In collaboration with Janyu Technologies Pvt. Ltd., this case study delves into a pressing issue faced by a chemical manufacturer: achieving efficient sludge removal from cooling towers while reducing disruptions to plant operations.
Sludge is a problem affecting the chemical, pharmaceutical, and food and beverage industries. Sludge accumulation in various process equipment and heat exchangers can affect efficiency and productivity and reduce the life of the equipment. Read more about the challenges and solutions in this case study.
The cooling tower sends water to other units for additional cooling. Simultaneously, it transfers water to other heat exchangers for further cooling.
Moreover, cooling towers find application in various industries and commercial settings, such as power plants, refineries, chemical plants, and HVAC systems. Notably, large buildings, including office towers and hospitals, rely on them for efficient cooling.
Why is sludge formed in cooling towers?
Sludge formation in cooling towers is a common problem caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Impurities in the water, such as suspended solids, minerals, and organic matter
- Inadequate water treatment, which can lead to the precipitation of minerals and the formation of scale and sludge
- Microbial growth, including bacteria, algae, and fungi, which can form biofilms and contribute to sludge formation
- Lack of proper maintenance, such as infrequent cleaning or insufficient removal of accumulated debris
To prevent sludge formation, it is important to implement effective water treatment programs and regular maintenance practices.
Impact of Sludge in Cooling Towers
Sludge can have a significant negative impact on cooling towers, reducing their efficiency, increasing operating costs, and promoting bacterial growth. Regular sludge management is essential to mitigate these impacts and maintain optimal performance.
Reduced heat transfer: Sludge accumulation on heat transfer surfaces prevents efficient heat transfer, reducing cooling capacity and increasing energy consumption. Sludge accumulation on heat transfer surfaces can reduce heat transfer efficiency by up to 15%, leading to increased energy consumption and higher operating costs.
Increased operating costs: Sludge removal requires additional maintenance and cleaning efforts, increasing labour, chemical, and equipment costs. Sludge removal requires additional maintenance and cleaning efforts, increasing labour, chemical, and equipment costs by up to 10%.
Bacterial growth: Sludge provides a favourable environment for bacterial growth and biofilm formation. Consequently, it further reduces heat transfer efficiency and increases the risk of corrosion and fouling. It can increase bacterial growth by 200%.
Corrosion and erosion: Sludge buildup creates a corrosive environment, leading to structural damage and reduced equipment lifespan.
Impaired Water Flow: Sludge can obstruct water flow, reducing circulation, unevenly distributing water, and increasing pressure drop, negatively impacting cooling tower performance and efficiency.
Increased risk of fouling: Furthermore, sludge can act as a substrate for the deposition of other impurities, such as scale and deposits, ultimately restricting water flow, hampering heat transfer, and increasing pressure drop.
Industries are always on the lookout for efficient cleaning methods. Common cleaning methods include:
Traditionally, most industries opt for manual tank cleaning. You require readily available cleaning equipment. The staff manually removes the sludge from the tank with pressurized water, fire and vacuum hoses, water, and pumps.
Despite being affordable, traditional manual cleaning has several disadvantages:
- The tank should be empty.
- Long shutdown periods lasting a few weeks.
- Labour intensive
- Exposure to hazardous chemicals
- Fire and explosions
- Risk of injury
- Environmental impact
Companies are always looking for ways to clean tanks more efficiently and reduce the risks associated with manual cleaning.
