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com
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Performance Analysis of 20 micron self-cleaning disc filter versus cartridge filters for
RO membrane protection after media filtration in a SWRO system

Authors
Zipora Tal Amiad Water Systems
Peachie Maher Hytowitz Amiad Water Systems
Adva Zach Maor Amiad Water Systems
Eatay Pomeranz Amiad Water Systems
Erika Ben-Basat Amiad Water Systems

Abstract
This analysis compared the use of traditional 20 micron cartridge filters versus self-
cleaning disc filters as a safety stage between media filtration and reverse osmosis
(RO) membranes in seawater desalination systems (SWRO) over a testing period of 5
years. Items of interest for comparison were effluent water quality differences as well
as OPEX savings due to reduction of labor and disposal costs related to used cartridges
along with energy cost savings due to a decreased average pressure differential across
the filter system.

The results show that the self-cleaning disc filters provide many benefits when
considered as an alternative to the standard 20 micron cartridges. The disc filters were
found to provide superior water quality, providing effluent with fewer total solids, more
efficient removal of larger particles, stable effluent quality and better removal of
dinoflagellates. The disc filters are not a consumable, but a self-cleaning media which
eliminates disposal costs and drastically reduces labor costs associated with cartridge
replacement. The disc filters are designed to operate with a low clean system pressure
differential and to self-clean at a set point of 7 PSI resulting in an average pressure
differential of 3-4 PSI, whereas the cartridge filters have an average pressure differential
of 17 PSI. This leads to a reduction of energy costs related to pressure differential
across the filter system.

Introduction/Background
Media filters are used as the pre-filtration to RO membranes in many SWRO
installations. The media filters are intended to remove solids and reduce SDI (silt density
index) to improve the performance of the RO membranes (extend durations between
membrane cleaning and therefore extended membrane life). Cartridge filters (20 micron
nominal typically) are installed after the media filters as a safety stage in order to act as
a barrier against sand particles or other debris that may be released from the media
Amiad USA Ltd. Tel: 704.662.3133 E-mail: infousa@amiad.com
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filters. The cartridges are not intended to perform any significant part of the RO
protection filtration.
In cases where the media filters are not performing as required, the cartridge filter stage
will become a secondary filtration stage and will also be tasked with removing solids and
reducing SDI. The result will be a high frequency of cartridge replacement which
increases cartridge purchases, costs of labor associated with cartridge replacement and
plant down-time. (Cartridge replacement rates at the pilot site averaged about 6-8
times per year.) A secondary cost of increased dependence on the cartridge filtration
stage is increased energy costs due to pressure differential over the system as the
cartridge filters trap and accumulate solids (average of 17 PSI with a range of 3-28.5 PSI
over use-time).
The goal of this piloting was to analyze if replacement of the standard safety stage 20
micron cartridges with automatic self-cleaning disc filters would improve total system
performance by eliminating the costs associated with cartridge replacement as well as
reducing the average pressure differential across the stage.
Piloting was also intended to allow for monitoring and testing of effluent water quality
in order to compare the filtration performance of the two options.

Pilot Set-up
Three pilots were run over a five year period at an operating desalination plant in Israel.
The water source for all stages of the pilot and for all systems was the same filtered
water from the plant media filter system.

Pilot Operational Disc filter Cartridge Goals


dates type filter type
1 03/07 to 08/08 Manual Sample 1 Short term feasibility study
Self-cleaning
2 06/08 to 12/12 Sample 2 Long term feasibility study
Arkal Spin-Klin
Demonstration of
Self-cleaning
3 04/09 to 12/12 Sample 2 performance, sizing for final
Arkal Spin-Klin
replacement in plant
Table 1. Piloting details.
Amiad USA Ltd. Tel: 704.662.3133 E-mail: infousa@amiad.com
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Image 1. Pilot unit as installed for Pilot 1 (black disc filter pod and white cartridge filter
housing).

Image 2. Pilot unit as installed for Pilot 2.

Image 3. Pilot unit as installed for Pilot 3.


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Pilot performance results water quality


In order to evaluate the filtration performance of the disc filters versus the standard
cartridges, several analyses were done related to water quality. The first test involved
taking 40-1000 liter samples of the water feed to the filter systems on a weekly or bi-
weekly basis (media filter effluent) and after both the disc and cartridge filters. These
samples were run through a 5 micron membrane and those membranes were evaluated
by microscopic evaluation. The images below show that both the cartridge and disc
filters are clearly removing organic solids from the feed water. The disc filter effluent
shows fewer larger solids.

Image 4. Microscopic analysis of (L to R) pilot system influent, disc filter effluent, 20


micron cartridge effluent.

