By Ali Goudarzi
I recently received a call from a sulfuric acid plant operator that sounded a big alarm—as in the plant was in danger of violating environmental output regulations if an issue could not be resolved quickly. And, to top it off, he was asking me to help troubleshoot a competitor’s candle filter that a contractor had installed.
You’re probably wondering why he was calling me and not the competitor. Well, I had recently called on him to discuss CECO filters when he informed me that he had already purchased the competitor candle filter mist eliminators. So, I left my card and let him know that we provide engineering, retrofit and upgrade services on any equipment whether it is ours or a competitor if he ever needed troubleshooting help.
Shortly after the start-up of the plant the operator was experiencing serious issues:
- They were experiencing major acid carryover in their final absorption tower.
- The output at the stack was showing a long-lasting acid plume.
- He was concerned about the environmental output regulations or being required to shut down longer term.
As candle filters are the last line of defense to prevent acid output at the stack, the customer fortunately called me straight away to discuss troubleshooting. He knew a solution needed to be found quickly and before the stack emissions created environmental contamination.
Environmental emissions is a high priority for sulfuric acid plants and not complying with regulations often results in expensive fines or penalties, and in some cases, even long term shut-down of operation. These are costly impacts on the operation and cash-flow generated from production.
Even though the client did not procure the candle filters from us, we still provided troubleshooting assistance and were able to guide them to source the problem. We were able to determine that the problem was poor installation of the candle filter mist eliminator. The client could see a visible opening at the flange connection through the sight glass. The gasket leak was due to poor installation provided by an outsourced maintenance company.
The problem could not be resolved during operation and the plant had to undergo immediate shut-down to fix the candle filter issue as well as one other issue we helped them identify. Within one week, the issues were resolved and the plant was operating again. The client appreciated our support and was very satisfied with our fast and effective troubleshooting services. I had provided a step-by-step procedure to assist them with sourcing the issue.
This got me thinking a lot about the exact procedures for installation of candle filter mist eliminators. How can I or CECO Filters prevent this from happening again with other clients or customers?
When we deliver our products to our customers, we offer installation manuals and procedures with information on how to properly commission our candle filters. The client confirmed the competitor had given them a manual, however, their manual didn’t provide clear cut instructions on how to prevent gasket by-pass or indicate the importance of ensuring firm seals.
I started to consider, could this problem be avoided? Why didn’t the client request installation supervision from the competitor? I thought about the number of times our candle filters have been installed without supervision and think of the problems caused due to lack of due diligence when it comes to installation. CECO Filters has incorporated supervision services into the proposal to clients to ensure the client is being offered the added value service to prevent measures like this case.
After reviewing the chain of communication, I understood clearly the experience and the resources that the CECO Filters team has and how they can assist our customers. I started to think about how we could improve our service and assist clients in a wider spectrum. I decided that a step-by-step troubleshooting guide for customers or the contractors they hire would be useful in preventing similar issues from arising.
The troubleshooting guide is completed and is available to our customers online and will be provided to each customer with supply of candle filters.
Feel free to send me an email if you would like to discuss this topic further, or if you are dealing with another issue that you would like me to address in a future blog. Also, please feel free to post this to your LinkedIn or Twitter feed for others who may be dealing with this, or similar challenges.