automated filtration technologies

Ebook Explores Automated Filtration Technologies for Clarification Applications

automated filtration technologies

Over my almost 40 years in the process industry, many people have helped me along the way. Having opened my own consulting business, Perlmutter & Idea Development, I thought it time to give back to the engineering and process communities. Earlier this year I taught a short course in the American Filtration Separations Society Learning Center, “Automatic Filtration Technologies.” This month, I have released a related e-book, Framework for Selecting Automated Solid-Liquid Filtration Technologies for Clarification Applications.

This e-book is the first-of-its-kind specifically for the process industries. Based on my experiences, and my collaborations with other process experts, this book provides in-depth treatment of possibilities to automate the clarification processes to improve filtration while minimizing operator exposure.

Understanding Clarification Systems

A clarification system is employed after coarse-particle filtration or as a stand-alone system to remove fine particles at low concentrations. These particles are typically less than five microns (μm) and are in concentrations less than five percent solids down to ppm levels. Engineers can evaluate several types of automated, pressure-filtration, clarification technologies. The cake solids structure and the nature of the process determine which type of clarification system is appropriate for an application.

Framework for Selecting Automated Solid-Liquid Filtration Technologies for Clarification Applications:

  • Characterizes slurries
  • Discusses filtration lab testing
  • Differentiates between candle filters, circular plate filters, concentrating candle filters
  • Explores filter media and filter aid options
  • Shares case studies from the specialty chemical industry (resins, zeolites and pharmaceutical)

Practical Applications of Automatic Filtration Technology

I’ve encountered some interesting approaches to solid-liquid separation processes. In one case, I was at a melamine resin facility where the slurry was in a formaldehyde process. The operators were wearing “masks” opening up a manual plate filter in a room with residential floor fans to dig out the cake from the paper filter media. In another case, for zeolites, the client had multiple bag filters to clarify the filtrates following a vacuum belt filter. When the final product remained cloudy,
to my surprise, the client decided to add another set of bag filters.

You probably have your own examples of process engineers struggling to clarify process liquids. The Framework for Selecting Automated Solid-Liquid Filtration Technologies for Clarification Applications  presents actual case histories to illustrate problems and improved installations with automatic filtration.

If you want to learn more about automatic filtration technology alternatives to manual plate filters, bag filters, and filter presses, I encourage you to download my new ebook today!

medicinal cannabis

Product Quality for Medicinal Cannabis and Cannabinoids

medicinal cannabis

As a member of the Nectar Health Sciences Board of Directors, I’ve become well versed in the cannabinoid and terpenes marketplace technologies from hemp processing to final product. Drawing on my experiences with Nectar, a privately-owned cannabinoid isolation and extraction company, I thought I’d discuss product quality for medical cannabis and cannabinoids.

Nectar's experienced scientists and industry experts are dedicated to commercializing a unique and patent-pending cannabinoid isolation technology. The goal is to isolate cannabinoids to >99% purity. In a recent Cannabis Science and Technology article, Miguel Fagundes reviewed quality procedures. He outlined good agricultural and collecting practices (GACP) and good manufacturing practices (GMP). His conclusion? 

Good agricultural and collecting practice (GACP) guidelines and good manufacturing practice (GMP) guidelines each have the simple goals of protecting patients and ensuring that product quality is not compromised through the imposition of standardized practices and procedures in production processes."

No business should risk jeopardizing product standards or the well-being of downstream consumers, and compliance with GACP and GMP can assist in avoiding such situations.”

Medicinal Cannabis Marketplace Controls

The cannabis marketplace has many moving parts. The work begins in the fields with cultivation and collections of the plants and continues to trimming and drying. GACP guidelines are needed in this part of the process. These guidelines include documentation providing: 

  • different plant batch numbers 
  • scientific name of the plants
  • relevant information to characterize the material

In addition, GACP guidelines discuss the treatments used to reduce fungal and microbial contamination. Limit the use of chemical treatments for control and plant growth to the list of agents approved in relevant legislation.   

The next steps in the process fall under GMP guidelines. This involves initial extraction, isolation and purification, then packaging. This is my area of expertise.  

GMP Guideline Processes

There are a number of techniques for initial extraction. They include solvents (liquid propane or butane), ethanol, super critical fluid (SCF) CO2 and specialty formulations from Nectar and others. 

