What are the Top 10 Mistakes Made Every Day in pH System Design?

The following technical insight is part of an occasional series authored by Greg McMillan, industry consultant, author of numerous process control books and a retired Senior Fellow from Monsanto. This insight was adapted from Greg’s book Advanced pH Measurement and Control.

Since we learn by example, here is a neutralizer tank that has the major mistakes I have seen in waste treatment system pH design and Chemical plant scientistinstallation. Each mistake is the result of a fundamental lack of understanding of the heightened sensitivity of pH control systems to dead time, process and measurement noise, insufficient process attenuation (filtering) and valve backlash and stiction.

1. Insufficient number of stages of neutralization (inadequate rangeability and sensitivity)

2. Improper vessel geometry and agitation patterns (excessive equipment dead time)

3. Backfilled reagent dip tube (excessive reagent delivery delay)

4. Incorrect location of reagent injection point (excessive reagent delivery delay)

5. Gravity flow reagent (excessive reagent delivery delay)

6. Incorrect location of reagent control valve (excessive reagent delivery delay)

7. Control valve with excessive stick-slip (poor sensitivity and excessive variability)

Advanced pH Measurement and Control by Greg McMillan and Robert Cameron provides a clear, concise, and comprehensive view of how to select, install, and maintain electrodes, control valves, and control strategies for pH applications critical for product and water quality in the process industry. The book covers every aspect of system design including the mixing and reagent piping requirements that are important for a successful application.

8. Electrodes submersed in vessel (coating and maintainability problems)

9. Electrodes located in pump suction (bubbles, clumps, and wrenches)

10. Electrodes located downstream in recirculation line (excessive measurement delay)

The example serves to illustrate many underlying principles and resulting guidance required to meet the extreme challenges and achieve the extraordinary opportunities for concentration control. In pH control systems reagent piping and injection must minimize transportation delays, volumes must have proper geometry and agitation to maximize the process time constant that filters pH oscillations, several volumes may be needed to provide multiple process filters in series, valves must be able to precisely make extremely small changes in reagent flow, and electrodes must be installed to minimize noise and response time and maximize reliability.

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