RTO Technology Gives Best of Both Worlds to Converters

Pollution. It's a dirty little word. Let's add volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and rising fuel prices to the list, too. While we're at it, let's add the first word that came out of your mouth when you opened last month's gas bill at home.

As fuel costs have risen, regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO) technology has become more and more of a player, says Jeff Kudronowicz, senior project manager at Anguil Environmental Systems, Milwaukee, WI. “Current RTO technology can get 95-plus percent heat recovery, so that really reduces customer operating costs,” he adds. “We have a customer in New Jersey who had a thermal recuperative unit that was probably eight to ten years old. It's performing well, but the customer can afford to buy a new system and pay it off in less than eighteen months because of reduced operating costs.”

If you're using a solvent-based ink or coating in your process, you have to meet state and federal clean air requirements. The type of system you use will depend on your application, says Jim Alimena, marketing manager at Glenro Inc., Paterson, NJ. “If there's a high concentration of VOCs in the exhaust stream, it would be a likely candidate for a thermal system,” he explains. “If there's a lower concentration of VOCs in the exhaust stream, we would tend to look at a catalytic system. The difference is, a catalytic oxidizer uses a catalyst, whereas a thermal oxidizer doesn't. A catalyst basically enables the destruction process of VOCs to occur at a lower temperature.”

Dan Bemi, regional sales manager at Megtec Systems, DePere, WI, adds, “Right now the market is reacting to high energy costs, so heat recovery is a major trend. By that I mean not just preheating the air that goes through the oxidizer but secondary and tertiary heat recovery components to bring heat back to a process or to heat the plant or any number of potential reuses.”

Bemi says there is also fast-growing interest from converters in the value-added services available from the suppliers. One example would be an engineering study to determine whether drying processes are optimized to minimize the exhaust flow, which would bring down the size of the capital equipment. Other services such as remote diagnostics, 24/7 call centers, and preventive maintenance programs are becoming very big in the industry, Bemi reports.

Kudronowicz agrees. Today's economy has brought about a reduction in the engineering staff employed at a plant. As a result, he says, “There is more and more need for turnkey installations. We don't supply just equipment anymore; we do concrete pads and support structures, even to the point of designing and installing permanent total enclosures. That's big right now in the converting industry, because that's the way converters can get 100% capture efficiency at their processes.”

Alimena continues, “It's not a one-size-fits-all situation. Oxidizer suppliers have to understand the customer's process. Everyone's got their own unique requirements.”

RTO technology is being designed for a wider range of applications — higher concentrations in addition to the low concentrations, says Kudronowicz. “It gives converters the best of both worlds. You can get the low operating costs of the traditional low VOC concentration, but the RTOs are designed now to handle higher concentrations as well.”

As Alimena likes to say, “The solvents fuel their own destruction.”

Editor's Note: For more on pollution control, see article by Ralph Stettenbenz, Air Preheater Co., in the August 2000 issue of PFFC.

Restrictions of time and space limit the number of companies, products, and trends that we can discuss in these reports. For additional information, see PFFC's features and departments each month and consult the June Buyers Guide.

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