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and Operation

Using the batch flux curve method aids in optimal design

and operation.

CHEMICAL ENGINEERING PROGRESS

July 1994 pp. 50-56

Copyright 1994 AIChE. All Rights Reserved

Joel B. Christian,

OSRAM SYLVANIA INC.

A design method for thickeners and clarifiers known as the batch flux curve

technique was developed over 20 years ago, but still is not well-known in design

and operating circles. An informal survey of major clarifier and thickener

manufacturers found that none of the firms surveyed use this method for sizing and

maximizing operating conditions. Here, we will show the benefits of using this

technique, while illustrating it with an example from an actual plant design. The

theory and applications will also be covered.

Clarifiers and thickeners are separation devices. They are common in waste

treatment operations as well as in other chemical operations. These devices

separate two phases by differences in their density. Clarifiers and thickeners are

essentially ide ntical units; a clarifier produces clean water, while a thickener

concentrates a solids slurry as the desired product.

In this discussion, thickener will be used to describe both units. Also, a gravity

separation of solids from water is assumed to take place. The most common unit is

a circular thickener.

The mass (Eq. 1) and material balances (Eq. 2) that form the foundation for the

technique (see Figure 1) are:

Qf

Qf xf =

Qu

Qe (1)

Qu xU

Qe xe (2)

xe = 0

(3)

The feed flowrate (Qf) and concentration (xf) are normally design parameters. This

leaves the designer or operator to determine the underflow pumping rate (Q u)

(sometimes called blowdown) required to achieve a desired underflow effluent

concentration (xu) . Since the underflow is normally pumped, this variable can be

controlled during operation. Also, the pump must be sized to adequately handle the

largest expected loadings.

Types of settling

Four regimes of settling are recognized (see Figure 2):

Discrete settling occurs when particles are independent of each other, with no

interparticle forces. Examples of this regime are removing sand and sub stones

from water. In this regime a force balance using Stokes' law is appropriate.

In flocculent settling the particles begin to influence each other, occasionally

sticking together to form flocs. Design in the flocculent regime may use quiescent

settling tests, or batch-flux design to improve the slurry product.

In hindered settling, particles are so close they have a major effect on each other.

This is the regime in which batch-flux analysis applies.

The compression regime is not well studied, and since it normally operates only at

the very bottom cone of the thickener, it goes beyond conventional design

requirements.

The development of the technique began with Kynch, who modeled the settling of

particles in water. This was followed by work of Yoshioka and Dick, and Ewing,

which formed the current technique. Since the surface area of the settling unit is

the main variable, the mass flow through the system is considered a flux, mass per

unit area per time. This allows system properties to be described in a general way

for any size unit.

In summary, the technique looks at steady-state conditions as solids move

downward in a thickener at a single flux rate. The settling rate is a function of the

feed solids concentration. This settling flux is combined with the flux caused by

Qu< drawing product off the bottom, and balanced with the water rising out of the

thickener. If the flux in (xf Qf/A) exceeds the flux out (xu Qu /A), solids will be

carried out in the effluent.

In the batch flux method, a graphical technique represents the settling flux and the

underflow flux as functions of solids concentration. The settling properties are

plotted as a curve.

The applied flux and underflow pumping rate are presented as an operating line.

The applied flux is the y-intercept of the operating line, and the pumping rate is the

slope of the operating line. Determining the settling properties is more involved,

and we will detail the experimental method and calculations required for

generating the curve and applying it.

In settling, cross-sectional surface area is the key parameter. The depth of the tank

is not a factor. The depths used in practice are typically 2.5 to 5 m (8 to 15 ft),

which allow for inlet and outlet turbulence, and solids storage in the bottom of the

unit. This dependence on area holds for discrete settling when Stokes' law applies,

as well as for hindered settling, when the batch flux analysis applies.

Design objective

The typical design procedure will be shown using data from a large industrial

wastewater treatment facility, involving acid and base neutralization and heavy

metals removal.

