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Feb 2019

How to Get the Maximum Benefit Out of Your Process Filtration: Part 1, Saving Your Operating Dollars

If constraining operating costs in your filtration system is a high priority, you are not alone. A recent report from Accenture shows that 69 percent of chemical companies rate cost containment as a high priority for staying competitive in their marketplace. Nearly 80 percent include cost containment strategies in their business case for new market entry, new product development, and adoption of new enabling technologies.

This article is part of a series where we are digging deep into getting the most out of your process filtration. This is the first in-depth look at many of the tangible and intangible benefits of upgrading to a high-performance filtration system. In this post, the focus will be on your bottom line—and much more—as we take a closer look at operating costs of filtration systems.

Choosing a filtration system

When choosing a filtration system, you have some important decisions to make. It may seem like a simple choice, because a standard filter press or pressure leaf filter costs less initially than more advanced systems. But the costs will add up over time, making the less expensive option an inefficient choice long-term.

The initial price you pay for your filtration system is far from the total cost of ownership of that system. Say you choose a lower initial cost option, but one which is not as energy efficient or easy to use as other options. That might result in your filter press consuming an abundance of time and energy to run the system, increasing your labor costs, and perhaps even maintenance and repair costs.  Overall uptime and product throughput will then suffer as the equipment is taken offline for scheduled and unscheduled repairs and maintenance.  All this combines to negate the cost savings you were initially seeking.

There is a time, cost, and energy saving alternative. Using closed-loop, automated filtration technology allows you to install a filtration system with no moving parts; one that can be operated and cleaned in place from the comfort of a control room.  One with maintenance that can easily be scheduled around already planned shutdowns.

Let’s take a closer look at these lifecycle operating costs for filtration systems and see how they compare over the long haul.

Looking at lifecycle costs

69 percent of chemical companies believe they can cut their operating costs in half by upgrading their technology—and it’s true. So, while it may be less expensive to buy a filter press or pressure leaf filter upfront, the downstream sacrifices made to run these technologies increase operating costs significantly. Here are some things to consider when looking at lifecycle costs:

Energy. Since you’re using these systems potentially for decades, the initial equipment cost is just a fraction of the total costs to run and operate the system. It’s a lot like upgrading to energy efficient appliances at home. They may cost a little more money up front, but the cost of ownership is lower, saving money in the long run.  A closed-loop Mott HyPulse® LSI uses no rotating parts and consumes only a small amount of nitrogen or other clean air source to initiate online cleaning.

Catalysts. If you’re using expensive catalysts, like platinum, palladium, or rhodium in your process, then it’s a no brainer that you should be looking to get the most out of your filtration technology. Since mechanical filters can typically only capture about 80-90% of catalyst in your process, there is significant incentivization to achieve sub-micron filtration in these applications because you can easily save over hundreds of thousands of dollars in variable catalyst costs per year. Porous metal filter systems can capture up to 99.9% of catalyst fines for recycling or reclamation, making it an easy ROI calculation just on catalyst recovery alone. Let’s say you’re spending $300K on catalyst costs each year, and you’re left with a decision to buy a $50K filter press capturing 80% of catalyst versus a $250K porous metal solution that’s filtering 99.9%. You can save nearly $60K in variable catalyst costs per year by utilizing sub-micron capturing porous metal media meaning your payback period on your incremental $200K investment is less than 4 years, not including the other benefits listed in this article.

Replacement. With filter presses and pressure leaf filters, there is a constant need to replace parts, including things like cloth, frames, gaskets, etc. 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. With a spare set of elements on hand, a continuous process only needs to shut down for the time to safely change out the elements.  Porous metal elements can last up to decades before needing to be replaced versus filter presses and plate frames filters that need parts replaced regularly. This frequent servicing adds significant procurement and maintenance costs, creates more opportunities for potential part failure, and results in loss of product throughput.

Downtime. Any time a system is down for maintenance or repairs there are costs involved. Labor is spent on downtime activities like cleaning and component replacement or refurbishment instead of meeting production deadlines. Potential injuries to your workforce are directly related to the number of interactions they have with equipment.  You should take a moment and ask yourself, how often are your workers having to manually clean off their filter presses and pressure leaf filters? That’s what makes Mott HyPulse® LSI technology so attractive to our customers. Almost effortless operation requires only that you 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.

Labor. Lifecycle costs must always take labor costs into consideration. When opting for a filter system that is fully automated, it’s possible to allocate labor resources toward other tasks, or reduce the labor needed to maintain the process.

A better way to evaluate filtration systems

Looking at lifecycle costs is important, but upfront costs can still make those corporate finance people nervous. Before recommending large capital expenses on any filtration system, you want to be sure you are getting a system that is optimized for your chemical company’s unique needs.

This is where working with the team at Mott can make a huge difference. We take a graded approach to filter system design, so before making or recommending a large capital investment, you can have your feed sample tested in our lab so we can select the optimal media and porosity for your process. Based on years of install experience, combined with a little bit of science and engineering, Mott’s engineering team will be able to accurately determine the filtration efficiency, vessel sizing, and replacement cycles for your system. This allows you to plan ahead of time on filter replacements and avoid a potential unforeseen shutdown. It also gives you the data necessary to prove the longevity and performance that you can expect to get out of these systems, simplifying your ROI calculation. A filter test in advance of making any recommendations or requests for equipment upgrades can save your company money, time, energy, and more. That’s the kind of news that puts a smile on corporate’s face.

What are the next steps you need to take if you’d like to look into a filter feasibility test with Mott? Here’s a short video that will answer some of those questions. And as always, I would love to hear your thoughts on lifecycle costs, and operating costs in general—all things filter system related. I want to learn from you and share my thoughts as well. If you’d like to connect, find me on LinkedIn, or send me an email message. I’m looking forward to the conversation!

By: Patrick Hill

Title: Project Manager Team Lead

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