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Rev Chem Eng 2014; aop

Mohammed Evuti Abdullahi, Mohd Ariffin Abu Hassan*, Zainura Zainon Noor
and Raja Kamarulzaman Raja Ibrahim

Application of a packed column air stripper in


the removal of volatile organic compounds from
wastewater
Abstract: Addressing environmental degradation and
ensuring environmental sustainability are inextricably
linked to all methods of reducing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the environment. A packed column air
stripper is a typical example of such technologies for the
removal of VOCs from polluted water. The present review
is devoted to the applications of a packed column air stripper and, in comparison with previous reviews, presents
further elaborations and new information on topics such
as modeling and simulation of the dynamic behavior of
the air stripping process in a packed column air stripper.
The paper observed that a knowledge gap still exists in the
synthesis of this knowledge to formulate practically applicable mathematical relationships to describe the process
generally. Therefore, further researches are still required
in the area of air stripper performance optimization, particularly in the development of a mathematical model
and the optimization of an air stripper using a statistical experimental design method. Such a determination
is critical to the understanding of the interactive effect of
process variables such as temperature, air-to-water (A/W)
ratio, and height of packing on air stripper performance.
Keywords: modeling; packed column air stripper; volatile
organic compounds; wastewater.
DOI 10.1515/revce-2014-0003
Received January 14, 2014; accepted June 5, 2014

*Corresponding author: Mohd Ariffin Abu Hassan, Institute of


Environmental and Water Resources Management, Universiti
Teknologi Malaysia-Johor Bahru, Johor Bahru, Johor 81310,
Malaysia, e-mail: mariffin@utm.my
Mohammed Evuti Abdullahi: Faculty of Chemical Engineering,
Department of Chemical Engineering, Universiti Teknologi MalaysiaJohor Bahru, Johor Bahru, Johor 81310, Malaysia
Zainura Zainon Noor: Institute of Environmental and Water
Resources Management, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia-Johor Bahru,
Johor Bahru, Johor 81310, Malaysia
Raja Kamarulzaman Raja Ibrahim: Advanced Photonic Science
Institute, Faculty of Science, Physics Department, Universiti
Teknologi Malaysia-Johor Bahru, Johor Bahru, Johor 81310, Malaysia

1 Introduction
There is an increasing public concern on the need to
remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from groundwater and wastewater because certain VOCs are known to
be hazardous to human health and the environment (Goldstein and Galbally 2007). Some VOCs have been identified
as odorous, ozone precursors, carcinogenic, and potential
air toxicants (Inoue etal. 2011). About 189 hazardous air
pollutants (HAPs) have been identified by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), out of which 97 are
VOCs (USEPA 1990). There also exists mounting evidence
that long-time exposure to low concentrations of certain
organic chemicals can be an important factor in the development and manifestation of some chronic diseases. It
is further believed that between 80% and 90% of cancer
cases are of environmental origin; therefore, the contaminants present in potable water supplies come under suspicion (Bedding etal. 1982). More also, certain VOCs are also
known as greenhouse gases (Derwent 1995, Wuebbles and
Hayhoe 2002, IPCC 2006, Lelieveld etal. 2009). Because
these gases effectively absorb radiated energy from the
Earth, the rise in their concentrations within the Earths
atmosphere has been associated with the global warming
phenomena (AEA Group 2007, Mohammed etal. 2012). In
addition, the presence of VOCs in wastewater reduces the
possibility of water reuse, such as in irrigation, thereby
placing a higher demand on the limited existing primary
water resources (Bedding etal. 1982).
This increasing concern is also due to the increase
in the numbers and quantities of VOCs in use, which
have made the water resources used for portable supply
to have become increasingly susceptible to contamination by VOCs from various sources. Abdullahi and Chian
(2011), in their study of VOCs in drinking water in peninsular Malaysia, detected 54 different VOCs species in
samples analyzed from 11 states, which were attributed
to improper disposal practice. The result showed that
the number of significant compounds detected increased
with the extent of infrastructure growth in the state, with

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2M.E. Abdullahi etal.: A packed column air stripper for VOC removal

