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Membrane Cleaning: Design and Operation of RO System Clean-In-Place
A CIP skid typically includes a tank, cleaning pump, cartridge filter and a heating/cooling device. Figure 1 illustrates a flow diagram of a CIP system.
The CIP system is connected with the RO system either with flexible hoses or fixed piping (stainless steel or FRP). Large RO systems typically have fixed piping since the cleaning flow quantities are such that flexible hoses shouldn't be used either due to handling issues (heavy) and/or safety reasons.
The materials used for the CIP system should withstand a pH range of 1-13 and temperatures up to 122F (50C). They should be non-corrosive.
Flat bottom tanks aren't recommended since it isn't possible to drain these tanks completely. The residual amount of liquid remaining in the tank becomes more contaminated over time. The cleanings will become less effective since fresh cleaning solution is contaminated with the residual liquid. In addition, the contaminated cleaning solution may cause a decline of the membrane element performance since additional foulant is introduced into the RO system.
The design of the clean-in-place skid and the integration with the reverse osmosis system is important to obtain good cleaning results and subsequently increase the lifetime of reverse osmosis membrane elements.
What to do with an existing system that does not have a properly designed CIP system? One can make modifications to the clean-in-place skid or use one of the many off-site membrane cleaning service companies that have the proper equipment.
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