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Journal of Engineering
Volume 2017, Article ID 6356751, 14 pages
https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/6356751
Research Article

Membrane Fouling and Chemical Cleaning in Three Full-Scale Reverse Osmosis Plants Producing Demineralized Water

1Laboratory of Microbiology, Wageningen University, Stippeneng 4, 6708 WE Wageningen, Netherlands
2Wetsus, European Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Water Technology, Oostergoweg 9, 8911 MA Leeuwarden, Netherlands

Correspondence should be addressed to Caroline M. Plugge; ln.ruw@eggulp.enilorac

Received 16 December 2016; Revised 16 May 2017; Accepted 18 May 2017; Published 15 June 2017

Academic Editor: Justo Lobato

Copyright © 2017 Florian Beyer et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Membrane fouling and cleaning were studied in three reverse osmosis (RO) plants. Feed water was secondary wastewater effluent, river water, and surface water. Membrane autopsies were used for fouling characterization. Fouling layer measurements included total organic carbon (TOC), adenosine triphosphate, polysaccharides, proteins, and heterotrophic plate counts. In all locations, membrane and spacer fouling was (bio)organic. Plant chemical cleaning efficiencies were evaluated from full-scale operational data and cleaning trials in a laboratory setup. Standard cleaning procedures were compared to two cleaning procedures specifically adapted to treat (bio)organic fouling using commercial blend cleaners (mixtures of active substances). The three RO plants were impacted by irreversible foulants causing permanently decreased performance in normalized pressure drop and water permeability even after thorough chemical cleaning. The standard plant and adapted cleaning procedures reduced the TOC by 45% on average, with a maximum of ~80%. In general, around 20% higher biomass removal could be achieved with adapted procedure I compared to adapted procedure II. TOC measurements and SEM showed that none of cleaning procedures applied could remove foulants completely from the membrane elements. This study underlines the need for novel cleaning approaches targeting resistant foulants, as none of the procedures applied resulted in highly effective membrane regeneration.