Does Your Facility Need an Ion Exchange System?

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Ion exchange (IX) is commonly used across a variety of industries, especially chemical and petrochemical, power, mining and metals, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, municipal, semiconductor, and others. IX can be an efficient solution for a variety of applications, including water softening, purification, separation, and pretreatment to protect downstream equipment and improve operational performance.  

If you’re looking for cost-effective pretreatment or specialty separation strategies, you might be wondering “Does my industrial facility need an ion exchange system?”

IX may be right for your plant if:

refinery in the evening

You need to reduce hardness

Hardness refers to water with a high dissolved mineral content, typically consisting of calcium and magnesium ions. While mineral content is acceptable—and even preferable—for drinking water, hardness causes damaging scale deposits on industrial equipment such as boilerscooling towers, and pipes. IX softening is effective for reducing hardness, making it a particularly good fit if your facility uses low pressure boilers.

IX softening uses strong acid cation (SAC) resin to exchange hardness ions for sodium. This means that IX softening is regenerated with relatively safe and low-cost salt brine solutions. However, to avoid excessive regeneration cycles and unnecessary downtime, IX softening is best suited for applications with low total dissolved solids (TDS), while other technologies, such as lime softening, are generally more appropriate for treating water with high concentrations of hardness.

Your processes demand high purity water

IX demineralization and deionization produce high purity water that may be the right choice to treat feed water for high pressure boilers, or for other applications within chemical, power, electronics, nuclear, or other industries. Compared to IX softening, IX demineralization involves a more complex multi-step process. In the first step, the stream is run through a cation exchange resin to remove hardness, sodium and other metals, and in the second step, the stream is treated with an anion exchange resin that removes anions such as carbonate, chloride, silica, and sulfate. In some cases, a third step is added to treat the stream for alkalinity, as well. Despite the added costs that come with a multi-unit system, IX demineralization is often the standard in meeting ultrapure water needs.


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You need to remove alkalinity

Alkalinity, or the presence of dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2), bicarbonate (HCO3), carbonate (CO3), or hydroxyl (OH) in water, negatively impacts high heat processes, such as excess foaming and carryover in boilers. Alkaline contaminants can cause costly scaling and corrosion in boilers, piping, and other equipment when they react to form carbonic acid and hydroxide. Removal of alkalinity can prolong equipment service life and save on downstream operational costs, however, choosing the right IX dealkalization strategy can depend on the target alkalinity, TDS content, and operational capacity, among other factors. 

You need to concentrate or remove metals

IX systems are often used to concentrate and separate out metals in dilute solution, a fact that has contributed to the increasing adoption among electronics, semiconductor, and mining and metals industries. Depending upon the complexity of your process or waste stream, IX can be leveraged for efficient separation of various metals, including cadmium, chromium, copper, cyanide, lead, gold, mercury, silver, and zinc. If your facility is looking for ways to recover valuable metals from waste streams, or to meet metals discharge requirements, then IX may be an ideal solution.

You want to increase product yield

Membrane filtration can be often be used to remove the same contaminants as IX, however, membranes lack the selectivity of IX. Because IX can target specific ions for removal, while leaving desirable substances in solution, it can be a preferable separation strategy if your facility is looking to optimize product yields. Within the food and beverage industries, for example, IX can be deployed for removal of undesirable colors, tastes, and odors, without unnecessary product waste.

How SAMCO can help?

SAMCO has over 40 years’ experience custom-designing and manufacturing IX systems for a range of industries and solutions, so please feel free to reach out to us with your questions. For more information or to get in touch, contact us here to set up a consultation with an engineer or request a quote. We can walk you through the steps for developing the proper solution and realistic cost for your IX treatment system needs.

To learn more about SAMCO’s IX technologies and services, visit our page on ion exchange resin technologies here.

For more articles on IX systems, head on over to our blog. Some that might be of interest to you include:

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