile com- pleated
[(β-1)/β] x 100% monly referred to as a
12.75-in. 100.0 1,053.00 10.5
beta curve.
5μ 2μ 5μ 10μ 20μ 40μ 70μ
5,000 20.0-in. 300.0 2,829.00 9.43
ß=5,000 pleated
@ 2µ
Beta ratio

1,000 E = Å+ (L + D)/H
500 Influent contains 40 we see that indirect costs are reduced
contains particles/mL
200,000 > 2 microns
as the dirt-holding capacity (H) of the
particles/mL filter increases. Therefore, the alpha
0.5 1 2 5 10 20 50 100
> 2 microns factor becomes the dominant number
Particle size, microns in the equation and overall cost as
shown in Tables 3 and 4.
If we disregard equipment depre- latter two items can dramatically af-
ciation, we can express filtration cost fect total-filtration cost calculations. MTBC and dirt-holding costs
efficiency, E, as the total costs (direct Filter price and dirt holding capac- Both operations and maintenance
and indirect) that are associated with ity are the dominant components in engineers recognize that having
removing one pound of solids from a operating costs, and the ratio of these more on-line time, extended MTBC or
processing stream. Direct cost is the two items defines the alpha factor, Å MTBR, higher efficiency and higher
filter price, P, and indirect costs in- (Å = P/H). With the expression for fil- dirt holding (or product-holding) ca-
clude labor, L, and disposal, D.15.01.2009 16:39
These tration costUhr Seite 1
efficiency, pacity are essential to lower overall

Piecing the puzzle together: on pages 2 to 23

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Circle 29 on p. 66 or go to
40 Chemical Engineering October 2009
Table 5. Comparing filter changeout costs for a
filter using standard 2.5-in. O.D. Cartridges
Non-hazardous service Hazardous or toxic service
Item Basis Cartridge Basis Cartridge
Purchase price of filter(s) Same Same Same Same
Disposal cost $60/drum per $240 $800/drum per $3,200
changeout changeout
Changeout time, h 1h - 8h -
Changeout labor (cost per $30/man, $60 $100/man, $2,400
hour for one person) two men three men
needed needed
Protective clothing Tyvek throw- $30 $10/h $240
away See note #1
Respiratory equipment None - $100/man $300

Oxygen costs None - $100 per man $300

Decontamination expense None - $100 per man $300
Training expense per - $100 $4,500 $4,500
Cost subtotal - $430 - $11,240
Number of changeouts Four change- $1,720 $44,960
outs per year Total annual Total annual
cost cost
(non-hazard- (hazardous)
NOTE #1: Protective clothing is as much as $500/h in lethal service
NOTE #2: All dollars are U.S. (2008)

