Industrial Reverse Osmosis Troubleshooting

Diagnosing problems with an industrial reverse osmosis system can be more complex than expected when you have an industrial RO upset, flow problem, or failure to produce the proper water quality or flow rate.

To understand the considerations in diagnosing, troubleshooting, and servicing industrial reverse osmosis equipment and systems, it’s helpful to understand the bigger picture:

  • Industrial reverse osmosis (industrial RO) is a reliable process for the removal of dissolved solids and impurities from water. It is commonly used to treat industrial process water, boiler feedwater, and cooling tower makeup water.
  • Industrial reverse osmosis does not require the use of chemicals to process the water, although the water may be pretreated or post-treated with chemicals or water conditioning equipment such as industrial water softeners  and carbon filters
  • Industrial RO tends to be more energy-intensive than industrial water filtration but removes more out of the water than filter options.
  • Industrial reverse osmosis does not have internal moving parts but may be preceded by moving components in pumps, water softeners, or filters.

These industrial RO characteristics help make for reliable equipment that will last for years if industrial RO preventative maintenance is conducted. However, that does not mean it is immune from issues with water quality or output rates. The following factors can contribute to industrial RO problems and should be considered in your RO troubleshooting:

  • Environmental RO conditions such as ambient temperature changes due to nearby processes or seasonality
  • Improper RO procedures stemming from training issues or lack of consistent verification
  • Missed RO poor production pressures due to lack of maintenance or a presumption that the system is working as needed
  • Long RO shutdowns that do not consider the impact on the RO internal components and the need for calibration, cleaning and testing
  • Incoming water quality changes due to supply or equipment changes
  • Fouling of RO elements due to incoming water quality, bacterial growth, biofilm, etc.
  • Mechanical seal failures that affect pressure and water quality
  • Failure of reverse osmosis pretreatment
  • Aging of the RO system or the pretreatment systems
  • Capacity of the system given increased production requirements

Methods used in troubleshooting RO systems during an engineering site visit in the above areas will often include:

  • RO water analysis and evaluation versus reverse osmosis system design specifications
  • Recording of pressure values at various points throughout the RO system
  • Visual inspection for RO scaling, foulants, and color changes

The solutions for industrial reverse osmosis issues will vary greatly depending on the RO system design specifications and the identified cause of the RO problem but may include:

  • Reducing or increasing incoming RO pressure
  • Adjusting RO flow rates
  • Reducing RO recovery
  • Cleaning the RO or upstream systems
  • Repairing upstream systems
  • Upgrading upstream systems
  • Changing elements
  • Changing O-rings
  • Changing Elements
  • Changing inter-connectors

As you can see, despite the relative simplicity of an industrial RO system versus many other industrial water equipment and processes, troubleshooting industrial reverse osmosis can be complex. While the above guidelines provide a helpful start in your RO troubleshooting, we recommend that you contact Industrial Water Solutions for a consultation as RO systems are expensive and mission-critical for most industries. Our industrial reverse osmosis experts can help you determine the most cost-effective, timely solution for your RO system to keep your systems running.