PROCESS EXPO 2017 First Timers Orientation Tour

No one likes a smelly neighbor. And manufacturing plants are some of the worst offenders. 

As plants expand and move closer to each other, clearing up those odors becomes even more critical. Fortunately, cutting down on odor emission from extruders, dryers, and coolers doesn’t have to be costly or environmental damaging. We spoke with Hans Schieven, Managing Director at Uniqair Technologies Ltd., to learn about cold plasma odor control technology.  

Uniqair, based in Canada, specializes in odor control for a variety of industries, including food processing, pet food, and waste. Its unique cold plasma injection system is a Best Available Technology Economically Achievable (BAT), offering a sustainable and economical solution to odor management that doesn’t interrupt the production line. 

The complexity and necessity of odor elimination

All odor control technologies must be tested to determine what specific components make up the odors. But, particularly in the food industry, odor detection presents a few challenges. 

Schieven says that’s because the combination of hundreds of chemical compounds forms a cocktail of sorts. The weight concentration, measured in parts per million (ppm), can be low while the odor concentration remains high. And while equipment can’t detect the lowest odor concentrations (in the sub-ppb range), the sensitive human nose can. Uniqair’s solution to this is to work with an olfactory laboratory to provide odor dispersion modeling and ensure compliance with local regulations. 

There are different standards for odor emission control throughout the world. Europe has the strictest regulations, which include standards for hedonic values. These take into consideration the pleasantness of odors — the smells from a cookie factory, for instance, are much more tolerable than those from a rendering plant. 

Common options for emission control equipment include incinerators, chemical scrubbers, and bio-filters. But these can be expensive and produce a lot of waste. Uniqair has patented a more sustainable way to comply — cold plasma injection technology. 

Reduced costs, sustainability, and energy efficiency

In the past, Uniqair primarily supplied their Plasma-Injector system to large corporations, like Nestle and Cargill. But, following a trend toward more sustainable and economical solutions, smaller companies are seeking out alternative odor control equipment, too.

Other solutions to odor control can be costly to install and maintain. Bio systems are the most expensive, as they must be pretreated for dust and humidity. Incinerators are great for efficiency, but they require natural gas. And though a scrubber solution can come at a lower price if using only water, once you circulate the water and add in chemicals, the operational costs go up. 

At roughly 80% of the price of a scrubber system, Uniqair’s technology keeps costs down because it doesn’t require chemicals or raw materials (carbon, chlorine, natural gas, etc.). All it needs is a little electricity. Schieven says the cold plasma solution can run on 10 to 15 kilowatts of energy for a stack flow rate of 20,000 cfm.  

The other main benefit to Uniqair’s technology is that is doesn’t run in line with the airflow like other systems do. It doesn’t process air through carbon filters, which clog and need frequent replacements. Instead, it converts ambient air into activated oxygen through cold plasma, which is then injected into the stack to quickly oxidize odor molecules. 

To make the system work best for each customer, Uniqair conducts on-site odor emission pilot testing. This involves hooking up a small pilot unit to a fan to determine the stack height and emission perimeters necessary to solve the problem. Schieven notes that the system doesn’t reduce odors by 100% — there will always be remaining odors for the stack to dilute. But once in place, the system has a 25-year warranty, with plasma reactors replaced every two years. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of Uniqair’s technology for your odor control needs, you can find them at Booth #4168 at PROCESS EXPO.