Negeri Sembilan and Johor having the highest of 12 VOCs


each. The contributory sources were identified to include
pharmaceutical industries, pesticides, insecticides, paint
industries, disinfection byproducts, solvents, adhesives,
cleaning agents, plastics manufacturing, resin and chlorinated rubber, dyes, and petroleum products. A study by
the US Geological Department from 1999 to 2000 shows
that pharmaceutical byproducts form 80% of the contaminants in 139 streams across 30 states (Kolpin etal. 2002,
Gupta etal. 2006).
The pharmaceutical industry is one of the largest
users of organic solvents per amount of the final product
(Slater et al. 2006, Grodowska and Parczewski 2010).
These include toluene, xylene, ethanol, or isopropyl
alcohol. Significant emissions of VOCs from pharmaceutical industry come from chemical synthesis and extraction phases. In natural product extraction, toluene is
used as a solvent to remove fats and oils that will contaminate the products and some VOCs are used extract
the product (such as plant alkaloids). Xylene is also
used in the laboratory to make baths with dry ice to cool
reaction vessels and as a solvent to remove synthetic
immersion oil from the microscope objective in light
microscopy. It is also used to sterilize many substances
(Grodowska and Parczewski 2010, Kartheek etal. 2011).
Also, according to Kuroki etal. (2010), xylene is used as
solvent and fixative. Chemical fixatives are used to preserve tissue from degradation and to maintain the structure of the cell and the subcellular components such as
cell organelles (e.g., nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum,
and mitochondria).
Treatment methods of VOCs are generally classified
into two categories. One is by trapping these compounds
and removing them from the system with the possible utilization of valuable compound referred to as nondestructive methods, while the others involve converting them
chemically into harmless compounds called destructive
methods (Berenjian etal. 2012, Preis etal. 2013). However,
the type and concentration of the VOCs determine the
choice of treatment method. The destructive methods
include advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) such as
photocatalysis and photo-Fenton ozone-based processes
(Schultz 2005, Grote 2012). AOPs are based on the generation of very reactive species such as OH and SO4- radicals
that quickly oxidize a broad range of organic pollutants. Sulfate radicals act as a relatively selective oxidant
that reacts with certain organic compounds, especially
benzene derivatives with ring activating groups. AOPs
can be separated into heterogeneous and homogeneous
depending on the number of phases involved. Examples
of homogeneous are UV/H2O2 and UV/O3 systems, while

examples are heterogeneous are UV/TiO2 and ZnO/UV


systems (Saien etal. 2011, Loures etal. 2013).
Other destructive methods include thermal oxidation
(Surinder etal. 1992), bioreaction (Gomez etal. 2009), catalytic oxidations (Peng et al. 2003), sonochemical (Goel
etal. 2004, Yaqub and Ajab 2013), electrochemical (Navaladian et al. 2007), and nonthermal plasma (Hammer
1999, Vandenbroucke et al. 2011), while the nondestructive method include air stripping (Harisson et al. 1993),
absorption (Zhu etal. 2008), adsorption (Cho etal. 2007),
membrane-based separation (Garba 2008), and condensation (Dwivedi etal. 2004).
Studies have reported the limitations of these conventional methods. Thermal and catalytic oxidations
are not suitable for the treatment of dilute VOCs ( < 1000
ppm) because of high energy consumption. This is contrary to the case of high VOC concentrations, where the
exothermic reaction will result in a self-sustained process
(Subrahmanyam etal. 2007). In addition, the process may
generate appreciable air pollutants, particularly toxic
degradation products and particulate matter. Biological
treatment is a common method due to its cost-effectiveness and versatility. An important aspect of this process is
the minimal impact on the environment and the complete
destruction of pollutants. However, the reaction process is
too slow and cannot meet the demand of emergency rapid
response to water pollution. It is also only effective for
dilute effluents and it is not effective for nonbiodegradable pollutants such as chlorinated carbon compounds
(Russsell etal. 1992, Melcer 1994, Schultz 2005, Berenjian
etal. 2012, Lin etal. 2012).
A major weakness of adsorption is that adsorbents
usually become progressively saturated and inactive.
Moreover, the saturated adsorbent itself becomes a hazardous waste that must be treated or disposed properly.
Also, high dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and other contaminants can compete with some VOCs such as trichloroethane (TCE) for binding sites available on the sorbent.
A concentration of 10ppm natural organic matter in river
water has been shown to reduce TCE adsorption by 70%
(Melcer 1994). However, the adsorbent could be reused
after an appropriate regeneration step. Thermal regeneration and solvent regeneration are two methods of
exhausted adsorbent regeneration. Thermal regeneration
is carried out at high temperature usually above 1073 K
and therefore requires high energy consumption and considerable carbon loss, while solvent extraction has low
regeneration efficiency because of adsorbent pores blockage (Lu etal. 2011). Worrall and Zuber (1996) reported that
$250,000 capital cost and annual operating costs resulting from freight to/from kiln, kiln fuel, carbon makeup,

