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Effective tank cleaning with less water

18 December 2017

Ivan Zytynski argues that a greener tank cleaning solution could also provide a cleaner and more cost-effective solution. 

Maintaining strict hygiene standards is vital in all food and brewing industry applications. Effective tank cleaning is an important part of this process. However, certain processes, such as those in the dairy industry, can generate waste which has high BOD (biological oxygen demand) and COD (chemical oxygen demand) due to the use of caustics to ensure effective cleaning. This can result in significant additional costs for waste water treatment. 

Reducing water consumption for tank cleaning operations is a goal for many. However, food safety is an even bigger concern and the use of lots of water and chemicals ensures hygiene is maintained. The risk analysis is simple – one contaminated batch and health scare can have devastating effects so many companies continue to use a great deal of water to ensure their tanks are cleaned effectively. However, what if there were a simple way to reduce water and maintain or improve cleaning at the same time? 

The most widely used tank cleaning devices are spray balls. These are simple devices that spray liquid through multiple small holes to form mini jets. The jets squirt out in all directions hitting the tank walls causing the liquid to cascade down. As the liquid moves the solvent properties of the water or caustics dissolve the residue and carry it away. Spray balls are simple, tried, tested and inexpensive, but are also very water inefficient.

Impact cleaning solutions deliver powerful jets of water to the tank wall where jets explode outwards dislodging residue by the mechanical action/kinetic force rather than by the solvent properties of the fluid. The fluid will then run down the tank wall and give solvent based cleaning action as well. 

This style of cleaner is more water efficient and in some cases can deliver the same amount of cleaning using only 5% of the water of a conventional spray ball. Typical water savings range between 50% and 90% – depending on the application. 

This is best explained as simple physics where most of the internal energy contained within the pumped cleaning fluid is wasted in spray balls because it’s used to break apart the fluid into many micro jets. These individual jets can be turbulent and of poor integrity so further kinetic energy is wasted. By the time the micro jet meets the tank wall it has almost no impact left while in contrast, jet cleaners focus the fluid into two or four bigger jets using nozzles designed to ensure a laminar, coherent jet that retains as much of its energy as possible. The result is a high impact jet that dissipates kinetic energy in all directions as it hits the wall, meaning that less water is able to deliver far more cleaning power.

Water costs money and the investment in jet cleaning technology can often pay for itself in a matter of months. Water saving and other green initiatives are also becoming increasingly important to consumers. Many companies have realised that having good green credentials is important to how they are perceived by the public. 

There are commonly three main concerns engineers have about moving away from spray ball technology for tank cleaning:

• Do I need to change my CIP system? Today’s fast cycle jet cleaners run at low pressures and on similar pump duties to existing spray balls and in many cases there is no need to change the system. 

The new smaller jet cleaners can also fit through narrow tank openings and can use existing pipework. Installing can be as simple as unthreading/clipping the existing spray ball and then connecting the new cleaning head.

• I can’t risk it: Jet cleaners have been used for decades by large food and beverage manufacturers,  so they are tried, tested and proven.

• Jet cleaners are expensive: While jet cleaners may be more expensive than spray balls the water savings and potential to reduce heat and/or chemicals means that return on investment can be achieved in a few months. This, coupled with the fact that it is no longer necessary to change pipework/pumps and systems, means the investment is limited to the cleaning head itself. 

Ivan Zytynski is a director at The Spray People Group. 

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