What is the Best Make and Model of Thermal Oxidizer? (2021)
As an impartial service company that works on all makes and models of air pollution control equipment, we’re often asked which manufacturer’s oxidizer system is “best.” The answer depends on a number of factors.
Unfortunately, too many thermal oxidizer manufacturers emphasize initial capital cost in their marketing. They ignore expenses related to other critical variables, such as ongoing operating and maintenance cost, estimated equipment life, and on-stream reliability. System reliability is particularly important, as oxidizer downtime leads to production downtime and compliance violations. Ease of maintenance and operation are also key considerations that play a role in total cost of ownership.
These variables can vary widely from one thermal oxidizer manufacturer to another. Below are our recommendations to help you evaluate the “best” abatement solution for your facility.
What to look for in an oxidizer manufacturer:
1. Knowledge of all types of air pollution control equipment, not just RTOs
For decades, there’s been a misconception in the United States that regenerative thermal oxidizers (RTOs) are the go-to solution for all types of VOC abatement. This is simply not true. All oxidizer technologies have niches to which they are best suited. Flares and direct-fired oxidizers are most appropriate for applications with high energy loads, regenerative thermal oxidizers work well for larger flows with low energy contribution, and recuperative thermal oxidizers perform well in treating streams with moderate energy contribution. Gas stream composition, required on-stream time, and destruction efficiency requirements should also be considered.
Matching the right solution with the right application requires a manufacturer who offers and understands more than just RTOs. (As the saying goes, if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail!) Time and time again, we’ve seen firsthand how expensive and problematic an ill-conceived solution can be.
Some customers are encouraged by manufacturers to select a Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer when a Catalytic Oxidizer would make much more sense. If you would like to learn more about the specific technical advantages and disadvantages of different types of oxidizers including catalytic and thermal, we recommend you contact a manufacturer who offers a range of oxidizers as well as other air pollution control equipment, such as Pollution Systems.)
2. Engineering Expertise
Every industry has its own unique challenges and standards, and each oxidation technology features strengths and weaknesses depending on the particular application and process conditions. We encourage our customers to look for a manufacturer who will custom-engineer your solution and who doesn’t rely on standardized oxidizer designs. Many facilities have specific challenges and DRE targets which are best addressed by seasoned engineers who have an in-depth knowledge of the pros and cons of the different types of abatement technologies and can asses which applications favor each technology. Engineers should also have hands-on experience in your industry and understand the different materials of construction available.
Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for our field service technicans to be called onsite to troubleshoot a brand-new, poorly engineered RTO that's not meeting DRE (destruction and removal efficiencies). Learn more about oxidizers and DREs.
3. “Total Cost of Ownership” Approach
A good oxidizer manufacturer understands how to suggest the right technology to target the lowest total cost of ownership while maintaining environmental compliance. Cost of ownership should account for a full spectrum of costs for the application, including system life expectancy, maintenance requirements, and utility costs (e.g., water, electricity, reagents, etc.).
Typically, the largest utility cost related to thermal oxidation is the thermal energy necessary for system operation. When energy consumption is the chief concern and a process contains high energy, technologies with low thermal efficiency such as flares or direct-fired oxidizers should be considered. Processes with a very low energy contribution are best treated with an RTO or recuperative thermal oxidizer, and processes with low to moderate levels of energy contribution should be carefully assessed to optimize equipment efficiency vs. overall energy requirements.
It is especially important to consider total cost of ownership with regenerative thermal oxidizers. An RTO consists of many moving parts, and the quality of materials used in construction can make an enormous difference in performance, maintenance costs, and total life expectancy.
4. System Controls Expertise
To achieve the best performance from your oxidizer, you’ll need a robust, easy-to-use, automated control system – one that leverages advanced automation technology to help ensure high uptime and performance efficiencies. Look for a manufacturer who offers fully automated controls and the necessary customized programming to easily and safely start, stop, and operate your system. The platform should include a control panel with a PLC and operator interface, interlocks, and all the required instrumentation for continuous safe operation with minimal operator interaction. Consider adding remote monitoring and interfacing along with features designed to speed troubleshooting (e.g., first-out annunciation, specific alarms, and intuitive information screens). Many controls can also be custom designed and programmed for the skill level of your plant’s operators, reducing training time and cost.
5. Ongoing Maintenance & Service Support for the Oxidizer
Ideally, your manufacturer should provide services that span initial system design to commissioning and ongoing operational support including inspections, maintenance, and troubleshooting. An oxidizer’s performance and life expectancy are heavily dependent on timely, accurate inspections and maintenance. Manufacturers who offer 24/7/365 field service capabilities help ensure that your system will remain operational long after it’s installed and commissioned.