FOAM CONTROL TECHNOLOGY & PROCESS MANAGEMENT
Exciting new technology developments in foam measurement and control are bringing important benefits to a wide range of process industries. The accurate and reliable measurement of foam brings substantial savings to companies through the improved control of anti-foaming agents (de-foamers), improved process control, increased yield, reduced product loss and reduction in equipment failure. In certain processes, especially in the waste water sector where filaments such as the bacteria Nocardia can result in huge amounts of foam, significant energy savings can be made through improved foam control.
Hycontrol’s patented measurement technique uses level measuring technology specifically developed 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 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 include environmental pollution, potential product contamination, loss of product through excessive foaming, downtime plus clean-up costs if foams spill over 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 key problem is being able to understand the characteristics of the foam and then measure its thickness and, in some applications, where the foam-liquid interface resides. The foam can be controlled through the addition of de-foamers, but without the above key information, their addition is typically done on an empirical basis, often based on historical experience. This can then result in a cyclic or sine wave solution to the problem. De-foamers are added in quantities based on maximum demand and the foam subsides. It then develops again above acceptable levels and more de-foamer is added. This staccato, reactive rather than pro-active approach, is expensive and wasteful. In many cases, when the foam disappears and the problem subsides, the rate of de-foamer addition is not reduced, resulting in excess chemical usage.
Hycontrol’s highly versatile Suresense⁺ foam control systems have been specifically developed for measuring the thickness of foam in a process, detecting foam-liquid interfaces and measuring 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 point out that the special measuring sensors and control equipment have been designed specifically for foam control and are not modified level sensors.
Companies world-wide spend billions of pounds each year dealing with foam and the effects it has on their businesses. Consideration must also be given to the long-term detrimental effect that the disposal and dispersal of de-foaming chemicals has on our health and the environment. 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 out-dated control systems, which only serve the interests of the chemical suppliers.