Scrubber systems (e.g. chemical, gas) are a diverse group of air pollution control devices that can be used to remove some particulates and/or gases from industrial exhaust streams.  The first air scrubber was designed to remove carbon dioxide from the air of an early submarine, the Ictineo I, a role for which they continue to be used today.  Traditionally, the term “scrubber” has referred to pollution control devices that use liquid to wash unwanted pollutants from a gas stream.  Recently, the term has also been used to describe systems that inject a dry reagent or slurry into a dirty exhaust stream to “wash out” acid gases.  Scrubbers are one of the primary devices that control gaseous emissions, especially acid gases.  Scrubbers can also be used for heat recovery from hot gases by flue-gas condensation.  They are also used for the high flows in solar, PV, or LED processes.

Wet Scrubbing

The exhaust gases of combustion may contain substances considered harmful to the environment, and these may remove or neutralize those.  A wet type is used for cleaning air, fuel gas or other gases of various pollutants and dust particles.  Wet scrubbing works via the contact of target compounds or particulate matter with the scrubbing solution.  Solutions may simply be water (for dust) or solutions of reagents that specifically target certain compounds.

Process exhaust gas can also contain water-soluble toxic and/or corrosive gases like hydrochloric acid (HCl) or ammonia (NH3).  These can be removed very well by a wet type.

Removal efficiency of pollutants is improved by increasing residence time in the scrubber or by the increase of surface area of the scrubber solution by the use of a spray nozzle, packed towers or an aspirator. Wet type may increase the proportion of water in the gas, resulting in a visible stack plume, if the gas is sent to a stack.

Wet type can also be used for heat recovery from hot gases by flue-gas condensation.  In this mode, termed a condensing scrubber, water from the scrubber drain is circulated through a cooler to the nozzles at the top of the scrubber.  The hot gas enters the scrubber at the bottom.  If the gas temperature is above the water dew point, it is initially cooled by evaporation of water drops.  Further cooling cause water vapors to condense, adding to the amount of circulating water.

The condensation of water releases significant amounts of low temperature heat (more than 2 gigajoules (560 kWh) per ton of water, that can be recovered by the cooler for e.g. district heating purposes.

Excess condensed water must continuously be removed from the circulating water.

The gas leaves the scrubber at its dew point, so even though significant amounts of water may have been removed from the cooled gas, it is likely to leave a visible stack plume of water vapor.


Dry Scrubbing

A dry or semi-dry scrubbing system, unlike the wet scrubber, does not saturate the flue gas stream that is being treated with moisture.  In some cases no moisture is added, while in others only the amount of moisture that can be evaporated in the flue gas without condensing is added.  Therefore, these generally do not have a stack steam plume or wastewater handling/disposal requirements.  Dry scrubbing systems are used to remove acid gases (such as SO2 and HCl) primarily from combustion sources.

There are a number of dry type scrubbing system designs.  However, all consist of two main sections or devices: a device to introduce the acid gas sorbent material into the gas stream and a particulate matter control device to remove reaction products, excess sorbent material as well as any particulate matter already in the flue gas.

Dry scrubbing systems can be categorized as dry sorbent injectors (DSIs) or as spray dryer absorbers (SDAs).  Spray dryer absorbers are also called semi-dry scrubbers or spray dryers.

Dry scrubbing systems are often used for the removal of odorous and corrosive gases from wastewater treatment plant operations. The medium used is typically an activated alumina compound impregnated with materials to handle specific gases such as hydrogen sulfide. Media used can be mixed together to offer a wide range of removal for other odorous compounds such as methyl mercaptans, aldehydes, volatile organic compounds, dimethyl sulfide, and dimethyl disulfide.

Dry sorbent injection involves the addition of an alkaline material (usually hydrated lime, soda ash, or sodium bicarbonate) into the gas stream to react with the acid gases.  The sorbent can be injected directly into several different locations: the combustion process, the flue gas duct (ahead of the particulate control device), or an open reaction chamber (if one exists).  The acid gases react with the alkaline sorbents to form solid salts which are removed in the particulate control device.  These simple systems can achieve only limited acid gas (SO2 and HCl) removal efficiencies.  Higher collection efficiencies can be achieved by increasing the flue gas humidity (i.e., cooling using water spray).  These devices have been used on medical waste incinerators and a few municipal waste combustors.

In spray dryer absorbers, the flue gases are introduced into an absorbing tower (dryer) where the gases are contacted with a finely atomized alkaline slurry.  Acid gases are absorbed by the slurry mixture and react to form solid salts which are removed by the particulate control device.  The heat of the flue gas is used to evaporate all the water droplets, leaving a non-saturated flue gas to exit the absorber tower. Spray dryers are capable of achieving high (80+%) acid gas removal efficiencies.  These devices have been used on industrial and utility boilers and municipal waste incinerators.

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