Conserving Water through Proper Sealing Selection with David Brewer
It’s my pleasure to welcome David Brewer to the podcast. He is Atlantic regional manager for SEPCO sealing equipment.
I spend most of my time in paper mills, chemical plants, food processing wastewater treatment plants. I work with distributors and solve problems when it comes to process equipment.
In this episode we covered:
- What are some of the common things you see come about that we must address when it comes to solving sealing problems?
- Water conservation is a big deal. Why are organizations so concerned with this right now?
- Now, where is this water loss occurring?
What are some of the common things you see come about that we must address when it comes to solving sealing problems?
Within regards to process equipment, you have a lot of different type of process equipment from pumps to mixers, to agitators, blenders, things of that nature. Most of the time, what we see is anything from:
- Poorly installed products
- Missed applications
- Things where the end user or the distributor, or even we have misidentified what really needs to be in that process.
Water conservation is a big deal. Why are organizations so concerned with this right now?
It kind of comes from the top down. We’re looking at big corporations that we deal with in the paper industry and big phosphate mining companies. They just want to be good stewards of the environment and have a good corporate reputation for being good stewards of the environment. That trickles down to the local manufacturing facilities. And there’s a lot of money that is actually associated with water conservation. So everything from saving money to just being good stewards of the environment.
Now, where is this water loss occurring?
The water loss comes in form of:
- Leaking out into the environment
- From product dilution, where we see where they must reevaporate water off of a process to reclaim that product.
It really revolves around the stuffing box of the piece of equipment and the leakage rates associated with that.
How are we losing water within that stuffing box?
We’re using water to cool the sealing surface, and it’s either leaking into the product or it’s leaking out onto the ground as a result of us trying to cool that sealing surface.
Why are we doing it that way and not using boundary fluid or some other solution and just using cooling water?
From one generation to the next maintenance practices can be passed down. What SEPCO looks at is we want to try to eliminate as much water as possible, or if we can eliminate it all. We do it typically through great maintenance practices; through seal selection and barrier fluid selection.
It sounds like there’s a lot of different ways to address this issue of water use for sealing.
Absolutely. We go to plants, and we look at application by application. We have gone in and done complete plant surveys, where we take a team in, we look at the equipment, we look at the process, we look at how much water they’re consuming, and we survey all this. How can we better serve that application? And how can we reduce the water consumption within that application?
Is it a lot of water that we’re saving?
It a lot of water, I’m talking millions of gallons of water a year per piece of equipment. The bigger the shaft that’s going through the wall, the greater amount of water that’s needed to cool that surface. We have applications where we have seen one piece of equipment consume over 2 million gallons of water a year and leaking to the ground.
After you have done the survey, what happens next?
We look at each piece of equipment. We choose the best yarns available. We’ll use carbon yarns that that can handle high shaft speeds and transfer heat very well. And then we pack the equipment by using seated tools that properly see each ring so that you affect a mechanical load on that packing that will not allow the water to be wasted. We do mechanical seals and barrier fluid as well.
Can you explain how barrier fluid works?
Typically, a barrier fluid is used when you are using a double mechanical seal. Basically, you have two seal sets of seal faces. You have what they call an inboard seal face set of seal faces, and an outboard set of seal faces in the middle of that. You have a closed loop system, which is a barrier or fluid, and a bear fluid can consist of some type of glycol, a mineral oil, a sort of different synthetic type of lubricant that’s put in it. But it’s typically in a 3–5-gallon tank. And through convection, it is circulated through that seal to cool those two mechanical seal sets of mechanical seal faces.
Does barrier fluid provide a much better cooling capacity than just water?
It does in a sense. Depending on the barrier fluid, some can transfer heat at an enormous rate. If you look at one of these synthetic oils that we use, sometimes it’s excellent at transfer and heat and dissipating heat. We can go to much higher temperature. They have better lubricating properties like water, especially once water gets to a certain temperature. The lubricating properties on water are terrible. It flashes at a certain point. Water boils and it evaporates, creating just nothing but air pockets and we create more heat. Using synthetics, it’s it, we can go to much higher temperatures and transfer heat much better.
Do you have any case studies you can share on the impact that this type of thing has on organizations?
Absolutely. There was pulping paper facility in the Southeast who had an equipment where they were having a packing that does not transfer heat well at all. It was almost using close to 3 million gallons a year. 2,800,000 gallons of water is what we saved them on that one piece of equipment per year.
Another company was trying to evaporate water off acid, so they can reuse the acid. The acid goes in everything from our toothpaste to additives and certain foods. Evaporate the water off this is a huge energy cost associated with evaporation. Instead of a closed loop system, we used a quenching drain where they’re just quenching it. We were able to save them over a million gallons a year per piece of equipment.
We had a company in Western Virginia that was pulling off an aquafarm, they were using a bunch of water from an aquafarm way far away. They had to show the state of Virginia that they would be good stewards of the environment if they were to continue to pull off this aquafarm. We went in and showed them what we could save them, just inland water uses alone. And that, that helped them renew their lease with the state of Virginia.
Is it super expensive to convert some of these things and is that why organizations aren’t all adopting this, or is it lack of knowledge?
It is not super expensive if you look at them from an investment perspective and how long you get. What is your return on investment over time? It goes mostly to education. You’re saving money versus spending money. We also become good stewards of the environment from that perspective. It’s not a huge cost problem to get in and solve these problems, it’s more of an education and awareness piece.
What other newer technology is out there?
We have developed an air seal that that uses no water at all, zero water. And it’s basically without getting too technical. It’s basically a seal that’s using air, and the whole premise of the technology is low pressure can’t crawl high pressure. We basically create a pillow of air where atmosphere meets the process. And we seal it with a knife of air. It’s a wonderful piece of equipment. It also allows the shaft to move a lot more than the traditional sealing devices like mechanical packing.
What’s the one thing you want our listeners to take away from the conversation today?
They need to understand that we’re not limited on what we can do in terms of fluid sealing or any type of sealing. We’re not limited by what we can do to seal and reduce water, there are many options out there.
David Brewer Links:
- Seal Connect
- 5 Ways to Conserve Water in Process Plants
- Sepco Linkedin
- Plant Services
- David Brewer LinkedIn
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