What Are VOCs, and What is VOC Removal?

July 3, 2019

What are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)?

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are necessary compounds used in household chemicals, industrial manufacturing processes, or are byproducts of exhaust from automobiles, aircraft, and small engines. They can be harmful to the environment and to people, and can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, cause severe headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, memory impairment, and even some cancers. VOCs that get released into the environment can react with nitric oxidizes creating smog emissions that can worsen when exposed to natural sunlight

VOC Regulations At U.S. Federal Level

The U.S. EPA regulates VOCs at Federal level in 40 CFR 59, which stands for the National Volatile Organic Compound Emission Standards For Consumer And Commercial Products. This regulation provides guidance on the control and limits of specific VOC compounds for specific industries. The individual states impose limits for industries in their state or county or community based on where the community is located. There are also attainment and non-atttainment areas within the USA that determine the strictness of regulations on a particular facility. All of these factors determine the tonnage of emissions allowed from each facility before VOC controls, such as thermal oxidizers, must be added. Industries that have regulations in place include:

How Catalytic or Thermal Oxidizers Remove VOCs

A Thermal Oxidizer (often referred to as TOX, incinerator, or afterburner) destroys pollutants like Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and odorous emissions that are often discharged during industrial processes safely and efficiently.

Thermal oxidizers achieve very high VOC destruction efficiency by heating and maintaining a polluted airstream at high temperature for a set dwell time. Typical VOC destruction is  99+%. Thermal oxidizers can operate with an integral heat exchanger for fuel savings or without for capital cost savings. All oxidizer technologies achieve VOC destruction by exposing pollutant-containing air to a high temperature, for a set period of time, in a turbulent flow path.  

Regenerative Thermal Oxidizers (RTOs)

One of today’s most widely accepted air pollution control technologies across industry is a Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer, commonly referred to as an RTO. They are very versatile and extremely efficient – heat recovery efficiency can reach 97%. This is achieved through the storage of heat by dense ceramic stoneware. Regenerative Thermal Oxidizers are ideal for airstreams with low VOC concentrations with high operating hours each year.

Thermal Recuperative Oxidizers

A less popular thermal oxidizer technology is a recuperative oxidizer. Thermal recuperative oxidizers have an integral heat exchanger which preheats the incoming pollutant-filled air by recuperating heat from the exiting clean air.  As the incoming air passes from one side of the metal tube or plate to the other, heated and cleaned air from the combustion chamber passes on the other side of the tube or plate and heat is transferred to the incoming air through the process of conduction using the metal as the medium of heat transfer. The heat exchanger reduces fuel use but this technology is not as fuel efficient as an RTO or a catalytic oxidizer.

Catalytic Oxidizers (CATOX)

A Catalytic Recuperative Oxidizer (often called a catalytic oxidizer) destroys pollutants like Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and odorous emissions that are often discharged during industrial processes.

Catalytic oxidation works similar to a thermal oxidizer- VOC hydrocarbon molecules are broken apart at high temperature. But a catalytic oxidizer uses a catalyst integral to the system, which allows the VOC oxidation to occur at a low temperature (usually 600-700F).

Catalytic oxidizers achieve high VOC destruction efficiency by heating and maintaining a polluted airstream at temperature for a set “dwell” time as it passes through the catalyst. The lower operating temperature results in much lower fuel use than thermal recuperative oxidizers. VOC destruction efficiency can reach 99+%.  Catalytic oxidizers can operate with an integral heat exchanger for fuel savings, or without a heat exchanger for capital cost savings.

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Benefits of working with Kono Kogs: