The safe use of cationic flocculants with reverse osmosis membranes

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Abstract

Flocculants are used in combination with coagulants to agglomerate suspended particles for removal by filtration. This technique is used extensively in all types of surface waters to reduce the silt density index (SDI) and minimise membrane fouling. Although organic cationic flocculants are particularly effective, their widespread use in membrane applications is limited because of perceived problems with flocculant fouling at the membrane surface causing irreparable damage. Reference material from some of the major membrane manufacturers on the use of flocculants is given.

Autopsies show that more than 50% of membrane fouling is caused by inadequate, deficient or poorly operated pre-treatment systems. The Authors suggest that if the correct chemistry is considered, the addition of an effective flocculant can be simple and safe. The paper discusses the use of cationic flocculants and the fouling process that occur at the membrane surface. The paper explains the types of coagulants and flocculants used and considers cationic flocculants and the way they function.

Operational results when using a soluble polyquaternary amine flocculant (Genefloc GPF) developed by Genesys International Limited is presented. Genefloc GPF has been in extensive use for several years and a review of the results clearly shows no detrimental effect on membrane performance.

A case study shows the effectiveness of Genefloc GPF in reducing SDI and increasing particle size prior to filtration. In every case a significant improvement in plant performance is seen with a reduction in cleaning frequency and extended membrane life. New particle counting techniques [1] have assisted us in optimising flocculant dosage rate and monitor on-going performance.

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