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When air pollution control low-bid projects cost more

Bill Norris,

For many engineering projects that require air pollution control (APC), it is common for engineers to define the inlet and outlet conditions of the particular APC system, leaving the detailed engineering to a vendor or supplier. Many engineering firms adopt the mindset that the vendor is an expert at designing its system, and that all bidders will comply with the specifications and project requirements. They trust that the vendor’s “black box” will work—a term used to define a system which only the vendor truly understands. In such cases, the lowest qualified bid typically wins the project. What could possibly go wrong?

In some cases, everything.

OBG’s APC experts have decades of experience as APC equipment suppliers, involved in the design, fabrication, installation, and commissioning of these systems, and consequently, are ideal advocates for clients who need to employ APC equipment. We understand our clients’ processes, concerns, and risk exposure.

With expertise in APC “black boxes”, OBG is routinely called upon to assess and correct poor performance of these systems. In some cases, the client’s process has changed significantly over time, and the process exhaust conditions differ from the initial design criteria of the APC system. In other cases, it comes down to fundamental design flaws or misapplication of the original APC system design. These issues can result in reduced production, increased operating and maintenance costs, and reduced equipment longevity—all of which can have an adverse impact on profitability.

A recent solution designed by OBG helped to resolve an improperly designed APC system

Re-designing the “black box”

A major manufacturing facility operates a production process that includes a calciner. Emissions from the calciner contain a variety of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), along with particulate matter (PM). The APC system was comprised sequentially of a baghouse, thermal oxidizer, and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system. The performance and unreliability of the installed APC system resulted in greatly reduced design production rates, frequent downtime, and high maintenance costs.

To improve system performance and reliability and to reduce operating and maintenance costs, experts at OBG performed a detailed assessment of the overall process and identified multiple modifications that were required to achieve the project goals. These modifications included upgrades to comply with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a correctly designed heat exchanger, properly-sized process fans, oxidizer burner and fuel train, and new SCR media more suitable for the application.

The upgrades will increase production rates by 60% while reducing maintenance costs.

The cost of the required upgrades added to the cost of the original system resulted in a final cost that was 50% higher than the original low bid.  This example demonstrates that a low-bid vendor offering is not always the most cost-effective solution. It is critically important to have the engineering expertise to understand not only the production process, but also the “black box” APC system, which has a direct impact on the success and profitability of any project.

About Bill Norris: Bill Norris, a combustion, incineration, air pollution control, and waste heat recovery expert at OBG, has 30 years of professional experience in the design, engineering, fabrication, installation, and operation of a wide variety of combustion, air pollution control, and waste heat recovery processes and systems. He has provided practical, mechanical, and controls engineering for a wide variety of process equipment delivered to industrial, chemical, petrochemical, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing clients.

Read more Insights from Bill:
Solving common industry challenges with incinerator systems

Bill Norris
(302) 525-4255