Optimum Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer (RTO) Operation
Regenerative thermal oxidizer's (RTOs) are used to control many various types of air pollution compounds which are
emitted by a wide variety of industrial processes. RTO's known as Regenerative Thermal Oxidizers are widely accepted
and the technology has been successful with most installations world wide, running trouble free over extended periods.  

RTO Understanding
Regenerative thermal oxidation technology is a method of capturing and retaining the temperature needed to oxidize the
process stream through the inlet heat recovery chamber, the emission stream is preheated to a temperature near or at the
combustion chamber temperature. In low VOC applications a fuel burner maintains the temperature to approximately
Regenerative thermal oxidation technology is a method of capturing and retaining the temperature needed to oxidize the
1,450 degrees Fahrenheit for complete oxidation. Upon leaving the combustion chamber, the waste stream enters the
plant air pollution. The pollutant is injected into a heat recovery chamber which contains ceramic media, by Injecting the
outlet heat recovery chamber. The waste stream passes through the outlet heat transfer ceramic media bed, where the
heat energy from the inlet heat recovery and the combustion chamber is transferred to the ceramic heat exchange media.
Lastly, the cleaned process stream leaves the RTO system through outlet valves to the exhaust stack. This process
reversal allows the RTO to recover up to 95 percent of the BTU value generated in the combustion chamber which greatly
minimizes the supplemental fuel costs. A correctly designed and engineered RTO unit can operate continuous without
downtime or significant amount maintenance.

Process Stream
A valuable tool is to understand the importance of process stream that defines the RTO operation. Most all process
streams have some particulate matter in an emissions stream. The quantity may be insignificant as in ambient air, but it is
always present. The VOC concentration in the process stream does vary, but process upset conditions due to excessive
VOC, can be accounted for by allowing necessary operating flexibility in the design of the RTO system such as the injection
of dilution air, hot air by pass systems and proper monitoring. Particulates in your process stream are another matter.
Particles in the gas stream are the biggest threat to efficient RTO operation as it can lead to bed plugging and/or media
degradation and account for a large amount of RTO fires. Among all of the plant processes, starch facilities, water
treatment facilities, rendering, biomass dryers and coffee roasters are particularly prone to such problems because of the
many ways their processes can generate particles.

Particle Sources and Effects
Coarse particles are particles greater than five microns. Their root is completely mechanical from such as actions as
tumbling or pneumatic action. Characteristically particles of this origin impact or plug the cold face surface of the ceramic
media bed. If left unabated, this can also become a fire safety hazard. Fine particles have a diameter less than one micron.
Which are exclusively caused by the thermal processes. Particles are formed when the process stream vapor cools and
then condenses. The particle may be solid or liquid in nature depending on its chemical properties; some examples are
oils and resins, while others that are generated thermally are metal oxides. Fine particles are derived from the evaporation
of organic material and the cooling within the ceramic bed prior to the exhaust manifolds has the potential to plug the
ceramic media. Particles in the process stream which are considered fine and which are considered chemically reactive
also cause ceramic media plugging. They also tend to react with the heat exchange media. Examples of chemically active
fine particles are the oxides of sodium and potassium. These react with the ceramic media at elevated temperatures and
cause the media to become brittle with breaking and bed plugging. Fine particles which are liquid usually evaporate as the
move through the ceramic media bed and enter the combustion chamber as vapor where it is destroyed.

Solutions to Particulate Matter
When your process stream has significant amounts of particulate matter, differentiate the size and the amounts of
particulate matter. After this is completed it is an easy process to select the right ceramic media for the application, usually
these costs are insignificant. Larger amounts may require a wet scrubber, fabric filtration or electrostatic precipitation
system prior to RTO process entrance. Large amounts of fine condensables particles in the process stream may require
the use of preheating prior to entering the RTO. This allows the condensables to enter the RTO as a vapor. Periodically
baking out the RTO allows the condensables located in the bottom of the ceramic media bed will vaporize and burn
through the RTO system.  Identifying your particulate is the first step in insuring long term RTO trouble free operation. After
the particulate is characterized and quantified, then develop a upstream cleaning approach that provides the appropriate
level of process stream cleanliness.
American Environmental Fabrication & Supply LLC                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Fax: +1 (918) 772-3536  
18991 S 410 Road Hulbert, OK 74441-1861                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

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