Next, the water samples were evaluated using a FILTREX automatic image analysis
system which quantifies the solid material in the water by size and color (brown, black
and green, not white or transparent).
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April 15, 2008 Pilot IN Spin Klin OUT Cartridge OUT


20m 20m
Class Contamination Level *
5m - 15m 10 9 9
15m - 25m 7 6 6
25m - 50m 6 4 5
50m - 100m 4 1 3
100m - 150m 2 0 0
150m - 200m 0 0 0
Table 2. FILTREX particle count raw results. Contamination level per ISO 4406 Standard.

Statistics Pilot IN Spin Klin OUT Cartridge OUT


20m 20m
Population 30,426 15,844 19,148
% Rejection - 48% 37%
Average size 12.8m 10.7m 12.3m
Standard deviation 13.2m 7.77m 20.4m
Minimum 5m 5m 5m
Maximum 434m 150m 2376m
Quadratics average 18.3m 13.2m 23.8m
Table 3. FILTREX particle count evaluation.

Review of Table 3 shows that the disc filters provide a higher absolute rejection of the
materials counted and that the average particle size diameter is smaller, or to rephrase
the disc filter is removing larger solids more efficiently.

Additional sampling and monitoring of the ongoing piloting confirmed this finding: the
disc filter system is more efficient at removing larger particles than the standard
cartridge filters, as shown in Graph 1 below.
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Graph 1. Particle Size Distribution from 8/05/2011. (SK is the disc filter, in is the
influent to all the systems)

Next, an analysis was performed on how the parallel systems removed dinoflagellates,
the marine plankton responsible for red tide events, which can cause increased fouling
issues in desalination plant membranes. These small plankton frequently pass through
the media filter stage (even with coagulation). From Graph 2, you can see the disc filter
consistently outperforms the cartridge filters at removing dinoflagellates.
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Dinoflagellates Concentration
IN
10,000
OUT SK1 20m
Concentration (No./100L)

OUT SK2 20m


1,000 OUT Cartridge 20m

100

10

1
11.8.2011 15.2.2012 7.5.2012
Date
Graph 2. Dinoflagellate removal analysis during red tide event, 2011-2012. (SK is the
disc filter)

The system was monitored over 32 months to track the consistency of the filtration
performance. Large volume water samples were collected on a screen on a weekly basis
and these were analyzed by microscope to evaluate the biology collected.

Graph 3 shows that the disc filters filtration efficiency is higher and substantially more
consistent than the cartridge filters (two disc filter systems were in place to test other
operational items such as CIP, which is not covered in this document). The efficiency of
the cartridge filters was compromised by filter integrity failure resulting in the release of
materials downstream. Bio-growth in the cartridges was also observed which increased
the potential material released during these integrity failures. The cartridge filters are
subject to continuously increasing pressure differential and reach high pressure
differential levels before replacement which means that this potential particle release
should be a consideration when designing for membrane protection. This phenomenon
is most evident during high load events, such as red tide, which is the time where
membrane protection is most important. In contrast, this accumulation and potential
particle release does not occur in the self-cleaning disc filter.
Amiad USA Ltd. Tel: 704.662.3133 E-mail: infousa@amiad.com
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Performance of self-cleaning disc and cartridge filters


for particle removal , >25um
100%
90%
80%
Removal Efficiency

70%
60%
50%
40% Grey SK
30%
(20um)
20%
10%
0%

Graph 3. Filtration efficiency over time.

OPEX and CAPEX Comparison


The piloting work performed led to the opportunity to provide filter system proposals
for local SWRO systems. The following charts show the CAPEX and OPEX calculations
provided with one proposal based on operating information from that site.

CAPEX Spin Klin Disc Cartridge Difference


Total lot cost, US$ $825,000 598,000.00
Equipment installation (30%), US$ $247,500 $179,400
CMU building (20%), US$ $165,000 $119,600
Civil/site work (15%), US$ $123,750 $89,700
Finishes allowance (2%), US$ $16,500 $11,960
I&C allowance (8%), US$ $66,000 $47,840
Mechanical and electrical allowance (20%), US$ $165,000 $119,600
CAPEX, US$ $1,608,750 $1,166,100 $442,650
Table 4. CAPEX calculation for operating SWRO plant, May 2009.
Amiad USA Ltd. Tel: 704.662.3133 E-mail: infousa@amiad.com
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OPEX Spin Klin Disc Cartridge Difference


Forward flow cost
Flow rate (m3/hr) 10,000 10,000
Clean pressure differential (meter) 1 2
Maximum pressure differential (meter) 3 10
Average pressure differential (meter) 2 6
Energy consumption for pressure diff. (kwtt year) 700,800 2,102,400 (1,401,600)
Energy cost ($/kwtt) 0.068 0.068
Differential pressure energy cost per year $47,654 $142,963 $(95,309)