The objective is to determine the area of a thickener, the optimum underflow

pumping rate, and the corresponding underflow concentration. The following data

were taken: Qf = 177,600 kg/h; xf = 5 kg/m3; and [density], p f =1,000 kg/m3.

Nomenclature

G = solids flux, kg/m2/h

Q = flow rate, kg/hr [note]

r = radius, m

V = unhindered settling velocity, m/h

x = concentration, kg/m3

Subscripts

e = effluent

f = feed

i = test number (1 - n)

u = underflow

Greek letter

p = density, kg/m3

[note] mass and volume flows are used interchangably in this paper, you must use the slurry density

to assure dimensional consistency.

Calculation of the curve requires several settling tests of thickener feed at various

concentrations. The goal is to measure the unhindered settling velocity at several

concentrations. Each test (i) produces a settling velocity (V i) and a solids

concentration (xi).

One large sample can be diluted or concentrated to make several samples of

different concentrations. In diluting, use the supernatant as a dilutant rather than

adding water. This keeps the solution chemistry consistent.

The test apparatus is simply a graduated cylinder or long glass tube, and a

stopwatch. A wire stirrer operating at one rpm is required for slow settling

materials such as bioprocess solutions to minimize wall effects (see Figure 3).

Condition the sample with flocculant, if required, at the recommended dosage rate.

Mix the solution thoroughly, and then begin timing. The solid-solution interface is

measured and recorded over time. Figure 4 shows the settling curve obtained for on

e solids concentration. In testing, read the interface position on the mL graduations

of the graduated cylinder. Then measure the graduations and convert the mL

readings to length.

Test #

3

tss (kg/mm )

v (m/hr)

--------------------------------1

3.1

6.045

3.3

2.560

5.3

4.534

19

1.100

24

0.897

31

0.944

38

0.382

41

0.248

51

0.326

10

52

0.177

11

53

0.239

12

53

0.217

13

70

0.293

14

73

0.227

15

80

0.284

16

81

0.210

17

96

0.183

18

110

0.107

19

110

0.034

20

120

0.110

21

140

0.018

Table 1

The straight line shows the estimate of the unhindered settling velocity. This can be

calculated from the x and y intercepts:

(0.35 m/19 min) (60 min/1 h)

= 1.1 m/h

(4)

Each solution is also analyzed for solids concentration. Normally total suspended

solids (TSS) is used, but other measures, such as volatile suspended solids (VSS)

for bioprocess work can be used. Table I shows the results for 21 different tests.

Often the velocity and concentration can be fit to a straight line on semilog

coordinates (see Figure 5). The transformed data are represented by:

log V = m x + b (5a)

or solved for V:

V = 10(m

x + b)

(5b)

where m and b are the slope and intercept of the linearized data, respectively. In

this case the values were estimated to be m = -0.0142 and b 0.370.

Use the fitted data for (xi, Vi,) to calculate the settling flux curve:

Flux = Gi = Xi Vi

(6a)

Illustrating at xi = 20 kg/m3:

V20 = 10 ((-O.0142)(20)

= 1.26 m/h

+ 0.37)

(6b)

= 25.2 kg/m2/h

(6c)

Calculate Gi for xi from 0 to 300 kg/m3 in intervals of 10, then graph as shown in

Figure 6. In this example, estimates were calculated for experimental points

outside the experimental range. The feed rate solids flux shown is calculated in the

next step.

Design Procedure

The thickener area is also required for this calculation. Guess the thickener area for

the first iteration. Several iterations of area may be required to achieve a practical

thickener size and pumping rate. For a circular thickener with a 15.24 m (50 f t)

dia.:

A= Pi r2 = 182.4 m2 (7)

The applied solids feed rate can now be calculated as a flux - see Eqs. 8a and 8b.

