Water treatment for British Sugar CHP plant

ACWa Services has received a turnkey contract to design, manufacture, install and commission a water treatment plant to provide ultra pure water for British Sugar's new combined heat and power plant in Bury St Edmunds ­ requiring a combination of pretreatment, reverse osmosis and mixed bed demineralisation.

When completed, the new plant will be capable of accepting 15m3/hr of

incoming feed water from British Sugar’s existing borehole supplies with a

process design which includes water pretreatment, reverse osmosis (RO),

carbon dioxide degassing and duplex mixed bed ion exchange. Main process

systems are to be supplied as skid mounted units, together with all the

necessary ancillary equipment required to operate the plant at optimum

capacity on a cost-effective basis.

The filter bed comprises a top layer of mixed sand and manganese dioxide

media with progressively coarser layers of sand and gravel beneath it. Any

iron and manganese will be filtered out by the mixed media which, to

maintain removal efficiency, is automatically backwashed and regenerated by

dosing with a sodium hydochlorite solution. The filtered water will then be

dosed with acid to reduce alkalinity and allow the downstream RO plant to

operate at 90 per cent recovery.

From the pretreatment process, water will be pumped to a single pass RO

filtration system, designed to provide permeate of 10-20mg/l TDS for feeding

to the mixed bed units. The plant will use spirally wound RO elements with

polyamide active surfaces and polysulphone backing/support layers. As

pressure is applied to one side of the semi-permeable membrane, the

feedwater is separated into two streams ­ product water (permeate) and

wastewater (concentrate).

The plant will be installed with five pressure tubes containing a number of

20 bar RO membranes staged in a tapered arrangement to allow a recovery rate

of 90 per cent (permeate/ feed). As a consequence of this concentration,

certain salts may reach supersaturation levels leading to precipitation and

fouling of the membranes ­ a condition which will be minimised by dosing the

system with antiscalant.

The RO plant is to be installed with an inverter driven high pressure pump

incorporated to reduce manual intervention. As the membranes become

progressively fouled, the pressure required to achieve feedwater flowrate

will be automatically adjusted by British Sugar¹s distributed control

system, completely eliminating the need for throttling valves to meter the


If the feedwater temperature is high, a low pressure is necessary, but if

membrane fouling is high, a higher pressure will be required. the high

pressure pump was selected to cope with the worst scenarios of 20 per cent

fouling and 10oC water temperature. Permeate from the RO system will then

pass to a degassing tower which removes carbon dioxide before it is fed to

the mixed bed demineralisation units.

The mixed bed demineralisation system will be installed to remove the

remaining dissolved contamination and produce a product of extremely high

purity. Within the ACWa Services mixed bed demineralisation vessels will be

a mixed quantity of strong acid cation and strong base anion resins

providing an arrangement for multiple cation-anion Œcells’ grouped randomly

in series. As permeate passes down-flow through the mixed resin beds the

process provides a simultaneous cation and anion exchange to produce high

purity water.

During the cation exchange, ionisable salts contained in the influent water

are converted to their respective acids, while negative radicals of the

acids are converted to hydroxyl during the anion exchange process, resulting

in the production of pure water. The strong acid action resin, similar to

that used as softener, is regenerated with hydrochloric acid, converting it

to the hydrogen form which allows it to remove cations such as calcium,

magnesium and sodium from the water. The strong base anion resin is

regenerated with caustic soda, enabling it to convert to the hydroxyl form

and remove anions such as chloride, sulphate and nitrate together with more

weakly ionisable substances such as carbon dioxide and silica.

Purified water from the single cation-anion cell reaction is polished by

subsequent cation-anion cells. Final treated water from the mixed bed

demineraliser will be devoid of nearly all dissolved solids resulting in a

treated quality of <0.1µS/cm and silica levels of less than 0.01ppm. The capacity of the demineralisation beds will depend on the total amount of dissolved solids within the RO permeate. As the resin becomes exhausted there is a reduction in the quality of the treated permeate and the bed has to be generated. Regeneration is automatic, using backwash to separate the different resins, acid and caustic injection and displacement and various processes which remix and rinse the resins and recycle the water until the required quality is achieved.

Whenever the demineralised water tanks are full, the RO plant and degasser

shut down automatically. To maintain water quality in the tanks, the

demineraliser feed pumps continue to operate, using actuated valves to shut

off the suction from the degasser sump while opening a valve to allow

suction from the base of the demineraliser storage tanks.

One feature of the plant is that the operator is able to select high flow

polishing and run both demineralisation tanks in parallel at 30m3/hr at the

touch of a button.

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