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Apr 2019

How to Get the Maximum Benefit Out of Your Process Filtration: Part 4, Saving Your Throughput Revenue

Porous Metal Filtration Products

No matter what product is flowing through your process filtration system, what you’re really trying to produce is throughput. Assuming you’re already meeting quality standards, more output generally means more saleable product, which means more money for your organization.

Saving throughput revenue is a critical benefit of having the right filtration system in place. For a continuous process operating at capacity, production downtime is a killer. Using the right advanced filtration system will not only capture more catalyst or keep your workers safe, it will increase equipment uptime and improve production throughput and therefore revenue dollars.  Boosting revenue can be as simple as asking smart questions about your current process and equipment, such as …

  • How often does your current filter technology shut down your production line?
  • How much potential revenue is your company losing because of this downtime?
  • What if you could double output with a better filter?

This article is part 4 in a series about achieving the maximum benefits from your process filtration system. Our goal is to arm you with insight, so your team can operate efficiently, ensure worker safety, contain catalyst costs, protect your reputation, improve product quality, and achieve stability.

Here’s the bottom line: The throughput of mechanical filtration technologies is often capped by differential pressure limits, need for offline cleaning or replacement, or maintenance of complicated rotating equipment.  A clean-in-place, high-pressure, no rotating parts filter can help you achieve as much as a 200% throughput increase.

Money Matters: More Output = More Profit

When Ben Franklin coined the phrase “time is money” he surely wasn’t thinking about the benefits of clean-in-place filter systems, but he hit the nail on the head about your operation. Lost time equals lost money. A significant disruption to production does more than make an executive’s face turn red — it can make the organization operate in the red.

Even an occasional disruption is a profit problem. If a disruption or shutdown of your filter happens repeatedly, that’s unacceptable … and avoidable.

Antiquated filtration systems may be cheaper initially, but with constant maintenance, shutdowns and replacement component costs, they can be much more expensive over time. Every minute of downtime is lost revenue — scheduling time for activities like cleaning, component replacement or maintenance wastes money. Unscheduled system failures are even worse, as they often happen at the most inopportune times.  Upfront, that centrifuge, standard filter press, or pressure leaf filter might seem like an economical choice but think about what your organization isn’t producing (and therefore isn’t profiting from) every time those leaves are pulled out, changed, coated, and placed back. And that’s just one example.

More organizations today are realizing the benefit of long-term value over one-time savings. They realize the importance of less downtime and higher capacity. Some are even doubling their output and revenue with better filtration technology. As most of these organizations are sold out at capacity, each extra gallon produced adds to their revenue stream. Choosing the right process design and the right filtration equipment to ensure you’re operating efficiently without significant downtime can be challenging.  Here are 3 important questions that can help guide you:

1. Is your change-out frequency measured in years?

A pressure leaf filter requires regular changing of the leaf panels and regular coating with filter aid. This regular maintenance, although not difficult to perform, causes significant production downtime.  This is especially true if you’re running hot and pressurized fluids that must first cool before safe maintenance begins. From the second you stop making a product and start cooling down, to the time you’re fully back up at steady-state conditions, might take two shifts. Even if that only needs to be scheduled quarterly, that’s nearly 3 days of lost production time per year for scheduled maintenance. Multiply that by the value of your filtrate produced daily and the answer can be shocking. 

That’s just the planned maintenance. What happens when you have an upstream upset and your pressure leaf filter prematurely blinds?  Maintenance yet again but this time without the ability to pre-stage your replacement components and equipment.  Hopefully those spare leaf frames made it back from the cleaners in time.

A fully automated, closed-loop, clean-and-place filter system like a Mott HyPulse® LSI requires no such intervention. It is designed to handle the occasional upset, be cleaned in place, and go right back to producing clean filtrate for your line.  In most chemical applications, the change out frequency of sintered metal elements can be measured in years.  This means you can plan your change out around already scheduled plant turnarounds, resulting in no unplanned production loss.  With external cleaning, you can keep using these same filter elements for years, and sometimes decades. 

2. Can your filter be backwashed or cleaned in place?

Over time, most traditional barrier or depth filters will reach a terminal point of effectiveness.  Either the filter has become fully plugged, or the filter cake formed is so thick or so compressed that virtually no flow is achieved even at high pressures.  Surely you have experienced this scenario at your plant (or at your home) with a variety of technologies.  So, what do you do today if this problem happens on your production line?

Unfortunately for many customers we meet, the answer is to shut down the line, wait for it to cool down, and manually replace the filter media.  Hours or days later, the media has been replaced or serviced and operators can initiate a startup once again.  Every minute the production line is offline, gallons and gallons of potential production are lost, hurting your bottom line.  There is a better way!

Backwashing the filter system at the end of a filtration cycle does not have to be tedious. With the right advanced filter technology, it can be accomplished right in place, through a redundant train, fully automated and observed from your control room, without sacrificing even a minute of operation.

With a fully automated process filtration system like the Mott HyPulse® LSI, backwashing is accomplished without operator intervention (while recovering virtually 100% of captured solids). You can switch a couple valves, press a button, and completely backwash the cake from your filter elements in-situ, making them ready for the next production run immediately. This limits equipment downtime and thus increases overall throughput.

3. Is your process repeatable and consistent?

Organizations that handle filter cloth, frames, and gaskets constantly have to worry about replacing those materials. With porous metal technology, you only have to remove your elements every year or so, externally clean them, and then place them back in use. These elements can last decades, which means you can spend time serving your customers or developing new products instead of servicing your equipment.

With redundant filters in place, cleaning is accomplished on line and production remains continuous. No dismantling. No off-line headaches. The key here is you maintain a repeatable, consistent process, with no loss of production.

Your Process is Unique. We’re Here to Help

Every chemical company’s needs are different, and you want to be sure you’re getting a system that is optimized for your specific situation. You can count on Mott to listen to your process and provide advice tailored to your unique situation.  We will be upfront and direct on if we think our media and filtration technology will be a benefit to your plant.  But, how do you know for sure if Mott technology will really work? 

The Mott team recommends starting with a simple filtration test from Mott. By having your feed sample tested in the lab, Mott can select the optimal media and porosity for your process. This upfront work, often performed for about 1% of the capital equipment costs, provides Mott’s engineers and our customers with objective evidence of successful operation.  Based on real laboratory data, the Mott engineering team sizes a system uniquely suited for each specific application, ensuring an optimized and cost-effective commercial solution.

About the Author

Patrick Hill, Process Systems Engineering Team Lead, Project Manager

Feel free to send me an email if you have questions. In the meantime, check out our video on filter feasibility testing.

Also, I would love to hear your thoughts on this blog post and the importance of improving throughput. If you’d like to connect, find me on LinkedIn, or send me an email message. I’m looking forward to the conversation!

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