Learning more about how odors are produced and the way they’re released can help industrial facility leaders make the right odor control decision for their site.
The emission of odorous air is a fact of life across all industries—from food & beverage to paper production and from oil & gas to pharmaceuticals.
Over the years, the problem has become familiar: As populations increase, residential developments creep closer and closer to industrial facilities that generate odors. Industrial facility leaders know they need to eliminate odors, but they often don’t know much more about how to do it.
Learning more about how odors are produced and the way they’re released can help these leaders make the right odor control decision for their site.
Examining industrial processes
Odor control experts must be dually knowledgeable in the mechanics of industrial processes and the science behind the odorous compounds generated in those processes.
These experts start their work by identifying the raw materials used in industrial processes, as well as the methods used in converting those materials to a finished product. Odors and non-odorous emissions are often produced when byproducts or waste is generated via those processes.
The facility’s process flow is also evaluated. Experts ask the following questions:
- What raw materials are used in the facility?
- What equipment and processes are used to convert raw materials?
- How are raw materials or products transported within the facility?
- What waste is generated during conversion?
- What odorous compounds are produced? How concentrated are these compounds in the air?
- At which points along the process flow are odors likely to escape?
Then, the expert evaluates how exposed neighbors are to offending odors.
Developing a solution
The information collected during the audit of a facility is used to design an odor control solution. The types and concentrations of odors emitted from a facility differ based on that facility’s application, but odor control solutions typically take the following forms:
- Activated carbon filters that trap odorous compounds and release clean air.
- Chemical filters or sprays that isolate and remove offending compounds from the air.
- Ozone systems that oxidize the odors, and are often followed by carbon polishing
- Biofilters that force air through organic media harboring microorganisms that get their energy by consuming odorous compounds.
- Bioscrubbers that send air through organic or synthetic media in a vessel. Microorganisms reside in recirculated water and use the odorous compounds in the air for food.
- Biotrickling filters, which feature microorganisms that reside within synthetic media. Irrigation water is only used to rinse metabolized compounds away, and is not recirculated.
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What to consider
With the variety of odor control solutions available to mitigate the variety of industrial odors, a facility’s owner or site manager needs to consider many factors that play into deciding on the odor control solution best suited to their site.
First, determine what resources you have available on site. Limited access to water may mean bioscrubbers or biotrickling filters should be avoided. Mechanical resources matter, too. Ventilation schemes in some facilities may be better-suited for certain odor control solutions and may rule out others. Also, ventilation modifications could set the stage for a more effective odor control solution. Your odor control expert can help determine the best way forward.
Second, assess the scale of the odor issue in the facility. Your odor control expert will help you identify offending or harmful compounds, quantify the airflow carrying those compounds and determine how much of the odor should be removed.
Third, think about the space you have available. If space is limited and neighboring land is in development, a large biofilter may not be practical. Bioscrubbers and biotrickling filters are smaller but can typically handle airstreams with higher concentrations of odor than a biofilter. Conversely, if you have a lot of real estate to use and don’t have any close neighbors, a biofilter might be the best choice.
Finally, consider your maintenance personnel. The various odor control solutions on the market require various amounts of skill and man hours to maintain. Some even require workers to handle hazardous materials. Will you need to hire more maintenance staff or invest in additional training? Could you reduce that staff with a less labor-intensive odor control solution?
Your odor control expert should look at the entirety of your facility. Odor control is not about slapping treatment equipment down in each spot where odorous air is noticed, and in fact this approach can prove to be far more expensive. Proper odor treatment requires a diligent survey of the inner workings of a plant with the goal of centralizing and then efficiently treating as much foul air as possible. This may mean a larger investment at first, but the result will be a reliable, effective, long-term odor control solution.