Isolation and purification steps can require vacuum, pressure, centrifugation, and other techniques. The packaging step will depend upon the final product use and whether it is a liquid or solid powder.  

Throughout, the GMP guidelines require process documentation for reaction, filtration, cake washing, and drying as well as quality parameters of time, particle size, temperature, etc.  Basically, any process step that impacts the final product quality must be documented.  

Currently, hemp and medical cannabis producers are working towards meeting GMP guidelines for their manufacturing. There are various options and process development to consider. Contact me at P&ID. I’m confident that I can help.

Wearables & Drones for Process Safety    


It has been difficult to conduct onsite business during the pandemic, but we all must adjust and innovate to meet client’s needs. Fortunately, digital technology is offering us many alternative ways to ensure process safety. In this blog, I’ll discuss what I’ve seen so far with wearable technology and drones.

Wearable technologies have seen rapid growth during the pandemic. They are lightweight, safe, and cost-effective devices that can help improve operational efficiencies, speed-up equipment testing, and improve working safety. 

My first experience with this was during a BHS Site Acceptance Test for four pieces of equipment. We couldn’t go onsite for first-hand observation. However, the client’s operators and process engineers used wearables to show us  the operation and conduct the SAT remotely and successfully.  

There are several different types of wearables that can benefit process safety. These include:

  • Real-Wear’s rugged hands-free voice control headset 
  • Guardhat’s high-tech hardhats and tags  
  • Pepperl & Fuchs’ portable cameras which allow users to choose between optical and thermal camera modes, or combine both
  • Emerson’s personnel and asset tags which support geofencing, safety mustering, and safety alerts

Drones for Process Safety 

Drones, while they can have a bad name, have many positive applications. They are used for search and rescue, traffic and weather, agriculture, delivery services, etc. In the chemical industry, drones are being used to find out what is happening at the plant when operators cannot be sent in safely. Plant managers need the information, but can’t risk an actual inspection. So, in go the drones.

Flyability is one company offering drones for plant safety use. Their Swiss-made drones are used for inspecting storage tanks, boilers, reactors, or any other piece of equipment that contains volatile chemicals. In fact, their Elios 2 helped researchers determine there was no nuclear waste present at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant’s Reactor Five for the first time since 1986. Check out the video:

Another company,  Aquiline Drones, combines drone technology with 5G communications and artificial intelligence. Its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned ground-based vehicles (UGV) with cloud-based command and control can be used to:

  • Transport and deliver supplies and tools
  • Spray down hazardous areas
  • Serve as mobile public speakers
  • Patrol high-risk areas
  • Monitor worker health with heat signature, infrared cameras

Finally, in an article in BIC Magazine, Shankar Nadarajah, Project Manager for Global Drone Visual Inspection at ExxonMobil indicated that there are two key aspects that companies should consider when introducing UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles).  First, the UAVs should be scalable to all regions and secondly, there must be strategic UAV operators at each site (i.e. training).  The ExxonMobil program has reached 35 sites and has instituted a data management platform for all of these operators.  George Williamson, a systems engineer at BP, agrees with Shankar and BP is about 90% complete with their global practices for UAVs.  Lastly, in this same article, John McClain, the chief drone pilot for Shell Deer Park, explained that the initial investment was $114,000 and Shell Deer Park has saved over $7.4 million of general inspection costs.  The article comes to the conclusion that is it much safer to have a drone in the air and an operator on the ground instead of having people in the air over the sites.

It is exciting to see all of the innovation around safety. Wearables and drones — maybe even robots in the future — can assist us in promoting plant safety and ensuring process safety. If I can help with your process development and troubleshooting, don’t hesitate to contact me. You can use email or phone, though. You don’t have to send in the drone!

creativity and innovation

Creativity and Innovation and Orangutans

creativity and innovation
Image source

So, here we go again…intertwining seemingly unrelated topics — creativity and innovation and orangutans — into an interesting blog.
Over the years, as my readers know, I’ve discussed different approaches to innovation and creativity.  My recent octopus blog fell into this category; now, we have lessons from orangutans.  By the way, I’m not sure where my current animal obsession stems from. I have never had any pets (except for a salamander now and then I found while camping).
To begin we need to understand the orangutan. The Orangutan Foundation International shares these details:  

  • In Malay orang means “person” and utan is derived from hutan, which means “forest” thus, orangutan literally means “person of the forest.”
  • There are three species of orangutans commonly known as the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) and the recently discovered Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis).
  • Orangutans belong to the great ape family, along with gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and humans. The orangutan is Asia’s only great ape, and one of humankind’s closest relatives. We share 97% of the same DNA!
  • Orangutans live only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in South East Asia.

