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Efficient foam control offers cost savings

12 August 2019

The addition of foam measurement technology at the effluent plant of a cereal manufacturing site has resulted in impressive cost savings.

Foaming in effluent tanks can become a major problem if left unchecked. Foamy, dirty overspills are a messy occurrence, and clean-ups after such events can be costly in terms of both time and money. Liquid overspills create health and safety risks by putting employees in danger of injury from slips and falls. Additionally, serious pollution can result if foam escapes into the environment. 

The most common method of reducing and removing foam is to dose the effluent or process with antifoaming chemicals to break up the foam as it forms and prevent it from rising to troublesome levels. This is usually done by dosing the chemical into the foaming process automatically, often on a timed basis. Chemicals are added in quantities based on the maximum expected demand. While this does result in existing foam subsiding and being kept down, it is an inefficient solution to the problem, and can create additional concerns.

The first issue arising from automatic dosing is that of cost because antifoam is an expensive commodity. In some cases, overuse of antifoam can also have a negative effect on the process, and consideration must also be given to the long-term detrimental effect that the disposal and dispersal of these chemicals can have on our health and the environment.

Controlling costs
With all of these considerations in mind, engineers at the cereal manufacturer recognised that more could be done to increase efficiency and control costs at its on-site effluent treatment plant. The company agreed to trial Hycontrol’s SureSense foam control system. A controller and 2m long probe were set up on one effluent tank, linked to control an antifoam dosing pump.

Three high-sensitivity foam sensors are designed specifically to measure foam and are not simply modified or adapted liquid level sensors. The level of sensitivity offered means that the system will dose antifoam only when foam is present at a pre-determined level. 

Measuring the level of foam is only the first challenge addressed by the technology. It is also important to avoid false readings caused by the build-up of foam and other substances on the probe. Hycontrol’s solution achieves this using its Intelligent Multi-Action (IMA) sensing solution which allows for the reliable measurement of foam even when a sensor is covered with a thick, sticky layer of fouling. It enables the sensor to discriminate between the residual deposits of foam/product build-up on the sensor itself and the foam being created in the process. Effectively the foam sensor ignores the inevitable fouling that accrues during normal operation. In spite of heavy coatings of dense, sticky residue, the foam probe will keep measuring foam throughout the process cycle.

For the cereal manufacturer the foam sensing solution has been a success. In the two years that the system has been in place antifoam usage on the tank has been reduced by approximately 92%, with a saving of around £30,000 per year. The customer is now considering utilising the upgraded SureSense? foam control system to oversee the antifoam pumps on the two remaining on-site effluent tanks because the savings on antifoam expenditure has already covered the equipment costs several times over.


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