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M.E. Abdullahi etal.: A packed column air stripper for VOC removal3

etc., exceeding $1,200,000 is required to treat 500 gal/min


(1892.7 l/min) of wastewater.
Liquid-phase electrical discharge reactors have also
been investigated and are being developed for several
applications in drinking water and wastewater treatment
(Locke et al. 2006, Gerrity et al. 2010). Generally, strong
electric fields when applied to water (electrohydraulic
discharge) initiate both chemical and physical process
such as shockwaves, cavitation, and light emissions
(Locke et al. 2006). However, the high density of liquid
prevents electrons from accelerating and to undergo dissociative collision unless. The electric field is several
orders of magnitude higher compared to the plasmas at
atmospheric pressure; therefore, electron avalanches are
almost impossible inside a liquid because of low mobility
and high recombination rate (Locke etal. 2006, Vandenbroucke etal. 2011). Also, there are reports of some cases
of harmful byproducts formation due to the incomplete
destruction of the VOCs (Anders et al. 1997, Creyghton
1997).
Air stripping is a technology that uses an air stripper for VOC removal from wastewater by increasing the
surface area of the contaminated water that is exposed
to air, and it is widely used for the removal of VOCs from
wastewater in the process industries (Huang and Shang
2006). The types of air stripper include packed column,
sieve tray, and diffused aeration (Kutzer etal. 1995, Linek
etal. 1998, Alam and Hossain 2009, El-Behlil and Adma
2012, El-Behlil etal. 2012). The applicability of each technology is based on its performance as reported in engineering literatures, vendor information, and professional
experience with the equipment (Wang etal. 2006, Mourad
etal. 2012).
It has also been observed that the focus of the
researches on VOC treatment nowadays is more on new
areas, such as membrane-based separation and nonthermal plasma applications (Garba 2008, Gerrity etal. 2010,
Lin etal. 2012); however, air stripping as a technique still
remains most useful where there is an economic interest

in higher concentrations of valuable VOCs through recovery. Over 99% VOC recovery using air stripping has
been reported in the literature (Chuang et al. 1992, Nirmalakhandan et al. 1993, Negrea et al. 2008, Zareei and
Ghoreyshi 2011). Air stripping has also been used along
with other treatment methods such as adsorption, catalytic oxidation, pervaporation, and nonthermal plasma as
an integrated system for the treatment of VOCs (Chuang
etal. 1992, Worrall and Zuber 1996, Zareei and Ghoreyshi
2011, Abdullahi et al. 2013a). Although some reviews on
air stripping are available (Kutzer etal. 1995, Brown etal.
1997, Berenjian et al. 2012), this paper presents further
elaborations and new information on some topics in the
application of a packed column air stripper in VOC treatment from wastewater. These include a review of the
physical and chemical properties of the VOCs and how
they affect the air stripping process. Second, the summary
tables of the various applications containing information
on process variables provided by this paper (Tables 1 and
2) will serve as an easy and ready access to the literature.
The review will also cover available works on the modeling and simulation of a packed column air stripper.

2 VOC contamination of water


Many VOCs are manmade (anthropogenic) chemicals
that are used or produced in the manufacture of paints,
adhesives, petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, and
refrigerants. Many are also compounds of fuels, solvents,
hydraulic fluids, paint thinners, and dry cleaning agents
commonly used in urban settings such as bleach (Zorgoski et al. 2006). Some are of natural origin, produced
by plants, animals, microbes, and fungi (biogenic). When
VOCs are spilled or disposed of on or below the land
surface, a portion evaporates, contributing to air pollution
problems, but some can be carried deep into soil by rainwater or melting snow (Minnich 1993). Once they enter

Table 1Performance of an packed column air stripper for different VOCs.


