RO systems gain intelligence and save 70% energy per m3 water produced

Overview_TEXT

Overview

 

The situation

If Industrial Water Equipment’s (IWE’s) reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment systems stop working, it can be catastrophic for some of its customers. A cosmetics producer must throw a whole production in the bin if the water purity falls and it hasn’t been monitored properly. A brewery can lose an entire batch of beer if the water is not the correct purity. 

“It’s that critical,” says IWE Sales Manager Justin Underhill. “And the pump is the heart of the unit. It’s absolutely key to the whole operation of the machine. So you need a reliable, guaranteed source.”

IWE’s RO systems range from compact units that treat 150 litres per hour to larger systems with 8-inch membranes that can process up to 20,000 litres per hour. “We have a remit of producing water between 20 microsiemens in water quality to below 5 microsiemens and even to 1 microsiemen,” says Justin Underhill. 

In the eight years IWE had been producing RO systems from its plant in Matlock, UK, he says the systems have been good, but they have been relying on human input. 

“It was down to the customer to notice, ‘My tank is not filling.’ ‘We’re running low on water.’ ‘We’re getting a strange noise from that machine.’ Or: ‘The conductivity is going up. It’s out of its parameter.’ It was a constant need for someone to go in and take responsibility, take some ownership,” he says. “And that left it to one person. If that person is away on holiday, in a meeting, is negligent in any way, production stops. Very costly.”

In addition to reliability, customers were also requesting more energy-efficient units – a way to save money on the bottom line in the long term, he says. 


The solution

IWE teamed up with Grundfos to look at its existing system set-up and see how it could make something better by using Grundfos intelligent pump systems, or Grundfos iSOLUTIONS. The team found a solution with the Grundfos CRIE pump, DDA FCM digital dosing pump and other components such as Grundfos direct sensors, Grundfos iSOLUTIONS monitor (GiM) and Grundfos Remote Monitoring for the new IWE iPRO series. 

“We found a way, working with Grundfos Intelligent Solutions, where we can minimise pump maintenance,” Justin Underhill says. “If there are any issues with the membranes – such as a differential pressure across the membranes – that’s detected one stage earlier. It comes up as a lack of maintenance on the controller.” 

He adds that the Grundfos iSOLUTIONS controller can show if the pump is “getting tired,” running hot, or if differential pressure is poor or something is wrong with the setup. “Now everything is picked up by constant monitoring by the pump – and in real time. ‘The temperature’s gone up.’ ‘The conductivity has exceeded.’ ‘The flow has dropped.’”

The controller also monitors pump flow, pump speed and power consumption, time run – and can be drilled down hourly, daily, weekly or monthly to look at pump curves.

“And the good thing with iSOLUTIONS,” he adds, “is that you can pick it all up by remote control. Our customer could be sitting in an office looking at a machine four miles away in a production unit. They can pick it up on a smartphone and it’ll correlate with the controller on the machine.”

Another advantage with the Grundfos iSOLUTIONS upgrade is the smaller footprint of the RO unit, he says – an advantage to customers who can use less floor space to use and operate it. It all goes back to the difference in pumps, he says.

“We had our standard machine, and it had a lot of manual aspects – as well as a fixed speed pump. It was running a constant speed all the time.”

Now with Grundfos iSOLUTIONS, IWE’s RO machines are more controlled via variable-speed pumps powered by IE5 motors. “The pump will vary, moving up and down in speed according to demand. That’s reduced the energy rating of that pump massively. We’re talking from a 2.2-kilowatt pump with 21 stages to a 500-watt pump with 13 stages.”

He shows the physical difference on the “old” and “new” machines. The 2.2 kW pump is nearly chest-high, whereas the 500 W pump could fit into a backpack. “Look at the footprint change,” he says.
 

The outcome

With the smaller motors and reduced complexity on its premium RO line, the iPRO machine saves about 70% energy, Justin Underhill says. 

“That energy alone is a real lightbulb moment, because people are thinking, ‘I can save so much money on the running of this machine as an everyday cost. And it’ll also tell me when my membranes are not working efficiently, and it’ll correlate with the pressure switch to respond and say there’s a problem down the line.’ So it gives the customer that flexibility. They need pure water. The need to know if there’s any problems coming up, and then they can plan for it.

“We’ve worked with Grundfos iSOLUTIONS to take a unit that was already successful and make it better,” he says.

He adds it has been a rewarding working partnership to develop the new IWE iPRO series together. “What is exciting for us is to be involved with a manufacturer who embraces modern technology and now brings that to the market and says, ‘Why not?’ ‘Have you thought about this?’ ‘Would you run this as a prototype – as a demonstration model?’ ‘Can we work together?’

“The answer to all those questions: Yes, let’s do it. Let’s work and design it together. Let’s embrace change.”

Topic:

Improving efficiency and reducing complexity in RO units

Location:

Matlock, United Kingdom

Company:

Industrial Water Equipment Ltd.

IWE’s Justin Underhill inspects some of its other pro-line RO systems.

 

Justin Underhill shows the size of the Grundfos CRIE 500 W pump nestled inside the new RO system, after comparing it to the waist-high 2.2 kW pump in the previous system.

 

Grundfos’ Luke Gardener (right) monitors the pump system inside the RO unit remotely with IWE’s Justin Underhill via Grundfos GO smartphone app.

 

The iSOLUTIONS monitor on the IWE iPRO unit provides constant, real-time data on system health – also remotely.

 

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