FOAM CONTROL TECHNOLOGY & PROCESS MANAGEMENT
Impressive new technology developments in foam measurement and control are bringing essential benefits to a wide range of process industries. The accurate and reliable measuring of foam brings substantial savings to companies through the improved management of antifoaming agents (de-foamers), improved process control, increased yield, reduced product loss and reduction in equipment failure. In certain processes, especially in the wastewater sector where filaments such as the bacteria Nocardia can result in massive amounts of foam, significant energy savings can be made through improved foam control.
Hycontrol’s patented measurement technique uses level measuring technology developed explicitly for measuring foam levels and foam-liquid interfaces. It has a proven track record in a wide range of applications and industries. By comparison, alternative, less-effective, solutions use pre-existing level measuring technology ‘adapted’ to measure foam. These tend to be inherently unreliable, inaccurate and adversely affected by process product build-up on the measuring probes.
Foam generation can cause a variety of expensive and time-consuming problems. These tend to be inherently unreliable, inaccurate and adversely affected by process product build-up on the measuring probes.
Foam generation can cause a variety of expensive and time-consuming problems. These include environmental pollution, potential product contamination, loss of product through excessive foaming, downtime plus clean-up costs if foams spillover from the process. Excess foam can severely limit product throughput in a process and can result in damage to equipment, including pumps, filters and valves. Add into this the ongoing cost of de-foamers, and it is clear how important it is to implement effective foam control.
The fundamental problem is understanding the characteristics of the foam. Doing so will allow us to measure its thickness and, in some applications, where the foam-liquid interface resides. The foam can be controlled through the addition of de-foamers. However, without the above critical information, their dosing is typically done on an empirical basis, sometimes based on historical experience but sometimes purely based on guesswork. Dosing in an imprecise way results in a cyclic or sine wave solution to the problem. De-foamers get added in quantities based on maximum demand, and the foam subsides. It then develops again above acceptable levels, and more heavy doses of de-foamer are added. This staccato, reactive-rather-than-proactive approach is expensive and wasteful. In many cases, when the foam disappears, and the problem subsides, there is no reduction in the rate of de-foamer addition, resulting in excess chemical usage.
Hycontrol’s highly versatile Suresense⁺ foam control systems are specifically for detecting and measuring the thickness of the foam in a process; they can also see foam-liquid interfaces and measure liquid levels, ignoring the presence of any foam. The patented technology behind these systems originated from detailed research into foam control during pharmaceutical fermentation. Hycontrol points out that the unique measuring sensors and control equipment have been designed specifically for foam control and are not modified level sensors.
Companies worldwide spend billions of pounds each year dealing with foam and the effects it has on their businesses. One must also consider the long-term detrimental impact that of de-foaming chemicals have on our health and the environment when disposed of and dispersed. There is clear evidence that considerable savings can be made by actively controlling the addition of antifoaming chemicals, and the technology is now available to achieve this. There is no need for companies to continue with outdated control systems, which only serve the interests of the chemical suppliers.