Membranes are Meaningless Without Monitoring



Membrane technology has come a long way. Membranes remain a critical part of water operations. So much so that if membranes don’t perform, then the plant comes to a standstill with planned downtime. The equipment can be very costly to repair, or even more serious, replace in some cases. Taking care of your investment ensures you can get the most out of your system.


What good are membranes if you don’t keep up with maintenance? That might be a no-brainer, but how often do you run checks on your equipment? If it’s less than hourly, you may be missing valuable information regarding your operation, putting your membranes at risk.

Issues that come with membrane systems like pre-treatment filter failure, change in feed water quality, higher inflow/long peak flow, leaks and reduced concentration due to chemical age can be prevented with the right data and insights to know what to do with it. Whether preventing fouling or scheduling cleanings at the right time, having a monitoring system in place is crucial to maintain efficiency. Many systems do not have sufficient instrumentation to check all the parameters that must be monitored to catch problems at an early stage when they can still be reversed. Even if the instrumentation is adequate, many facilities do not trend the data, or even worse, no one looks at the data at all.


The most common issue with membranes is fouling — where deposited materials collect along the membrane surface — reducing its efficiency and increasing energy usage. When fouling inevitably occurs, it can be a tough problem to deal with because the damage is often irreversible. However, membrane monitoring affords early detection and an opportunity to address it before becoming disruptive to operations. For example, when see a spike in transmembrane pressure (TMP) in the trendline, you will be able to schedule the best time for membrane cleanings, resulting the least disruption to production. Simple fixes, such as graphing system pressure after cleaning, can extend the life of your membrane by showing the effectiveness of said cleanings. With fouling, the best defense is a good offense.


To extend the life of your membranes, a monitoring system can detect factors that cause problems for the membrane itself such as a pre-treatment failure. Monitoring systems track differential pressure and create alarms for when it approaches unsafe conditions. If there is a change in feed water quality, this too can be directly monitored through turbidity PH and conductivity. Or indirectly through tracking the fouling rate of the membrane since an increase in this rate indicates problematic feed water conditions.


When cleaning your system, how do you know your cleaning was effective? Monitoring solutions have evolved and now predict data that we have previously not been able to accurately anticipate. With today’s monitoring solutions, you can easily see that data trend on a chart. Even better, you can use this data to your advantage and schedule cleanings at the most effective time. By combining weather data into AI monitoring software, predictions in permeability and TMP are automatically made so you can even make plans for when the circumstances are outside of your control.


The proactive approach recommends a conditions-based plan over a time-based one to preserve your membranes because you do not want to go overboard with time-consuming, costly cleanings. By trending your data before and after cleaning, maintenance scheduling becomes predictive, resulting in less downtime and more efficiency within the system overall.


Want to learn more about water membrane monitoring? STREAMETRIC is a monitoring solution powered by machine learning analytics. Contact a STREAMETRIC water management expert today.




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