filtration costs. This is especially Disposal costs

true when the filter is handling toxic Let’s consider the saving discussed
or hazardous (or lethal) materials. above in light of what is happening in
This article cannot discuss all of the real world with a discussion of fil-
the requirements of regulating bod- ter disposal.
ies, but, when filter changeout must Case 1. First consider a specialty
include suiting up and breathing chemical manufacturer that is located
protection tied to opening a ves- on the Houston Ship Channel. This
sel and handling the filters, filter company handles various petrochemi-
changeout costs can skyrocket. As cals starting with C4 compounds and
shown in Table 5, these costs can go higher with almost all filtration oper-
far beyond the simple purchase price ations considered hazardous (flamma-
of the filter itself. ble). The filter most commonly used
Some hazardous chemicals (for ex- in the plant is a standard cartridge
ample, bromine compounds that re- (2.5-in. O.D.). In the disposal effort,
lease Br2 fumes) can require a team about 60 of these filters fit into a stan-
of three people to work the change- dard 55-gal drum.
out, and each of these personnel may To avoid having to send these fil-
have to undergo annual training (40 ters to incineration or to a hazard-
h) at a cost to the company (or cost to ous waste disposal site, management
service companies who may be called chose to neutralize the used filters by
in to handle a hazardous work proj- a process known as fixation. That way,
ect). Training is estimated at a mini- the filters can leave the plant classi-
mum of $6,000/yr per person. fied as a non-hazardous waste. The
Assuming a typical MTBC of three disposal cost of a drum of these used
months (that is, changing out the fil- filters is $60. So, the disposal cost can
ters four times a year), one might se- be considered as $1.00 per filter.
lect a filter that will reduce the num- If one considers the total cost of fil-
ber of changeouts down to one per ter disposal, the company must also
year, which would result is a savings address the time and economics of fix-
of $33,720/yr. There can also be a sav- ation. In this case, the fixation agent
ing in the actual costs of the filters. is flyash. Some companies following
One can compare filters using only a similar disposal ethic, use lime or
the basic, actual, annualized costs other agents that can effectively tie up
(no training or other costs) compar- the hazardous materials via oxidation
ing non-hazardous versus hazardous or neutralization, and the filters may
operation. The saving when using have to be cut up or shredded in order
high-surface-area filters for toxic, to attain the desired level of fixation.
hazard or lethal service is very sig- Fixation itself can be a concern;
Circle 28 on p. 66 or go to
nificant. one environmental engineer suggests
Chemical Engineering October 2009 41
Table 6: Disposal Cost for a typical U.S. Gulf Coast Refinery
Waste classification Comments and costs
Non-hazardous Class 2 or 3 Industrial waste (Texas)
Cover Story NA due to high TPH Must be less than 1,500 ppm
Non-hazardous Class 1 Industrial waste (Texas) $180/drum
Hazardous Debris that meets LDR for direct burial into landfill $2,000
Hazardous Debris that must be treated using an immobilization technology
that the process can become so hot prior to landfill $3,200 to $4,200 per drum
that one might actually see a blue Codes and Acronyms: NA Not applicable LDR Land disposal restrictions
flame emitted from fixated drums. TPH Total petroleum hydrocarbons in parts per million (ppm)
(The drums used are usually open-
top drums that allow for easy entry of (below) are based on approximately 20 strict in respect to the MSDS (Mate-
the used filters). yd3 (one rolloff container) and are for rial Safety Data Sheet) taking a close
In light of the above, consulting en- the disposal cost only. Other change- look at flammability, toxicity and
gineers have addressed the cost issues out costs are similar to the numbers heavy metals. Personal protective
by suggesting the following: found in Table 6. equipment will be utilized to be on the
• It takes one man-day to remove the Land Disposal Restrictions are set safe side. Levels of safety (for exam-
filters from their vessel and to gather by the U.S. Environmental Protection ple, either A, B, C or D will be dictated
the filters into a location in order to Agency (EPA) and are usually part of by either NIOSH, OSHA or the EPA).
cut into pieces or shred them a State Implementation Plan (SIP). Level “A” personnel will cost $850 per
• There is a cost for receiving and These restrictions (sometimes pub- shift per person. Tyvek clothing will
handling the flyash lished as guidelines) must be met in be worn (then thrown away) — a typi-
• There is a footprint cost for the pro- order to place a hazardous waste into a cal cost for that uniform can be $50.
cessing area as well as a storage hazardous waste landfill. If the waste Even simple jobs that are non-haz-
cost for flyash (or whatever is used does not meet that standard or cannot ardous are billed at $70–90/h per in-
to fixate) be treated to meet the standards, then dividual. It is not unusual that safety
• Protective clothing must be worn, an alternative must be used, such as or risk assessment managers will be
and if the filters contain benzene, incineration or thermal desorption. required to sign off on a plant’s filter
one must suit up to avoid exposure These latter options are often much disposal procedures.
• There is processing time to cut up more expensive than using a landfill. A service provider is expensive.
or shred the filter, add the flyash, Transportation costs are becoming Even non-emergency fee schedules
assure neutralization and load the more and more significant. In 2007 one can be exorbitant, both for personnel
spent filters into the filter drum could estimate that a rolloff dumpster and expendables, such as: $14 for a
• There are handling costs (and han- could travel at $3.50 per mile, but that 5-gal pail; $20 for a broom; $288 for an
dling time) for the drum cost is quickly reaching $5.00/mi be- 85-gal polymer drum; $70 for a roll of
• There are transportation costs, cause transporters tack on added fuel polyethylene.
which are separate from the $60 charges. Typically, a refinery in Texas The point is, operating companies
disposal cost experiences a 75-mi haul (one way) and often do not know the true cost of their
In total, the fixation for a single drum the size of the load is a 20-yd3 rolloff. filtration operations and especially
can utilize two or more man-days, In a refinery, cartridge filters that have room for improving their analy-
actual flyash material costs of $30/ are typically used (and disposed of) in- ses of disposal costs.
drum, warehousing and storage costs clude the following: It would be unfair not to men-
for the ash that has a footprint of • Amine pleated-paper cartridges tion large volumes of waste that are
(say) 200 ft2, which amounts to $400/ • Reformer naphtha feed filters toxic and hazardous, but have energy
mo. Movement and material handling • Fuel gas filters value, are used in cement kilns for be-
and transportation adds another $50. • Lube oil filters for big compressors tween $1,000 and 1,500/ton. Cement
Tyvek clothing can cost $40/mo (this • Wastewater treatment filters kilns are dramatically short of low-
assumes that there is no suiting up • Filters that handle gases or liquids cost fuel but some can still charge for
with breathing apparatus). from the coking operation waste disposal.
In total, the above cost components • Fuel filters (both gasoline, diesel The kilns are accepting some used
add $520 to the $60 drum disposal cost and jet fuel filters) filters (if they do not contain vinyl
for a total cost of $580/drum. The latter are often metal filters that chloride polymers) at $65/drum. This
If the plant produces 1 drum/wk of must handle high temperatures. These is based on four layers of upright,
spent filters, the monthly cost reaches are sent out for chemical and physical standard cartridge filters and twenty,
$2,320, enough for the plant to con- cleaning — an additional cost not cov- 12-in. filters per layer, or about 80 fil-
sider a high-surface-area filter, which ered here. ters per drum.
may last for three months thereby Case 3. As a final example, consider On the plus side, (from the stand-
freeing personnel for operations and costs related to having an outside point of filter disposal) the incinera-
reducing overall disposal costs. contractor to handle filters used in tion business (in the U.S.) has been
Case 2. Next consider some real num- hazardous or toxic chemical service. so bad that companies are charging
bers from a U.S. Gulf Coast petroleum It is common for outside contractor to as little as $0.60/lb of waste — even
refinery making (mainly) gasoline and charge $250/drum to dispose of spent those containing heavy metals or
diesel fuel. Filter disposal costs can filters — and this does not necessar- chloride ions because incineration fix-
fluctuate widely depending on volume, ily include pickup at the plant or de- ates the solids going though the fur-
density, state taxes, transportation livery to the disposal site. nace with the ash suitable to go into a
costs and fuel surcharges. The rates A full service provider must be regular landfill.
42 Chemical Engineering October 2009
Relative dirt holding
50 TSS = 41 mg/L
Unfiltered Figure 7. Even though this filter is
capacity, lb