Comparison between manual and robotic cleaning
|Sr. nos||Parameters||Manual Cleaning||Robotic Cleaning|
|1||Safety||Requires human workers to enter the confined space, exposing them to potential hazards like toxic gases, a lack of oxygen, and physical risks.||Eliminates the need for human entry, ensuring a safer working environment by reducing the risk of accidents and injuries.|
|2||Efficiency||Can be time-consuming, especially for large tanks, and may require multiple workers to complete the task.||Offers faster and more efficient cleaning as robots are designed for precision and can navigate through complex tank structures.|
|3||Adaptability||Limited adaptability to complex tank designs and hard-to-reach areas.||Highly adaptable and customizable with various attachments, suitable for cleaning diverse tank configurations and tight spaces.|
|4||Consistency||The quality of cleaning can vary based on the skills and techniques of individual workers.||Follows programmed cleaning patterns, ensuring consistent and uniform cleaning results throughout the tank.|
|5||Remote Operation||Human workers must physically enter the tank, which can be risky and challenging.||Robotic systems are operated remotely, allowing operators to control the cleaning process from a safe distance|
|6||Environmental Impact||Human errors during manual cleaning can lead to spills and environmental contamination.||Minimizes the risk of spills and leaks, reducing the environmental impact of the cleaning process.|
|7||Data Collection and Analysis||Usually cannot collect data during the cleaning process.||Robotic cleaners come with sensors and cameras, enabling data collection and analysis of the cleaning process and tank condition.|
|8||Cost Efficiency||May have lower upfront costs but can be more expensive in the long run due to higher labour requirements.||Although the initial investment may be higher, it can lead to cost savings over time due to increased efficiency and reduced labour needs.|
|9||Waste Management||Proper waste management is critical to avoid environmental violations during manual cleaning.||Robotic systems can be designed for efficient waste collection and disposal, reducing the risk of environmental violations.|
|10||Worker Comfort and Health||Manual cleaning can be physically demanding and may affect worker health over time.||Robotic systems reduce the physical strain on workers, promoting better health and well-being.|
|11||Cleaning Quality||The quality of cleaning may vary based on human limitations and fatigue.||Robots offer precise and consistent cleaning, resulting in higher cleaning quality.|
|12||Compliance with Regulations||Compliance can be challenging when human entry is restricted by law.||Robotic cleaners facilitate compliance with regulations by eliminating the need for human workers to enter confined spaces.|
From the table above, it is clear why industries should opt for robotic cleaning. Janyu Tech Pvt. Ltd. is one of the leading providers of industrial tank cleaning robots in India.
About Janyu Technologies Pvt. Ltd
Janyu Technologies Pvt. Ltd. specializes in designing, developing, manufacturing, supplying, installing, and commissioning robotic solutions and industrial automation systems for various industries, including pharmaceutical, healthcare, food and beverage, fast-moving consumer goods, engineering, automotive, defence, aerospace, frozen foods, and e-commerce. Some of their key products include:
- Robotic arm for material handling
- Robots for defence applications
- Solar panel cleaning robots
- UV disinfection robots
- Mining robots
- Satellite applications.
The client usually gives Janyu Tech information about the amount of sludge in the tank. If the customer does not have data, Janyu Tech uses sonar-based robotic technology to determine the extent of sludge and learn about the sludge profiles.
Prior to commencing cleaning operations, Janyu Tech typically requests the following information from its customers:
- GA drawing of the tank
- Ambient Temperature
- Compositions and characteristics of the sludge
- PH value of the sludge
- The density of the sludge
- Approximate quantity of the sludge in CUM/Tonnage
- Distance between the sludge removal area and the disposal area
- Manhole openings to deploy the robot inside the tanks.
After getting the data, Janyu Tech engineers write a detailed SOP to minimize risks.
Janyu Technologies Pvt. Ltd. is a leading manufacturer of robotic solutions and industrial automation systems. The company designs, develops, manufactures, supplies, installs, and commissions these systems for different industries.
The Varaha SCE Sump Cleaning Robot is a mechanized system for removing dirt, algae, rust flakes, and slurry from water storage tanks. Regular maintenance of the ETP, sump, and storage tanks is important to ensure the water is safe to consume or use. It offers efficient sludge removal solutions.
It has an onboard suction system that effectively removes sludge from the tank. The operator operates the robot remotely with a soft joystick on a touchpad and a graphical user interface.
The Varaha SCE is a submersible tank-type crawler robot with suction, brush, and scrubbing attachments. It is operated remotely from a safe distance of about 30–50 meters. You can prevent water supply disruption by using the Varaha SCE, and the cleaning process will be more efficient and cost-effective.
The robot is built to operate underwater and vacuum out sediment from the water tank. The operator can see live-streaming video on a screen.
Key features of the Varaha SCE include:
- 100% hydraulically operated, submersible, remote-operated vehicle
- High-power sludge cutting roller with cutter arm
- Robotic arm equipped with a camera and mount for a water jet nozzle.
- On-board suction Head for sludge extraction. The suction created by the Vacuum System on the client’s vehicle
- Submersible waterproof cameras with flashlights
- Suitable for ATEX Zone 0 areas
- Fits through a manhole entry, from Ø 600mm
- Controlling from a safe distance away from the tank.
Janyu Technology Pvt. Ltd. offers Robotic As A Service (RAAS) sludge cleaning services, where the company deploys robots on a rental basis to clean sludge from confined spaces.
Consequently, with the assistance of Janyu Technologies, the steel plant manufacturer achieved the following:
- Protect workers from the dangers of manual sludge removal
- Improve production efficiency by reducing downtime
- Comply with environmental regulations.