Types of pollutant

Chlorobenzene

Chloroform

1,2-DCE
1,2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane
TCE

1,1,2,2-Tetrachloroethane

Pollutant

concentration
110 mg/l
50300 g/l
NA
NA
440 g/l
350 g/l

A/W
ratio

Removal
efficiency (%)

NA
20:1
40:1
762.1
NA
NA

99
87.4
90.6
89.2
99
9498

NA, not available.

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References

Lin etal. 2012


Samadi etal. 2004
Harisson etal. 1993
Nirmalakhandan etal. 1993
Byer and Morton 1985
Byer and Morton 1985

4M.E. Abdullahi etal.: A packed column air stripper for VOC removal
Table 2Treatment of VOCs from wastewater using a combination of technologies.
Researcher

Technologies

Chuang etal. 1992

Pollutants

Findings

Benzene, toluene, and


xylene (BTX)

95% conversion of BTX

Air stripping and oxidation using


hydrophobic catalyst

Russsell etal. 1992

Air stripping and GAC adsorption

TCE

Worrall and Zuber 1996

Air stripping and GAC adsorption


using nitrogen as stripping gas

Francke etal. 2000

Air stripping and plasma catalytic


treatment (dielectric barrier
discharge)

Benzene, toluene, ethyl


benzene, and xylene
(BTEX) from refinery
wastewater

Vinyl chloride, cis-DCE,


TCE, toluene, xylene, and
ethylene benzene

Shortcoming: Each compound needs an


appropriate catalyst
9599% recovery of TCE
Shortcoming: High cost and need to
regenerate adsorbent
99% BTEX captured by the carbon bed.
Increased carbon working life

Zareei and Ghoreyshi 2011

Air stripping and vapor


permeation system

Chloroform, 1,1,2TCE, DCE, and


dichloromethane

groundwater, VOCs can remain there for years, decomposing slowly because of the cool, dark environment. These
chemicals move with the groundwater and pose a threat
to the nearby drinking water. The USEPA estimates that
VOCs are present in one fifth of the nations water supplies
(Moran etal. 2006). Several factors increase the likelihood
that a water supply will be contaminated. These factors
are illustrated in Figure 1.
One factor is the distance between a well and a source
of contamination. Many wells contaminated with VOCs
are located near industrial or commercial areas, gas stations, landfills, or railroad tracks. A second factor is the
amount of VOCs dumped or spilled. Some spills are small
and localized. Others occur over a long period of time or
involve large quantities of contaminants. When a large
quantity of chemicals has leaked or spilled, as may occur
with leaking underground tanks or industrial spills, a
large geographical area may be affected. Third, the depth
of a well can be a factor. Shallow wells are often affected
sooner and more severely than deep wells when contaminants have been spilled on surface soils. A fourth factor is
local geology. Groundwater covered by thin, porous soil
or sand layers is most vulnerable. Dense, thickly layered
soils may slow down the movement of contaminants and
may help to absorb them. The fifth factor affecting contamination of water is time. Groundwater typically moves
very slowly. A spill may take years to reach nearby wells,
so wells may not be contaminated until months or years

Shortcoming: Nitrogen is expense


85% removal of each compound

Shortcoming: Effect of field conditions such


as temperature and mechanism of the plasma
decomposition process not investigated
High VOCs recovery efficiency

Shortcoming: Membrane instability

after the spill is discovered. Although many VOCs found


in drinking water are due to contamination, others may be
formed when drinking water is treated with chlorine. The
chlorine reacts with organic materials found in water and
forms certain VOCs known as chlorination byproducts
(Minnich 1993, Simpson etal. 2006).

3 Packed column air stripping


Air stripping is the process of removing VOCs from liquid
(water) by providing contact between the liquid and gas
(air) in drinking water treatment, industrial wastewater
purification, and treatment of heavily polluted underground water (Brown etal. 1997, Mead and Leibbert 1998,
Beranek 2001, Wang etal. 2006, El-Behlil and Adma 2012,
Abdullahi etal. 2013a). A typical packed column air stripping system is shown in Figure 2.

3.1 Theory of air stripping


Air stripping is a mass transfer operation involving the
transfer of dissolved VOCs in water from liquid phase to
gas phase (Mead and Leibbert 1998, Beranek 2001, Navaladian etal. 2007, Abdullahi etal. 2013b). The air and the
water interact in a column specially designed to maximize

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M.E. Abdullahi etal.: A packed column air stripper for VOC removal5

Diesel
storage

Homestead
with
septic field

Barn

Water table
Ground water

Shallow aquifer
Clay
(aquitard)

Bedrock aquifer

Figure 1Underground water contamination sources (Simpson etal. 2006).


