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Pilot Plants for Small-Scale Testing of Water Treatment Techniques

A pilot plant is a collection of equipment and other materials designed to simulate what will happen on a full-scale water treatment process.
Pilot testing offers the flexibility to evaluate the performance through artificially creating a scale plant that will work in real site conditions. It can demonstrate what needs to be done to improve the overall water treatment system, or show where weaknesses are.
Pilot Plants for small-scale testing of water treatment

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

A pilot plant, at its core, is a collection of equipment and other materials designed to simulate what will happen on a full-scale water treatment process.

When running, it will gather data on the operations and process design. However, all of this is done on a much smaller scale so, supply, deployment, and operation is easier, faster and at a reduced cost.

The design of the pilot plant needs to be flexible as these are used to detect potential issues, unknowns, as well as the limits of the water treatment process under consideration.

During the operation of the pilot plant the operator will alter variables to stimulate conditions and to test how the system will handle itself through known and unknown events.

Most pilot plants are abased on modular designs which allow the operator/s to change sections in and out as the testing demands, this will have the added benefit of reducing downtime during the testing process.

Flow rates, chemical feeds, and instrumentation will need to be checked regularly to make sure that the data collected is correct, if the data is flawed then the final design will have errors and may not function as intended.

2. How to Set-up a Pilot Plant to Test Different Water Treatment Techniques

Before setting up a pilot plant to test any industrial water treatment technique some factors need to be addressed. The water source is the first consideration: where it comes from and how it will be supplied to the pilot test units as well as pressure, flow and quality. Disposal is also important, for both the treated and untreated water.

Other setup considerations for the testing unit include:

  • Large water tanks that may be problematic from a structural standpoint due to their size and weight
  • Height clearance of parts (filters, contactors, sedimentation processes etc.) that could restrict location and access criteria
  • Floor space required to house and provide maintenance space.
  • Electrical draw and voltage requirements that are compatible to those available on site.

The Watercore supplied pilot testing plants are usually housed inside a shipping container and come with electrical panels pre-installed. This offers a standard sized and load measurements, which allow the operators to make the space required available.

Being modular, deployment of these testing plants is simple as hydraulic and electrical connections move with the plant. Generally, the only onsite work required is to source the water piping, modifications to the electrical supply, drainage piping, and process-to-process piping.

3. Why Pilot Testing in Water Treatment Projects

Understanding how industrial water treatment systems behave under actual water characteristics and conditions is key to improving current systems or deciding the components of new ones. Pilot testing offers the flexibility to evaluate the performance through artificially creating a scale plant that will work in real site conditions. It can demonstrate what needs to be done to improve the overall system, or show where weaknesses are.

A pilot test system can often come close to ideal performance. These ideal systems may be used to demonstrate useful estimates on how a full-scale system will behave under various parameters.

Pilot plants are a good testing option when one or more of the following questions are being considered:

  • Optimise the system design
  • Compare alternative treatment mechanisms
  • Investigate possible modifications to improve the system
  • Evaluate new applications of existing or new processes
  • Validate processes capability to meet the requirements of regulations
  • Establish performance ranges and operational expectations
  • Asses treatability of new water sources
  • Establish design criteria for full-scale operations
  • Document, verify and predict process performance

4. What will Happen During Pilot Testing

At Watercore, we’ll supply and deploy a pilot testing plant. Once installed we will also provide the technical resources to collaborate, suggest and execute all the tests that will provide the data to decide what solutions are adequate to your water treatment needs.

The pilot testing processes may cover:

  • Reverse Osmosis – testing the membranes to find out actual flow loss, salt rejection increases and performance under real conditions.
  • Sediment Filters for Turbidity Removal – testing the backwash flow rate and the filtering media, before placing them into a full-scale system.
  • Chemical Dosing – testing to find the correct chemical that is most effective for chemical oxidation, biological disinfection, and other chemical dosing within the system.
  • Ion-Exchange – testing to find the most efficient resins, for the effective operational capacity and regeneration requirements.
  • Ultrafiltration – testing to determine how much permanent fouling, backwash and scour frequencies, and chemical programs are needed in the ultrafiltration systems.
  • Coagulation and flocculation: finding the chemicals that work best with your water.

5. How to Choose a Pilot Testing Plant

Watercore will help with the proper selection for the pilot testing unit for your particular industrial water treatment system and the space (and floor load) that is available. Our experts will guide you to obtain the best results and answers to these typical questions:

  • Compile a list of water treatment processes that should be considered.
  • Establish the minimum and maximum design constraints of pilot plant processes.
  • Provide an appropriate Watercore technician to operate the pilot plant.
  • Decide where the pilot plant will be located (considering availability of power, water source, drainage, waste disposal, etc.)
  • Determine the flexibility required for process changes during the study.
  • Decide the locations and frequency of sampling efforts.
  • Determine which analyses can be done on-site and which require a contract laboratory.
  • Develop schedule and budget appropriate to the testing challenge.

6. Conclusions

A pilot plant is a collection of equipment and other materials designed to simulate what will happen on a full-scale water treatment process.

The design of the pilot plant needs to be flexible as these are used to detect potential issues, unknowns, as well as the limits of the water treatment process under consideration.

Pilot testing offers the flexibility to evaluate the performance through artificially creating a scale plant that will work in real site conditions. It can demonstrate what needs to be done to improve the overall system, or show where weaknesses are.

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