Applied flux = Gf = (xf Qf) / A (8a)

(8b)

Once the settling flux curve is drawn, the optimum operating point can be

determined. To calculate the removal rate, construct an operating line from the feed

point, tangent to the settling curve, and crossing the x axis. The x-intercept is the

maxim um underflow solids concentration possible, as shown in Figure 7.

The condition described by this operating line is referred to as a critically loaded

thickener. At steady-state the unit will provide optimum performance under these

conditions.

The maximum thickened concentration in this example is 232 kg/m 3. This is very

concentrated for waste treatment applications. Typical thickened concentrations of

biological treatment sludges are 5-15 kg/m3.

To find the corresponding pumping rate, solve Eqs. 2 and 3 for Q u. Since xe = 0,

then -see Eqs 9a and 9b.

Qu = (Xf Qf) / Xu (9a)

(9b)

Since these numbers are reasonable, an about 15 m (50 ft) diameter unit would

work well. If the numbers were not reasonable, a new operating line could be

drawn by inspection, and the area (A) and underflow (or withdrawal) rate (Q u)

could b e determined for those conditions.

Qu is the steady-state sludge withdrawal rate. Keep in mind that the maximum flow

requirement may be several times that depending on design, operation, and control

scheme. A typical installation pumps the solids out once an hour using a ti med

control.

Thickener in operation

The theory says to expect four concentrations in the unit at steady-state' as

illustrated in Figure 8:

0 kg/m3 TSS (at the top);

5 kg/m3 TSS (the "thin blanket");

193 kg/m3 TSS (the "thick blanket"); and

232 kg/m3 TSS in the exit stream.

The layers of solids will move vertically to absorb variations in incoming flow and

underflow pumping. Once the batch flux curve is constructed it can be applied in a

variety of ways.

In practice, clarifier sizing is often based on a handbook value for a particular type

of waste. Now, we shall compare a handbook value to the batch flux curve

technique. These values are often reported as a rise rate. For this application 33-41

m 3/day/m2 (800-1,000 gal/day/ft2) is considered typical; the range for typical

overflow rates is 16-73 (400-1,800) in the same units (1). The overflow rate in the

previous batch flux curve illustration is:

Rise rate = wastewater flow rate/clarifier area = 23.4 m 3/day/m2 (570 gal/day/ft2).

Batch flux sizing of the clarifier has placed the size in the conservative end of the

published design range.

using the batch flux technique to size clarifiers also ensures control of the

underflow. The achievable underflow concentration is easily calculated. For

chemical process es, the batch flux technique can be applied to new systems that

lack published guidelines. The size calculated can be compared to published

clarifier ranges to check for reasonableness.

The major benefit of the batch flux curve is during operation. The curve plots the

solids loading and expected underflow concentration, and determines the required

pumping rate to achieve the greatest separation from the equipment. The idea is to

ach ieve a critically loaded settling unit. This is done by constructing operating

lines as illustrated in the thickener design example.

Figure 9 and Table 2 illustrate the effects of underloading, critically loading, and

overloading a thickener.

Underloading is the most common condition found in a thickener (see Figure 9). In

this case, the sludge blanket is not allowed to develop, and excess water is pumped

out of the thickener underflow. Figure 9 shows an underflow of only 150 kg/m 3 of

TSS. (This is the same unit as just calculated, but run at a different underflow concentration.)

Using Eq. 9a the current pumping rate would be - see Eq. 10.

(10)

In this case, the new operating line would be constructed to determine the optimum

underflow concentration. Use the design procedure to determine the optimum

underflow concentration and calculate the flow required to reach it. Since the new

pumping r ate will be lower, there will be energy savings as well as improved

operation. The product concentration will change from 150 to 232 kg/m 3; and the

pumping rate from 5,920 to 3,830 kg/h, at critically loaded flow.

Overloading causes the operating line to cross the curve at 140 kg/m 3. This is the

exit concentration, xu. Use the slope of the operating line to calculate the underflow

rate: - see Equation I 1.

(11)

If operated this way for long, solids will accumulate and rise to the overflow,

contaminating the effluent. Eqs. 2 and 9a can be used to calculate the effluent

concentration (xe). - see Equation 12.

(12)

This shows the effect of overloading a thickener by pumping too little underflow.

Other operational problems can occur, such as intermittent overloading and varying

sludge properties. In each case, the batch flux curve is determined for each material

and the operating line is constructed.

Problems can also arise with improper dosing of flocculent. Often, an underdose

can drastically change the settling properties. This points out the importance of

properly conditioning the samples with flocculent before each batch settling test.

Table 2. Different types of loading for a thickener (inset).

Advanced applications

For biological treatment processes, an important extension of the batch flux curve

is the state point (see Figure 10). Developed by Keinath, et al. (2), the state point

adds operating lines for reactor recycle, allowing the thickener operation to be a

djusted to optimize the entire system. The state point operating line crosses the

batch flux curve operating line at xr, the concentration of cells in the reactor.

This concept is useful in operating many kinds of biological reactors. In Figure 11,

by pumping the clarifier at a lower rate to achieve critically loaded operation, the

cell concentration in the reactor will increase giving better treatment. This co ncept

can be extended to inorganic treatment by substituting the crystal growth equation

for the cell growth equation.

Another use is for thickeners in series, using the recycle from the second stage as

part of the makeup to the first stage (3). Using sequential thickening steps,

deliberate overloading of all but the last step may give distinct advantages.

substituting the crystal growth equation for the cell

growth equation.

Using thickeners in series is good for slow settling materials. This setup is thought

to take advantage of the compressive settling regime for consolidation of thickened

solids. A polishing unit provides a clear effluent. This technique allows more

control over the finished product, and allows equipment sizing to be optimized for

the lowest-cost thickened product.

A third important concept is inorganic solids recycle. This technique is useful in

treating heavy metals and other ionic species in solution. By recycling solids and

mixing them with the feed material, greater removal is often achieved (4).

This technique employs several mechanisms, including providing seed crystals,

decreasing precipitate surface tension, raising the ionic activity, providing an ionexchange site, and ultimately decreasing the solubility allowing more ions to be

removed from solution, yielding a cleaner effluent. The batch flux curve and state

point can be used to determine the mass balance in solids recycle system, allowing

steady-state process conditions to be optimized. [CEP]

Literature Cited

1. Corbitt, R.A., Standard Handbook of Environmental Engineering,McGrawHill, New York. p 6.89 (1989).

2. Keinath, T. M., et al., "Activated Sludge -- Unified System Design and

Operation," J. Envir. Eng. Div., Proc. ASCE, 103(EE5) 829-849 (1977).

3. Dick, R.I., "Practical Thickening Theory Applications", Fluid/Particle

Separation Journal, 2 (2), (June 1989).

4. Christian, J.B., U.S. Patent 5,120,447 " Method for Removing Heavy

Metals from Wastewater," (June 9, 1992).

Further Reading

Dick, R.I., "Gravity Thickening of Sewage Sludges," Effluent & Water

Treatment Journal, Nov. 1972, pp. 597-605.

Dick, R.I., in Physicochemical Processes for Water Quality Control, Walter J.

Weber, Jr.,Wiley-Interscience, (1972)

Dick, R.I. and B. B. Ewing, "Evaluation of Activated Sludge Thickening

Theories," J. Sanitary Eng. Div., Proceedings of the ASCE, 93, no. SA-4, (1967).

Hydroxides," Journal of Water Pollution Control Federation, 49(12):2411-2418,

(1977).

Kynch, G.J., "A Theory of Sedimentation", Transactions, Faraday Society,

Vol. 48, pp. 166-176, (1952).

Yoshioka, N., et al., "Continuous Thickening of Homogeneous Flocculated

Slurries," Chemical Engineering, 21, Tokyo, (1957).

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