Process Systems & Pilot Plants

Solvent Recovery: Basic FAQ’s

What is a solvent recovery or solvent reclamation system?

Pilot Plant FabricationA solvent recovery system is a process system that takes effluent and extracts useful raw materials back out of the process waste stream. They can reduce the demand for raw materials, by recovering chemicals that can be reused in production, or used to flush the system between runs. They can also help manufacturers meet regulatory requirements or process standards by cleaning waste streams before they are released from the plant.

The recovery of solvents from effluent can be achieved with a variety of technologies. A common one is solvent distillation systems, but liquid-liquid extraction, absorption systems, film evaporation, crystallization, and membrane separation can also be used, depending on the application.

What can be recovered?

Generally speaking, the following types of solutions can be successfully recovered:

  • Non-azeotropic solutions
  • Aqueous non-azeotropic solutions
  • Heterogeneous azeotropic solutions
  • Aqueous homogeneous azeotropic solutions

In more laymen terminology, a large variety of mixtures, including paint lacquers and thinners, alcohols, acetone, methanal and most solvents with a boiling point up to 300-375 degrees F. Higher boiling point solvents can also be reclaimed economically and safely through the use of vacuums, which lowers the effective boiling point. For a longer list, visit our solvent recovery page or contact an engineer today to discuss EPIC taking turnkey responsibility for your solvent recovery system.

How much does a solvent recovery system cost?

The cost will vary widely from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars and depends on several factors. The main determinate will be how large and complicated the process design is: the more process steps involved, the more equipment, design work and fabrication time required.

Also, how much solvent do you want to recover, how large a stream will the system need to handle, how dangerous are the chemicals involved, and how harsh are your operating conditions? Each of these factors could have major effects on systems costs. Contact an engineer today to start discussing proven methods for your specific application and get a more precise number.

How efficient is solvent recovery?

Most companies have reported recovery efficiencies of 75-80% but higher efficiencies are possible.

What would I need to consider when calculating ROI for a solvent reclamation system?

Several economic aspects need to be considered when selecting a solvent distillation system including: solvent usage, amount of waste solvent produced, cost of disposal of waste products, and capital and annual costs..

A basic example of a payback calculation can be found here.

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