Small silica particles can take root in your process water as it flows over rocks and minerals in the ground before reaching your facility. These crystalline particles can have significant adverse effects on your machinery long-term, which is one of the reasons why their removal is an essential part of a water treatment plan. In some boilers, just 1 millimeter of silica buildup can increase fuel consumption by 2% to 5%.
You need dependable methods for silica treatment that can save you money, keep your equipment in good condition and reduce maintenance needs. We’ll examine silica in water treatment and explore the methods professional water treatment services use to rid your process water of harmful silica particles.
Silica Removal Through Water Treatment
Wherever your water comes from, silica is likely to be a major component — especially in groundwater. Silica can cause a range of negative effects that necessitate effective cleaning practices through industrial water treatment. Without them, you’ll likely see early deterioration of equipment and loss of functionality due to:
- Membrane fouling: Silica particles can get lodged in membrane pores in reverse osmosis and nanofiltration systems. They block the flow of liquids through that membrane and can cause early tearing.
- Reduced heating and cooling efficiency: Scale deposits build up on the side of equipment when silica deposits precipitate out of the water and concentrate on the heat transfer surface of the equipment. Scale is a good insulator, reducing the efficiency of the heat transfer mechanism and the equipment’s performance. It can also slough off and create pieces that interrupt the flow of water.
- Effects on pressure ranges: Those deposits and pieces can impact a system’s ability to operate at optimal pressure ranges.
- Abrasion: Silica is an abrasive substance — it’s even used for sandblasting and carving applications. It will bring its abrasive effects to the inside of a boiler and eat away at it, causing premature wear and tear and costly repairs.
Potential stages for treating industrial process water include the cooling tower, boiler or blowdown water. The specific methods used for silica removal from water depend on the form of silica present.
How to Remove Silica From Boiler Water
The three primary types of silica you’ll find in water are granular silica, colloidal silica and reactive silica, which are differentiated based on their particle size. Available treatment methods use mechanisms that attach to the molecules or particles in different ways, so you’ll need to use the right one for the type of silica present.
One type of silica most frequently found in boiler water is granular silica, which is made of relatively large particles. Fortunately, the particles’ large size makes them fairly easy to treat and remove through physical and chemical separation processes.
The most common and effective technique for removing granular silica from boiler water is lime softening. This process involves adding lime, also known as calcium hydroxide, to the water.
Lime acts like a water softener for silica, causing calcium and magnesium — the particles that cause hardness — to precipitate out. As they do, they form large clumps called flocs that stick together and settle to the bottom of the boiler. This process traps many organic and inorganic molecules present in the water, including silica, and causes them to sink to the bottom. You can then remove the collected particles, leaving behind clean water that won’t form scale or cause excess wear and tear on your boiler.
Colloidal silica is much finer than granular silica. Because of their fineness, the particles stay dispersed in the boiler water without precipitating out, forming something called a colloid. These particles are harder to remove, especially if the water contains other suspended particles.
Below are some of the best ways to treat colloidal silica:
- Clarification: Clarification uses specialized equipment to remove larger suspended solids from water. Once the larger suspended particles are gone, the colloidal particles can often stick together and create clumps that have enough mass to precipitate out.
- Flocculation: Flocculation involves adding a chemical coagulant to the water which causes the particles to form clumps of material, or flocs, that can precipitate out more easily.
- Ultrafiltration (UF): Ultrafiltration generally uses a flexible filter with tiny pores, often only a small fraction of a micrometer in diameter. The pores in this silica water filter are small enough to remove the very fine colloidal silica particles from the water.
Reactive silica often requires a different approach. This type of silica, also known as ionic silica, consists of exceptionally fine particles too small for removal with lime softening. This silica forms a weak acid, and its ionized particles have a negative charge.
The ionic nature of reactive silica makes the particles relatively easy to remove with ion exchange techniques. However, this method can be complicated to put into practice, since the resins used in this type of ion exchange are challenging to regenerate and require the use of strong, hazardous bases.
Get Water Treatment for Silica
Obtaining reliable treatment for the silica in your process water is essential. Getting the proper treatment can lower your repair and replacement costs by reducing wear and tear on your boiler and other equipment. It also increases equipment efficiency and reduces your energy consumption.
As you develop a water treatment program for your boiler water, you’ll want to contract with experienced professionals who provide:
- A customized program: The right water treatment plan will be specific to your facility. It should take your unique equipment, water composition and industrial needs into account.
- Comprehensive services: At a busy facility, you need water treatment services that can handle every step of the treatment process for you. Technicians should deliver the necessary chemicals, install any required equipment and dispose of the containers so you can focus time and energy on your own processes.
- ISO certification: The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) develops standards to ensure the quality of various products and services. If your water treatment service boasts ISO-certified technicians and processes, you’ll know your facility is in capable hands.
- Remote monitoring technology: Remote monitoring technology is invaluable because it allows you to check the status of your equipment in real time and receive immediate alerts if something goes amiss. You’ll be able to address your equipment’s needs right away, before they balloon into more challenging issues.
Contact Chardon Laboratories for Silica Removal From Water
To see the benefits of boiler water treatment services that remove silica, work with Chardon Labs. Our cost-effective services give you quality water treatment that is easy on your budget. We provide a complete service package, including chemical delivery and application, treatment equipment installation and container disposal. We offer remote monitoring technology so you’ll know right away when your water requires treatment.
We are also happy to customize a water treatment program to your facility’s specific water composition, equipment and overall needs. Our dependable, ISO-certified technicians have the industry insights and expertise to tackle even the toughest jobs, so you’ll know your boiler is in good hands with us.
Contact us today to schedule a treatment for silica removal from your water.
Matt Welsh is the Vice President and Water Consultant at Chardon Labs. He helps consult a wide range of customers utilizing various methods of water treatment, from chemical to chemical-free approaches, large and small applications, and across a wide range of geographical influences. With 20 years of water treatment experience, including a wide range of troubleshooting and service in potable water and non-potable HVAC and industrial applications, he is an expert in water treatment chemistry for cooling towers, boilers, and closed-loop systems.