Operational Sequencing Considerations

The mode of operation for ion-exchange units can vary greatly from one system to the next, depending on the user's requirements. Service and regeneration cycles can be fully manual to totally automatic, with the method of regeneration being cocurrent, countercurrent, or external. The exhaustion phase is called the service run. This is followed by the regeneration phase which is necessary to bring the bed back to initial conditions to cycle. The regeneration phase includes four steps: backwashing to clean the bed, introduction of the excess regenerant, a slow rinse or displacement step to push the regenerant slowly through the bed, and finally a fast rinse to remove the excess regenerant from the resin and elute the unwanted ions to waste.

Service Cycle - The service cycle is normally terminated by one or a combination of the following criteria:

• High effluent conductivity.

• Total gallons throughput.

• Termination of the service cycle can be manually or automatically initiated.

Backwash Cycle - Normally, the first step in the regeneration sequence is designed to reverse flow from the service cycle using sufficient volume and flow rate to develop proper bed expansion for the purpose of removing suspended material (crud) trapped in the ion-exchange bed during the service cycle. The backwash waste water is collected by the raw water inlet distributor and diverted to waste via value sequencing. Backwash rate and internal design should avoid potential loss of whole bead resin during the backwash step. (Lower water temperature means more viscous force and more expansion.)

Regenerant Introduction - This introduction of regenerant chemicals can be cocurrent or countercurrent depending on effluent requirements, operating cost, and so on. Regenerant dosages (pounds per cubic foot), concentrations, flow rate, and contact time are determined for each application. The regenerant distribution and collection system must provide uniform contact throughout the bed and should avoid regenerant hideout. Additional effluent purity is obtained with countercurrent systems since the final resin contact in the service will be the most highly regenerated resin in the bed, creating a polishing effect.

Displacement Slow Rinse Cycle - The final steps in the regeneration sequence are generally terminated on acceptable quality. Displacement, which precedes the rinse step, is generally an extension of the regenerant introduction step. The displacement step is designed to give final contact with the resin, removing the bulk of the spent regenerant from the resin bed.

Fast Rinse Cycle - The fast rinse step is essentially the service cycle except that the effluent is diverted to waste until quality is proven. This final rinse is always in the same direction as the service flow. Therefore, in countercurrent systems the displacement flow and rinse flows will be in opposite directions.


In mixed-bed units, both the cation and the anion resins are mixed together thoroughly in the same vessel by compressed air. The cation and the anion resins being next to each other constitute an infinite number of cation and anion exchangers. The effluent quality obtainable from a well-designed and operated mixed-bed exchanger will readily produce demineralized water of conductivity less than 0.5 mmho and silica less than 10 ppb.

Service Cycle - As far as the mode of operation is concerned, the service cycle of a mixedbed unit is very similar to a conventional two-bed system, in that water flows into the top of the vessel, down through the bed, and the purified effluent comes out the bottom. It is in the regeneration and the preparation of it that the mixed-bed differs from the two-bed equipment. The resins must be separated, regenerated separately, and remixed for the next service cycle.

Backwash Cycle - Prior to regeneration, the cation and the anion resins are separated by backwashing at a flow rate of 3.0 to 3.5 gpm/ft. The separation occurs because of the difference in the density of the two types of resin. The cation resin, being heavier, settles on the bottom, while the anion resin, being lighter, settles on top of the cation resin. After backwashing, the bed is allowed to settle down for 5 to 10 minutes and two clearly distinct layers are formed. After separation, the two resins are independently regenerated.

Regenerant Introduction - The anion resin is regenerated with caustic flowing downward from the distributor placed just above the bed, while the cation resin is regenerated with either hydrochloric or sulfuric acid, usually flowing upward. The spent acid and caustic are collected in the interface collector, situated at the interface of the two resins. The regenerant injection can be carried out simultaneously as described or sequentially. In sequential regeneration, the cation-resin regeneration should precede the anion-resin regeneration to prevent the possibility of calcium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide precipitation, which may occur because of the anion-regeneration waste coming in contact with the exhausted cation resin. If this precipitation occurs, it can foul the resins at the interface. This becomes very critical when only the mixed-bed exchanger is installed to demineralize the incoming raw water.

In the case of sequential regeneration, during the caustic and acid injection period, a blocking flow of the demineralized water is provided in the opposite direction of the regenerant injection. This is required to prevent the caustic from entering the cation resin and acid from entering the anion resin. When regeneration is carried out simultaneously, acid and caustic injection flows act like blocking flows to each other and no additional blocking flow with water is needed. In a few sequential-type regeneration systems, acid is injected to flow downward through the central interface collector which now also acts as an acid distributor.

Rinsing and Air Mix Cycles - After completion of the acid and caustic injection, both the cation and anion resins are rinsed slowly to remove the majority of the regenerant, without attempting to eliminate it completely. After the use of 7 to 10 gallons of slow rinse volume per cubic foot of each type of resin, the unit is drained to lower the water to a few inches above the resin bed. The resins are now remixed with an upflow of air. After remixing, the unit is filled completely with water flowing slowly from the top, to prevent anion-resin separation in the upper layers. The mixed-bed exchanger is then rinsed at fast flow rates. The conductivity of the effluent water may be very high for a few minutes and will then drop suddenly to the value usually observed in the service cycle. This phenomenon is characteristic of mixed beds and is due to the absorption of the remaining acid or caustic in different parts of the bed, by one or the other resin. This, no doubt, results in the loss of resin capacity, but this loss is negligible as compared to the length of the service cycle and the savings in the overall time required for regeneration.


Following are the basic steps involved in a regeneration of a water softener.

Backwashing - After exhaustion, the bed is backwashed to effect a 50 percent minimum bed expansion to release any trapped air from the air pockets, minimize the compactness of the bed, reclassify the resin particles, and purge the bed of any suspended insoluble material. Backwashing is normally carried out at 5-6 gpm/ft. However, the backwash flow rates are directly proportional to the temperature of water.

Brine Iiyection - After backwashing, a 5 percent to 10 percent brine solution is injected during a 30-minute period. The maximum exchange capacity of the resin is restored with 10 percent strength of brine solution. The brine is injected through a separate distributor placed slightly above the resin bed.

Displacement or Slow Rinse - After brine injection, the salt solution remaining inside the vessel is displaced slowly, at the same rate as the brine injection rate. The slow rinsing should be continued for at least 15 minutes and the slow rinse volume should not be less than 10 gallons/cu ft of the resin. The actual duration of the slow rinse should be based on the greater of these two parameters.

Fast Rinse - Rinsing is carried out to remove excessive brine from the resin. The rinsing operation is generally stopped when the effluent chloride concentration is less than 5-10 ppm in excess of the influent chloride concentration and the hardness is equal to or less than 1 ppm as CaCO.

Each arrangement will vary substantially in both operating and installed costs. Important factors for selection are:

1. Influent water analysis.

3. Effluent quality.

4. Waste requirements.

5. Operating cost.

Project Earth Conservation

Project Earth Conservation

Get All The Support And Guidance You Need To Be A Success At Helping Save The Earth. This Book Is One Of The Most Valuable Resources In The World When It Comes To How To Recycle to Create a Better Future for Our Children.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment