WFC13 Highlights the Latest in Solid-Liquid Separation.

Learning latest in solid liquid filtration in San Diego
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The World Filtration Conference 13 (WFC 13) in San Diego was a great opportunity to reconnect with friends and colleagues from North America and Europe. It has been over six years, and we picked up our conversations as if we had seen each other only yesterday. At the same time, the October conference was a chance to learn the latest in solid-liquid separation.

I enjoyed being a session moderator as well as a presenter on a topic of holistic and integrated chemical engineering. If you missed the conference, my presentation is available online: “Optimizing Downstream Final Drying with Upstream Solid-Liquid Filtration, Cake Washing & Dewatering.” This topic is also highlighted in my new book, Integration and Optimization of Unit Operations.” 

WFC 13 also provided an opportunity to learn about new and ground-breaking technology to help clients of Perlmutter & Idea Development (P&ID).

Digitalization & the Latest in Solid-Liquid Separation

Demonstrating digitalization of solid-liquid filtration, there were several presentations on the use of sensors to optimize the process. For example, the modernization/digitalization of filter presses using sensors embedded into the filter plate itself for cake moisture, cloth washing (conductivity), residual moisture, temperature profiles and cloth failure (filtrate quality). In addition, for vacuum belt technologies, the use of thermal cameras to determine cake cracking and cake dewatering was illustrated.

The use of steam pressure filtration as an alternative to gas/air pressure followed by drying is another interesting development. One presentation illustrated the use of low-pressure steam for solid-liquid filtration in a solvent slurry (i.e., toluene) followed by drying in an aqueous environment, resulting from the condensed steam. This approach can be used, for example, in specialty chemical, pharma with high-purity steam as well as for high viscous slurries.

There were also many studies discussing methods to improve cake washing in a production plant where the cake geometry is changing from hills, to valleys, to sloping.

Exhibitors also showed some interesting technologies for solid-liquid separation for lithium production, battery materials and recycling. These included rotating screens manufactured in alloys and synthetic materials to 1–5-micron, filter aids and speciality drying. For more information, please visit BPR (Brine, Powder, Recycling).      

Contact me to discuss these innovations via in-person or virtual meetings. Let’s optimize and improve together.

water usage

Chemical Plant Water Usage & Upcycling

water usage

Many industries rely on water. The USGS notes this valuable resource is used for fabricating, processing, washing, diluting, cooling, or transporting a product. Or it can be incorporated into a product. Or water may be needed for sanitation within the manufacturing facility. When it comes to chemical plant water usage, upcycling is particularly attractive. After all, this is one of the top industries drawing on our water resources.

Continuing my discussion of the circular economy — I’ve already discussed cold beers and the Caribbean as well as educating chemical engineers — I wanted to focus on chemical plants and their water usage. The first key question is always, “can we use less water?”

To answer this question, the chemical plant’s process engineers must analyze water sources including:

  • recycling your wastewater
  • creating large-scale rainwater collections
  • tapping new groundwater sources
  • or even desalinating seawater.

Next, the evaluation of chemical plant water usage must examine what contaminants might be present in the water. Also, how pure the water needs to be for the required process. Knowing these two things can help determine which technologies are needed to put a plan into action in the chemical plant.

Modifying Chemical Plant Water Usage

The fun part, today, though is also determining how to modify water usage in the process. Water is used for heating and cooling, chemical reactions, rinsing, making solutions, and even drinking. So, the options for transforming water usage plans considers filtration and separation units, ion exchange, treatment options, and more.

Plant operators can also lower water usage with diligent monitoring using automated technologies. Yet this approach is too often overlooked. Nevertheless, digital transformation is making it much easier to gather data. Plants can use this information to make their processes even more water efficient.

One new area for examination is “water accounting.”  In a recent article in Chemical Processing, Water Accounting Remains Fluid, Sean Ottewell, explained how various factoring the costs of water into the return-on-investment (ROI) calculations for a project. Each company may approach the calculation differently. Still, they are each trying to determine the “real” price of water usage. Water is not a free resource; the real price considers sourcing, treatment, distribution, maintenance and finally discharge.

Innovation in Chemical Plant Water Usage

Further reflecting the importance of tracking water usage, there is now a tradable index on the price of water.  NASDAQand Veles Water have partnered with West Water Research, LLC, the leading economic and financial consulting firm in water trading, to develop the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index (NQH2O Index), which will really help to drive water efficiency.

The index tracks the price of water rights across the five largest and most actively traded regions in the state of California including California’s surface water market and the four adjudicated groundwater basins.  This first-of-its-kind water index provides a spot price benchmark and offers unparalleled transparency. This initiative fosters greater price discovery and allows for the creation of new tradable financial instruments to serve water market needs.

Of course, my hope is to see this type of Index expand to other parts of the US. With the ability to better account for the true cost of water, we’ll be able to improve chemical plant water usage and find ways to produce more efficiently.

Reducing industrial water consumption is an important step in addressing the global water crisis. Let’s do our part by pursuing these new avenues in chemical plant water usage and innovating new ones as well.




Holistic Optimization of Unit Operations at WFC 13


WFC13Like the Olympics, the World Filtration Conference is held every four years. Only, in the case of WFC 13, it’s been six years since we’ve all been able to meet. The event, postponed twice by the pandemic, is on for October 6 – 9 2022 in San Diego. This conference will be one of the largest Congresses for Filtration & Separation welcoming many speakers from around the world. I'm looking forward to great conversation about holistic optimization of unit operations.

I am fortunate to be a session moderator as well as a presenter on a topic of holistic and integrated chemical engineering. The presentation is “Optimizing Downstream Final Drying with Upstream Solid-Liquid Filtration, Cake Washing & Dewatering.  This topic is also highlighted in my new book, Integration and Optimization of Unit Operations.” 

Most often when analyzing a new process development project, engineers take a “silo” approach and look at each step independently. The presentation illustrates that by taking an integrated and holistic approach and looking at each step not individually but as a continuum, the process solution becomes much more efficient.

Practical Look at Holistic Optimization of Unit Operations

We’ll discuss three examples illustrating an integrated and continuum approach. The discussion looks at the solid-liquid separation technologies of continuous pressure filtration:

  • with either a “single-drum” or “drum with individual cells”
  • with centrifuges either vertical peeler or horizontal inverting
  • followed by final dryer technologies including either conical vacuum and “Nauta-type” dryers.

The standard approach would be to first look at the solid-liquid filtration or centrifugation step and optimize this step for the maximum washing and drying efficiency. Then, with this information in hand, optimize the downstream drying. However, a new and different approach is to look at the process as a continuum from solid-liquid filtration/centrifugation through cake washing and dewatering to final drying.

The “Integrated and Continuum Approach” results in operational energy and nitrogen savings as well as lower capital and installation costs for a more efficient and reliable process.

You can read the full technical article or view the presentation slides if you can't attend. Contact me if you will be in San Diego or otherwise let’s schedule a virtual meeting. Let’s get more efficient together.


Accessible Running Shoes: Great Steps in Innovation


FlyEaseIn November 2020, I wrote a blog about my two favorite topics of innovation and running  I was sharing my thoughts on the new carbon fiber running shoes and how Nike’s innovation led to new and improved running shoes. Well, they are at it again. This blog will focus on their latest steps in innovation.

In a recent BusinessWeek article, “How Nike Designed Hands-Free Sneakers for People With Disabilities,” we learn about a new shoe called “Go FlyEase.” This breakthrough is Nike’s attempts to make a sneaker that is effortless to put on and take off.

Instead of lying flat on the ground, a band squeezes the shoe so its sole bends in the middle, creating an unusually large opening for a person’s foot. You’d just slide your toes down into the gap and press down with your heel. That makes the band contract to close the shoe into its proper shape and hold the foot firmly in place.

Removing the shoe is a little more complicated than putting it on—wearers use a hand or the other foot to engage a built-in kickstand—but the band system makes a significant difference for many people with disabilities who struggle to lace up Air Jordans. If the technology can be integrated into other sneaker designs, the Go FlyEase could open up all sorts of possibilities.

Innovation in Every Step

The innovative design team was led by Sarah Reinertsen. The accomplished distance runner and triathlete who has represented the U.S. at the Paralympic Games and set marathon records, had her left leg was amputated almost four decades ago, when she was seven.

Nike’s work in this area began in the mid-2000s, when Nike’s Tobie Hatfield started tinkering with custom gear for a colleague who had suffered a stroke. His focus on ease of use coalesced in 2012, when he read a letter from a teenager with cerebral palsy who wanted to be self-sufficient but couldn’t tie his shoes.

Three years later the first FlyEase hit the market in the form of a LeBron James high-top that used a wraparound zipper to open the rear of the shoe. Now, 10 years later, there is a shoe on the market that may begin a revolution for individuals with disabilities.

Learn more about the FlyEase story in this short video.

Moral for my readers?

These steps in innovation are for the consumer market. Still, the takeaway for my readers is this: “listen to customers.” Technology suppliers must continually listen to the market and develop disruptive process technologies to meet the future needs for innovation in the chemical process industries.

Global Experts Contribute Know-How in Integration and Optimization of Unit Operations

unit operations

Over my career of 40 years in the process industry and unit operations, writing has always been a passion for me.  It represents an opportunity to convey concepts, ideas, and technical information in a manner that makes sense to the audience.  My technical and marketing application articles — more than 150 to date — culminated in 2015 with the publication of my first book for Elsevier, Handbook of Solid-Liquid Filtration.

On the strength of the Handbook’s market acceptance, Elsevier asked me to propose a second book.  I am now pleased to announce the just-published book, which I edited, Integration and Optimization of Unit Process Operations.

First, this book is not another textbook for designing equipment and technology.  There are already many references, university courses, etc., for this work and teaching the “nuts and bolts” of pumps, heat exchangers, distillation towers, thermodynamics, etc.

This book takes a different approach to share up-to-date and practical information on chemical unit operations from the R & D stage to scale-up and demonstration to commercialization and optimization.  At each stage, the information presented differs as the technology and issues faced at the lab scale change in commercialization and optimization.  This book takes a broader view and encourages an integrated and holistic approach to chemical engineering.

Global experts offer integrated and holistic view

A global collection of industry experts, with a combined 350 years of experience, systematically discuss all innovation stages, complex processes with different unit operations, including solids processing and recycle flows, and the importance of integrated process validation.  Each chapter discusses a specific step in a chemical process with design questions, troubleshooting ideas, etc.

The organization of the chapters follows that of a chemical operating company no matter the size of the operation.  It begins with crystallization and fermentation.  Then, there are discussions of the process equipment followed by automation, mixing and blending, process modelling and safety and commissioning.  We then discuss optimization, project management, techno-economic analysis and “putting it all together.” The book concludes with a chapter on decommissioning which is important, as processes change, products change, and the market itself changes.

The book addresses the needs of engineers who want to increase their skill levels in various disciplines so that they can develop, commercialize, and optimize processes.  It is a useful resource for collaborating and developing creative solutions.

I hope that the information from the experiences of the contributing authors will help you to succeed in your careers and personal growth.  Let me know how P&ID can assist you.