Pilot scale black liquor concentration using pressure driven membrane separation, TAPPI Journal April 2023
Black liquor concentration using pressure driven membrane separation has long been proposed as a means of achieving energy savings and breaking production bottlenecks. To date, limitations in membrane performance and stability under black liquor process conditions have prevented those promises from being realized out-side of tightly controlled laboratory settings. In this work, we describe the first successful pilot scale field deployments of a membrane system for black liquor concentration. Using a purpose-built system and commercial sized, spiral wound graphene oxide membrane elements, we have logged nearly 6000 h of runtime across deployments to multiple mill sites. We demonstrate concentration of black liquor from 14% to >20% total solids, while generating permeate water comparable in quality to that of evaporator condensate and an 81% reduction in energy consumption relative to evaporation. At a commercial scale, these results translate to $2 M/year in net energy savings for a typical mill, as well as an opportunity to support production increases or mill expansions. These results represent a significant leap forward in the ability of membrane systems to deliver substantial value via black liquor concentration.
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