Here’s some other good stuff. Out of all the great apes, baby orangutans spend the longest time with their moms — up to nine years! 

The Creativity and Innovation of This Species

Orangutans have learned to be creative and problem solve in the wild. Then, they pass their cultural knowledge on to younger generations. One example: from generation to generation orangutans are taught how to make “umbrellas” out of leaves to protect themselves from the rain. They are material scientists weaving nests to get a comfortable sleep! 
After all, we all know we need to be rested and dry to be truly creative!  
Another interesting fact is that orangutans males generally live in solitude. This could also influence their innovative thinking. From Sherlock Holmes, we know that solitude and “stepping away” allows us to better analyze the problem.  
In summary, we can learn from orangutans.  First, “create your nest.”  As process engineers, we need to have a strong support from R & D, operators, maintenance, vendors, consultants, and colleagues. We need to walk around, leaving our desks, to get this support and gain a full picture of the situation.
Next, think critically. Solitude, or stepping away allows you to see the process in a different manner and find a solution that is not “more of the same.”  As Pablo Picasso once said [translated] “Without great solitude no serious work is possible.”
So, have some fun with this! Maybe think about the orangutan next time you want to be creative. Let me know what you come up with, and we can share all of our successes.

Beer Industry Sustainable Water and a Chocolate, Cherry Stout

My readers know that I exercise, run, and practice yoga. There is nothing better than a good beer after all of this work. I recently had a Chocolate-Cherry Stout produced by the Firestone Walker Brewing Company from the central coast of California. The beer was great, and it also got me thinking about beer industry sustainable water efforts.

Really, what can be better than a dark chocolate and cherry flavor combo? The result from Firestone Walker is a quintessential seasonal stout offering subtle fruit and cocoa flavor with dark-roasted malt complexity and a rich, velvety mouthfeel. 

But, that's enough about the beer. I was happy to learn that besides the quality of the beer, Firestone Walker focuses on sustainability. They have a relentless drive to conserve water, energy, and materials. They believe that their pursuit of the perfect beer must be underscored by a passion for minimizing environmental impacts for “brewing for tomorrow.” 

How do they do it?

First, their commitment to clean, renewable brewing begins with how they craft their beer. As they outline on their sustainability page of their website: Firestone Walker uses a 9.7-acre solar array with the following benefits:  

  • 3,000 metric tons of carbon emissions are offset annually 
  • 20% of the brewhouse’s energy use is generated by kettle steam recovery
  • Biogas is transformed into usable energy via combined heat-power microturbines

Second, they divert as much waste as possible through recycling, reuse, and repurposing of excess material and equipment. Additionally:

  • 90% of brewing grains are delivered in bulk to eliminate packaging waste
  • 10,000 tons of spent grains are recovered and fed to local livestock each year
  • The brewery “Boneyard” repurposes old equipment, and all excess cardboard, glass, and aluminum is recycled

Beer Industry Sustainable Water Efforts

Finally, they are keeping up with beer industry sustainable water efforts. Water is one of the most precious resources in California. It doesn't help any that the much of the state "has received less than half of its average annual precipitation to date." Plus, 2020 was a very dry Water Year .

Firestone views "water conservation as a vital responsibility for the health of the California environment and communities." This is reflected in its:

  • 5 million gallons of water saved annually through local reservoir sourcing
  • 500,000 gallons of water recycled annually through custom water reuse systems
  • 35 million gallons of process water treated annually on site and returned to the local aquifer

I am sure that other craft brewers use similar techniques for sustainable producing for beer. I just happened to get thinking about it while enjoying my chocolate cherry stout. Investigate your local brewer and let me know your favorite. Maybe we can enjoy a cold one together and come up with sustainable solutions for your industry too.