OTHER DEMINERALIZATION PROCESSES
The standard cation-anion process has been modified in many systems to reduce the use of costly regenerants and the production of waste. Modifications include the use of decarbonators and degassers, weak acid and weak base resins, strong base anion caustic waste (to regenerate weak base anion exchangers), and reclamation of a portion of spent caustic for subsequent regeneration cycles.
Decarbonators and Degassers
Decarbonators and degassers are economically beneficial to many demineralization systems, because they reduce the amount of caustic required for regeneration. Water from a cation exchanger is broken into small droplets by sprays and trays or packing in a decarbonator. The water then flows through a stream of air flowing in the opposite direction. Carbonic acid present in the cation effluent dissociates into carbon dioxide and water. The carbon dioxide is stripped from the water by the air, reducing the load to the anion exchangers. Typical forced draft decarbonators are capable of removing carbon dioxide down to 10-15 ppm. However, water effluent from a decarbonator is saturated with oxygen.
In a vacuum degasser, water droplets are introduced into a packed column that is operated under a vacuum. Carbon dioxide is removed from the water due to its decreased partial pressure in a vacuum. A vacuum degasser usually reduces carbon dioxide to less than 2 ppm and also removes most of the oxygen from the water. However, vacuum degassers are more expensive to purchase and operate than forced draft decarbonators.
Weak Acid and Weak Base Resins
Weak functionality resins have a much higher regeneration efficiency than their strong function-ality counterparts. Weak acid cation resins, as described in the dealkalization section, exchange with cations associated with alkalinity. Weak base resins exchange with the mineral acid anions (SO4²¯ , Cl¯ , NO3¯ ) in a strong acid solution. The regeneration efficiency of weak resins is virtually stoichiometric, the removal of 1 kgr of ions (as CaCO3) requires only slightly more than 1 kgr of the regenerant ion (as CaCO3). Strong resins require three to four times the regenerant for the same contaminant removal.
Weak base resins are so efficient that it is common practice to regenerate a weak base exchanger with a portion of the "spent" caustic from regeneration of the strong base anion resin. The first fraction of the caustic from the strong base unit is sent to waste to prevent silica fouling of the weak base resin. The remaining caustic is used to regenerate the weak base resin. An additional feature of weak base resins is their ability to hold natural organic materials that foul strong base resins and release them during the regeneration cycle. Due to this ability, weak base resins are commonly used to protect strong base resins from harmful organic fouling.
Due to the high cost of caustic soda and the increasing problems of waste disposal, many demineralization systems are now equipped with a caustic reclaim feature. The reclaim system uses a portion of the spent caustic from the previous regeneration at the beginning of the next regeneration cycle. The reused caustic is followed by fresh caustic to complete the regeneration. The new caustic is then reclaimed for use in the next regeneration. Typically, sulfuric acid is not reclaimed, because it is lower in cost and calcium sulfate precipitation is a potential problem.