A venturi scrubber is designed to effectively use the energy from the inlet gas stream to atomize the liquid being used to scrub the gas stream. This type of technology is a part of the group of air pollution controls collectively referred to as wet scrubbers.
In the late 1940s, H.F. Johnstone, William Jones, and other researchers found that they could effectively use the venturi configuration to remove particles from gas streams. Figure 1 illustrates the classic venturi configuration.
A venturi scrubber consists of three sections: a converging section, a throat section, and a diverging section. The inlet gas stream enters the converging section and, as the area decreases, gas velocity increases. Liquid is introduced either at the throat or at the entrance to the converging section.
The inlet gas, forced to move at extremely high velocities in the small throat section, shears the liquid from its walls, producing an enormous number of very tiny droplets.
Particle and gas removal occur in the diverging section as the inlet gas stream mixes with the fog of tiny liquid droplets. The inlet stream then exits through the diverging section, where it is forced to slow down.
Venturis can be used to collect both particulate and gaseous pollutants, but they are more effective in removing particles than gaseous pollutants.
Liquid can be injected at the converging section or at the throat. Figure 2 shows liquid injected at the converging section. Thus, the liquid coats the venturi throat making it very effective for handling hot, dry inlet gas that contains dust. Otherwise, the dust would have a tendency to cake on or abrade a dry throat. These venturis are sometimes referred to as having a wetted approach.
Figure 3 shows liquid injected at the venturi throat. Since it is sprayed at or just before the throat, it does not actually coat the throat surface. These throats are susceptible to solids buildup when the throat is dry. They are also susceptible to abrasion by dust particles. These venturis are best used when the inlet stream is cool and moist. These venturis are referred to as having a non-wetted approach.
Venturis with round throats (Figures 2 and 3) can handle inlet flows as large as 88,000 m³/h (40,000 cfm) (Brady and Legatski 1977). At inlet flow rates greater than this, achieving uniform liquid distribution is difficult, unless additional weirs or baffles are used. To handle large inlet flows, scrubbers designed with long, narrow, rectangular throats (Figure 4) have been used.
Simple venturis have fixed throat areas and cannot be used over a wide range of gas flow rates. Manufacturers have developed other modifications to the basic venturi design to maintain scrubber efficiency by changing the throat area for varying inlet gas rates.
Certain types of orifices (throat areas) that create more turbulence than a true venturi were found to be equally efficient for a given unit of energy consumed (McIlvaine Company 1974).
Results of these findings led to the development of the annular-orifice, or adjustable-throat, venturi scrubber (Figure 5). The size of the throat area is varied by moving a plunger, or adjustable disk, up or down in the throat, thereby decreasing or increasing the annular opening. Gas flows through the annular opening and atomizes liquid that is sprayed onto the plunger or swirled in from the top.
Another adjustable-throat venturi is shown in Figure 6. In this scrubber, the throat area is varied by using a movable plate. A water-wash spray is used to continually wash collected material from the plate.
Another modification can be seen in the venturi-rod or rod deck scrubber. By placing a number of pipes parallel to each other, a series of longitudinal venturi openings can be created as shown in Figure 7. The area between adjacent rods is a small venturi throat.
Water sprays help prevent solids buildup. The principal atomization of the liquid occurs at the rods, where the high-velocity gas moving through spacings creates the small droplets necessary for fine particle collection. These rods must be made of abrasion-resistant material due to the high velocities present.
All venturi scrubbers require an entrainment separator because the high velocity of gas through the scrubber will have a tendency to entrain the droplets with the outlet clean gas stream.
Cyclonic, mesh-pad, and blade separators are all used to remove liquid droplets from the flue gas and return the liquid to the scrubber water. Cyclonic separators, the most popular for use with venturi scrubbers, are connected to the venturi vessel by a flooded elbow (Figure 8). The liquid reduces abrasion of the elbow as the outlet gas flows at high velocities from the venturi into the separator.
Venturis are the most commonly used scrubber for particle collection and are capable of achieving the highest particle collection efficiency of any wet scrubbing system. As the inlet stream enters the throat, its velocity increases greatly, atomizing and turbulently mixing with any liquid present.
The atomized liquid provides an enormous number of tiny droplets for the dust particles to impact on. These liquid droplets incorporating the particles must be removed from the scrubber outlet stream, generally by cyclonic separators.
Particle removal efficiency increases with increasing pressure drop because of increased turbulence due to high gas velocity in the throat. Venturis can be operated with pressure drops ranging from 12 to 250 cm (5 to 100 in) of water.
Most venturis normally operate with pressure drops in the range of 50 to 150 cm (20 to 60 in) of water. At these pressure drops, the gas velocity in the throat section is usually between 30 and 120 m/s (100 to 400 ft/s), or approximately 270 mph at the high end. These high pressure drops result in high operating costs.