Backwash cost (assuming 1 backwash per hour)


Backwash flow rate (m3/hr) 960
Backwash duration (seconds) 15
Backwash water volume per cycle (m3) 88
BW frequency (number/month) 720
Total energy of backwash volume per year (KWH) 152,064
Total energy of backwash volume per year ($) $10,340 n/a $10,340

CIP requirement calculated according to HCl


HCl dosage, liter HCl/hour (4ppm of 33%solution) 40
HCl dose duration, minute 4
HCl dose frequency, x/week 0.17
HCL dosing , liter/year 23
HCl cost, 1$/kg $1.00
Chemicals - operating cost, daily $23.11
Chemicals - operating cost per year $8,436 $8,436

Cartridge replacement cost


New cartridge cost $13,800
Cartridge replacement frequency (number/year) 4
New cartridge cost per year $55,200
Replacement work cost (1 person per year) $170,000
Cartridge replacement cost per year total $225,200 $(225,200)

Total OPEX (US$/year) $66,430 $368,163 $(301,733)


Table 5. OPEX calculation for operating SWRO plant, May 2009.
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You can see from the OPEX calculations that the disc filter system price is approximately
40% more than the cartridge filter system. However, when you review the OPEX
calculations you can see that the operating costs due to the energy expended
overcoming the higher pressure differential as well as the cartridge replacement costs
(including labor of replacement) bring the total system related costs in the first year to a
more equal value and provide costs savings over the operating time of the filtration
system. The ROI (return on investment) of the disc filter system is 1.47 years. The one
item not included in this analysis is the cost related to cartridge disposal. Including this
in the costs would further decrease the ROI.

Conclusions
From this piloting, it has been confirmed that self-cleaning disc filters provide many
benefits versus the standard 20 micron cartridges typically used after media filtration
and before the RO system in traditional seawater desalination systems. The disc filters
provide superior water quality, providing effluent with fewer total solids, more efficient
removal of larger particles and better removal of dinoflagellates. The effluent quality
delivered from the disc filter system is much more consistent, whereas the cartridge
filters effluent quality was unstable due to integrity failure during high pressure
conditions and compounded by bio-growth within the cartridge.
The disc filters eliminate disposal costs and drastically reduce labor costs associated
with cartridge replacement. The disc filters also operate with a low average pressure
differential (3-4 PSI) compared to the cartridge filters average of 17 PSI which provides
substantial energy savings related to pumping costs.
Eliminating the disposal of the cartridges as well as saving energy also make the disc
filters a more environmentally or green filtration solution.

Additional Benefits
An important benefit to consider with the disc filters versus cartridge filters, is the effect
of extreme loading on the filtration system. In addition to the unstable effluent quality
seen during red tide events with the use of cartridge filters, the cartridge filters have the
potential to be damaged or deform/collapse when replacement cannot be preformed
quickly enough during cases of extreme organic or inorganic (sand/silt) loading.
Amiad USA Ltd. Tel: 704.662.3133 E-mail: infousa@amiad.com
120-J Talbert Road Fax: 704.662.3155 Web: www.amiadusa.com
Mooresville, NC 28117

Image 5. Integrity failure of cartridge filters in a SWRO plant.

This catastrophic failure would subject the membrane system to a slug of loading with
the potential for irreversible fouling and/or membrane damage. This situation is not
possible with the disc filters as extreme loading will increase the pressure which is
compressing the disc filters together making solids penetration more difficult. The
backwash cycle frequency will increase to remove the faster solids accumulation due to
higher solids loading. The worst case scenario will be a blinding of the filter system
which occurs when the backwash cycle cannot operate quickly enough to remove the
solids building up on the disc surface. This will result in a system shutdown. While
system shutdown is not a desired occurrence, it is superior to failure of the filter system
with potential for membrane damage.

The disc filters systems are fabricated from polymeric materials which makes them an
extremely cost effective filtration solution versus filter solutions requiring special
coating or specialty metals to prevent corrosion when used in brackish or sea-water
service.
Amiad USA Ltd. Tel: 704.662.3133 E-mail: infousa@amiad.com
120-J Talbert Road Fax: 704.662.3155 Web: www.amiadusa.com
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System Installations
Due to the results of this piloting there have been two large systems of note designed
with 20 micron disc filter systems in place of 20 micron cartridges.
The first provides desalinated water for plant use. This system was installed in January
of 2013 and treats 36.6 MGD.

Image 6. The disc filter system installation.

The second system is currently in design by CH2M Hill for a project in Singapore for 87.4
MGD.

Acknowledgements
We would like to acknowledge Aviv Shafrir of Amiad Water Systems and Doron Yardeny
who performed the daily work on these systems for the 5 years of piloting.