The Importance of Oxidizer Maintenance: A Cautionary Tale

    Recently, I have been doing some small home repairs/improvements. Planning on a bathroom remodel next spring, I purchased a new vanity/sink along with flooring. Thanks to Hammy, the Houdini of hamsters, I started the project early. Of course, as happens so often when working on projects at home, one thing leads to another, and my bathroom remodeling project is now larger than originally planned. After completing the unexpected electrical repair and replacing the drywall, I got my handy wet/dry shop vac out from the garage to do some “quick” clean up. Everything was going great until I realized that the entire basement was now clouded over with drywall dust. I had not checked to see if the filter was in place before I started to vacuum up the drywall dust.


    This experience reminded me of a customer with a catalytic oxidizer (CatOx) system who contacted us after reading a recent blog post about preventative maintenance on air pollution control devices. After some discussion with our Service Manager, Jason Emond, we were able to schedule a technician to be onsite the following week.

    The customer’s internal maintenance department had been doing some general maintenance, including making sure the fan inlets remained clear of debris, replacing thermocouples and pressure switches from their spare parts inventory, and painting some rusty looking spots on the exterior. However, the system had not been serviced by a trained service technician for over three years.

    After the site specific safety paperwork portion was completed, our technician started the evaluation of the system. General process conditions were reviewed. System set-points were checked to the “as commissioned” set-points. Each component was inspected to ensure that it was operational. All safeties were checked to ensure they were working as designed. There were some interesting “fixes” found during the system evaluation: bungee cords had been used to keep control box doors closed and pressure switches had been jumpered out. Luckily, these issues were easy to correct. 

    The interior inspection, well, that was another issue.  

    New Catalytic Oxidizer Burner.jpg
    As commissioned, a brand new catalytic oxidizer burner.
    Particulate buildup.jpg
    OUCH! A burner coated with particulate (a snow shovel was needed to clear the particulate from the ductwork).

    The catalytic oxidizer was not designed to have particulate buildup on the heat exchanger, the catalyst, or on the burner. A dust collector had been in place prior to the CatOx system. This dust collector remained in place, located between the customer process and the CatOx to filter the particulate out of the air stream going into the CatOx. Unfortunately, maintenance had not been done on the dust collector. Its filters had been removed once they were plugged, and new filters were not installed.

    Without the functioning dust collector, the particulate buildup in the CatOx caused severe damage. The coating caused the burner plates to get hotter than normal, and since extreme heat causes metal to fatigue, the metal plates eventually cracked. This created an uneven air flow throughout the burner.

    Along with the burner problems, the catalyst bed was covered in particulate, which caused an increase in the differential pressure. That, in turn, caused the fans to work harder, thus using more energy. The system was no longer cleaning the airstream as it was designed to do.

    After the much needed thorough clean-out of the entire oxidizer system, along with replacing the damaged burner, the catalytic oxidizer is now operating as designed. To ensure that this issue is prevented in the future, the dust collection system was also cleaned and inspected, and the filters were replaced (with spares on hand). The work required was unexpected, but needed. In the end, the customer is now experiencing significant energy savings.

    If you are responsible for maintenance, remember, don’t overlook the small things. While they might not seem important, seemingly minor components like filters can have a big impact on the bottom line.

    If you need to perform maintenance on your air pollution control system, our staff can help you discover any issues and ensure that your equipment is functioning properly. Please contact Jeff Nasticky if you would like to schedule a service call.  

    Contact Jeff Nasticky

    For those of you wondering about Hammy, he was not hurt during his escapes. Hammy has escaped from his original duplex accomodations twice (I’m still trying to figure out how). He now resides in a more secure “condo”.

    Topics: Maintenance and Repairs, Catalytic Oxidizer, Blog

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