TSS = 41 mg/L rated at 5 micron, reductions in filtered

10 versus unfiltered do not become sig-
5 nificant until after 19 micron

out two or three times a year com- and filter costs (including replace-
4.7 6.6 9.4 13 19 27 38 53
Particle size, microns pared to as many as 18 changeouts ment and disposal). Yet, this unit
Cartridge filter, 2-5 µm nominal. 9.6 NaCl.
when using standard cartridges operation is often ignored by many
Note the distribution of filtered particles greater • By improving MTBC or MTBR, high- companies that heavily depend on
than the cartridge's nominal micron rating. surface-area cartridge filters used in fluid-particle separation to assure
(after McLeod & Crawford, copyright 1982 SPE-AIME) toxic or hazardous service gives less plant profitability.  ■
exposure to operating and mainte- Edited by Gerald Ondrey
nance personnel
Conclusions • The total cost of ownership should
In summary, we can conclude that: address MTBC and MTBR Author
• It is much more expensive to • High-surface-area filters offer an in- Frank W. Buehner is a tech-
nical sales engineer for Filtra-
changeout and dispose of filters crease in effective surface area and tion Technology Corp. (5175
that have been used in hazardous in dirt-holding capacity leading to Ashley Court, Houston, TX
77041. Phone: 713-849-0849;
or toxic service longer filter life Fax: 713-849-0202; Email: For
• Overall performance and cost reduc- • A filter element’s alpha factor is the past 30 years, Buehner
tions occurs when a plant can utilize easy to calculate; the lowest alpha has been involved in promot-
ing liquid separation meth-
high-surface-area cartridge filters factor offers the lowest filter cost ods employing polymeric
• By comparison, a high-surface-area It is not surprising that ROI is dra- and metallic membranes,
high-vacuum thin-film distillation and liquid
filter may only have to be changed matically affected by filter selection filtration. He has authored nine papers on these
subjects. His current responsibilities include
liquid-filtration-system optimization, filter se-
References 3. Andrews, R., Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust:
The Use of Test Dust in NSF/ANSI 42 and
lection. filtration processes, filtration-media-
rating optimization, and pollution reduction for
1. Buehner, F.W. and Rossiter, A.P., Mini- 53, Water Conditioning & Purification, No- the petroleum refining, petrochemical and envi-
mize Waste by Managing Process Design, vember 2007. ronmental industries. Buehner holds B.S.Ch.E.
Chemtech, pp. 64–72; April, 1996. and M.S.Ch.E. degrees from Fenn College of En-
4. Filter disposal-cost-data acquisition, interpre-
2. Hampton, J., Cartridge Filtration Principles for tation and averaging performed by Weism- gineering at Cleveland State University. He is a
the CPI, Chem. Eng., pp. 40–44, January 2007. antel International (Kingwood, Tex.). member of AIChE and AFS.

Circle 30 on p. 66 or go to