If you were to take a look at a kettle, dishwasher or washing machine in a hard water area of the UK you will notice a crustation forming around the appliances element, this is hardwater scaling, also referred to as limescale. If left untreated this limescale will reduce the efficiency of the appliance in question and ultimately lead to breakdown.
The term ‘industrial fouling, is this very same process, only on an industrial scale. If you can imagine the vast quantities of water some companies deal with on a day to day basis and the industrial plant that utilises this water then you can begin to imagine just what catastrophic consequences hard water can have on a business.
Types of Fouling
Industrial fouling can form as a result of many different types of process, for instance mineral scale deposits can occur as a result of heat transfer, calcium phosphate scaling is usually found within sugar refineries and calcium carbonate fouling is a direct result of hard water.
What are the issues with industrial fouling
The same as on a domestic level, deposits left behind as a direct result of industrial fouling creates an insulating layer on surfaces. This can lead to power increases and the installation of more heavy duty equipment in order to compensate for the for the damaged caused by fouling. It is estimated that up to 40% more energy is required to heat water within a system that has suffered under hard water conditions.
Pipework scale decreases the accessible cross-section area, and liquids are affected by elevated pipe wall friction. A more substantial pump will end up being necessary in order to sustain throughput volumes however this is going to be a short lived resolution toward the actual situation. A plant which would need to be closed down for the purpose of cleaning would be very expensive.
Within industrial processes it is sometimes not evident that hard water scaling is occurring as closed systems could be involved. some clues can provide answers as to whether industrial fouling is taking place.
Are your heating bills reduced after plant is cleaned
Are heat exchangers performing below there design output
Is plant suffering from corrosion damage
Are there any signs of unexpected formations occurring
If you suspect that industrial fouling is taking place then with the right coarse of action it is possible to prevent your equipment from failing, reduce downtime and reduce the effects of corrosion on your plant machinery.
Solving the Problem
A site survey would be able to determine the extent of the damage and what would be the best action to take with regard to prevention and maintenance measures. It could also reveal that only minor changes are needed such as a temperature or pH change in order reduce fouling without the need for additional equipment installation.