The liquid-injection rate, or liquid-to-gas ratio (L/G), also affects particle collection. The proper amount of liquid must be injected to provide adequate liquid coverage over the throat area and make up for any evaporation losses. If there is insufficient liquid, then there will not be enough liquid targets to provide the required capture efficiency.
Most venturi systems operate with an L/G ratio of 0.4 to 1.3 l/m3 (3 to 10 gal/1000 ft3) (Brady and Legatski 1977). L/G ratios less than 0.4 l/m3 (3 gal/1000 ft3) are usually not sufficient to cover the throat, and adding more than 1.3 l/m3 (10 gal/1000 ft3) does not usually significantly improve particle collection efficiency.
Venturi scrubbers can be used for removing gaseous pollutants; however, they are not used when removal of gaseous pollutants is the only concern.
The high inlet gas velocities in a venturi scrubber result in a very short contact time between the liquid and gas phases. This short contact time limits gas absorption. However, because venturis have a relatively open design compared to other scrubbers, they are very useful for simultaneous gaseous and particulate pollutant removal, especially when:
- Scaling could be a problem
- A high concentration of dust is in the inlet stream
- The dust is sticky or has a tendency to plug openings
- The gaseous contaminant is very soluble or chemically reactive with the liquid
To maximize the absorption of gases, venturis are designed to operate at a different set of conditions from those used to collect particles. The gas velocities are lower and the liquid-to-gas ratios are higher for absorption.
For a given venturi design, if the gas velocity is decreased, then the pressure drop (resistance to flow) will also decrease and vice versa. Therefore, by reducing pressure drop, the gas velocity is decreased and the corresponding residence time is increased. Liquid-to-gas ratios for these gas absorption applications are approximately 2.7 to 5.3 l/m3 (20 to 40 gal/1000 ft3). The reduction in gas velocity allows for a longer contact time between phases and better absorption.
Increasing the liquid-to-gas ratio will increase the potential solubility of the pollutant in the liquid.
Though capable of some incidental control of volatile organic compounds (VOC), generally venturi scrubbers are limited to control PM (particulate matter) and high solubility gases (EPA, 1992; EPA, 1996). 
The primary maintenance problem for venturi scrubbers is wear, or abrasion, of the scrubber shell because of high gas velocities. Gas velocities in the throat can reach speeds of 430 km/h (270 mph). Particles and liquid droplets traveling at these speeds can rapidly erode the scrubber shell.
Abrasion can be reduced by lining the throat with silicon carbide brick or fitting it with a replaceable liner. Abrasion can also occur downstream of the throat section. To reduce abrasion here, the elbow at the bottom of the scrubber (leading into the separator) can be flooded (i.e. filled with a pool of scrubbing liquid). Particles and droplets impact on the pool of liquid, reducing wear on the scrubber shell.
The method of liquid injection at the venturi throat can also cause problems. Spray nozzles are used for liquid distribution because they are more efficient (have a more effective spray pattern) for liquid injection than weirs. However, spray nozzles can easily plug when liquid is recirculated. Automatic or manual reamers can be used to correct this problem. However, when heavy liquid slurries (either viscous or particle-loaded) are recirculated, open-wear injection is often necessary.
Venturi scrubbers can have the highest particle collection efficiencies (especially for very small particles) of any wet scrubbing system.
They are the most widely used scrubbers because their open construction enables them to remove most particles without plugging or scalding. Venturis can also be used to absorb pollutant gases; however, they are not as efficient for this as are packed or plate towers.
Venturi scrubbers have been designed to collect particles at very high collection efficiencies, sometimes exceeding 99%. The ability of venturis to handle large inlet volumes at high temperatures makes them very attractive to many industries; consequently, they are used to reduce particulate emissions in a number of industrial applications.
This ability is particularly desirable for cement kiln emission reduction and for control of emissions from basic oxygen furnaces in the steel industry, where the inlet gas enters the scrubber at temperatures greater than 350 °C (660 °F).
|Table 1. Operating characteristics of venturi scrubbers|
|Pollutant||Pressure drop (Δp)||Liquid-to-gas ratio (L/G)||Liquid-inlet pressure (pL)||Removal efficiency|
|Gases||13-250 cm of water (5-100 in of water)||2.7-5.3 l/m3 (20-40 gal/1,000 ft3)||< 7-100 kPa (< 1-15 psig)||30-60% per venturi, depending on pollutant solubility|
|Particles||50-250 cm of water (50-150 cm of water is common)
20-100 in of water (20-60 in. of water is common)
|0.67-1.34 l/m3(5-10 gal/1,000 ft3)||90-99% is typical|
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- Air Pollution Training Courses (from website of U.S. EPA's Air Pollution Training Institute)
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- Course SI 412C: Lesson 3 U.S. EPA Air Pollution Training Institute in collaboration with North Carolina State University, College of Engineering (NCSU)
- US EPA Clean Air Technology Center