What are RTOs?

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Regenerative thermal oxidizers destroy pollutants and recycle the heat generated by burning them. Waste streams are burned in the oxidizer, and the recovered energy can be used for pollution control or secondary use. Hydrocarbons are the primary pollutants removed, and the efficiency of destruction and heat recovery is high. This method reduces fuel consumption and operating costs, making it a cost-effective choice for emissions control in various industries.

Regenerative thermal oxidizers are pollution control devices that destroy pollutants and then recycle the heat generated by burning them. The term thermal oxidizer refers to a machine that destroys pollutants through combustion that produces heat. The recovery and reuse of the energy thus generated leads to defining these thermal oxidants as regenerative. This recovered energy can be used to continue the pollution control process or for secondary use, such as water or air heating.

Pollutants are destroyed in regenerative thermal oxidizers when waste streams from other industrial processes are drawn in and burned. The waste gas containing toxins is directed to the inlet of the oxidizer by a fan. The valves direct the gas flow into the energy recovery chambers where the exhaust is preheated in beds of ceramic material.

From the ceramic media beds, the gas is then directed into the combustion chamber where it is burned to remove pollutants from it. Once the pollutants have been destroyed, the gas is much hotter and is expelled through the ceramic media beds. Heat transfers from the gas to the ceramic media beds as it exits through them. As it loses heat, the gas cools to a temperature not much higher than when it entered through the inlet.

Typically. hydrocarbons are the pollutants removed in this process. Hydrocarbons are chemical compounds made up of hydrogen and carbon atoms. Burning them is referred to as oxidizing them because adding oxygen causes a chemical reaction that breaks them down and releases heat. The byproducts of this reaction are water vapor and carbon dioxide.

There are two primary measures by which regenerative thermal oxidizers are evaluated. Destruction efficiency refers to the percentage of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) removed by mass. This efficiency can easily be 99% or higher. Heat recovery efficiency refers to the percentage of available heat energy that is recovered for reuse. It is common for heat recovery efficiency to exceed 95% with the use of regenerative thermal oxidizers.

The use of regenerative thermal oxidizers to recycle heat from the oxidation process can dramatically reduce the amount of fuel needed to burn exhaust emissions. The reduction in fuel required can represent a substantial reduction in operating costs for a plant. Burning less fuel for this process also reduces the amount of pollutants produced in the process. These factors make regenerative thermal oxidizers a more cost-effective choice than other emission control methods in many cases.
Consequently, regenerative thermal oxidizers are used in many industrial applications to remove the toxins in the exhaust they generate. They are best suited for processes with relatively low VOC concentrations. Spray booths, municipal waste treatment plants, and paper mills are a few examples of facilities that can use regenerative thermal oxidizers for emissions control.

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