Reproduced with permission from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ontario, Canada.

Exhaust (Gas outlet)

Flow meter
Air stripper

Air compressor
Flow meter
Heater
Pump
Feed tank

Collection tank

Figure 2A typical packed column air stripping system.

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Driving
shed

6M.E. Abdullahi etal.: A packed column air stripper for VOC removal

the contact surface area between the water and the air.
Equilibrium is reached when the two phases are brought
into contact. This means that the water in contact with
air evaporates until the air is saturated with water vapor,
and the air is absorbed by the water until it becomes saturated with the individual gases. The equilibrium relationship is linear and it is defined by Henrys law. Henrys law
states that for a low concentration of volatile compound
a, at equilibrium, the partial pressure of a gas (Pa) above
a liquid is directly proportional to the mole fraction of the
gas (xa) dissolved in the liquid. This can be mathematically stated in Equation (1):
Pa = H a xa

L xin = L xout + G yout


Rearranging Equation (3) yields
G yout = L( xin -xout )

(4)

G xin -xout
=
L yout

(5)

Equation (5) is the gas-liquid ratio. The percentage


removal of the VOCs (E) is used to evaluate the efficiency
of the air stripper and it is expressed as

(1)
E=

The proportionality constant Ha is known as Henrys constant. It is a dimensionless partition coefficient expressed
as the ratio of the mass (or molar) concentration in the gas
phase to that in the liquid phase (Robert etal. 1985). This
constant is a primary indicator of a compounds potential for removal by air stripping and it increases with the
increase in temperature. The application of air stripping is
limited to compounds with Henrys constant values > 100
atmospheres (Richardson etal. 2002, Mourad etal. 2012).
Applying Henrys law, a mass balance of VOCs in and
out of Figure 3 will be as follows:
Lout xout + Gout yout = Lin xin + Gin yin

(2)

where G is the gas flux, L is the water flow, x is the VOCs concentration in water, and y is the VOCs concentration in air.
Assuming an uncontaminated air supply,
Yin = 0; Lin = Lout = L and Gin = Gout = G

Liquid in
Lin
Xin

Gas out
Gout
Yout

Liquid out
Lout
Xout

xin -xout
xin

100(%)

(6)

3.1.1 Design equation


In a countercurrent air stripping operation as shown in
Figure 3, air stripping is effectively achieved with the water
flowing downwards over the packing as a film, while the
air flows upward as the continuous phase. The design
equations are derived elsewhere (Montgomery 1985, Hand
etal. 2011) for the general cases of absorption and desorption (stripping). A simple case of isothermal desorption
of a trace, volatile solute is presented in this paper. The
packed height Z required to achieve a desired separation is
Z = HTU NTU

(7)

HTU, the height of transfer unit (m), is the ratio of


superficial velocity, uo (m/s), to the transfer rate constant,
KLa (s-1), and NTU is the number of transfer units (dimensionless). HTU is defined by Equation (8).
HTU =

Stripping
column

(3)

u0
Lm
=
K L a ( L K L a )

(8)

where Lm is liquid mass flux (kg/m2/s), L is liquid density


(kg/m3), and KLa is the overall mass transfer coefficient
per second based on liquid-phase driving force, which is
also the product of the overall mass transfer coefficient
and the specific interfacial area (Robert etal. 1985). NTU
can be calculated using Equation (9):

Gas in
Gin
Yin

Figure 3A countercurrent flow air stripping column (Mourad etal.


2012).
Reproduced with permission from the International Association for
Sharing Knowledge and Sustainability (IASKS), Canada.

CL , 2 -CG , 1

( S-1) + 1
S Hc

ln
NTU =
CL , 1 -CG , 1
S-1

H S
c

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(9)

M.E. Abdullahi etal.: A packed column air stripper for VOC removal7

where CL, 2 and CL, 1 are the solute concentrations in the


influent and effluent liquid, respectively, and CG, 1 is the
concentration in the influent gas. Hc is Henrys constant
and S is the stripping factor that represents the capacity for transfer relative to equilibrium condition in an air
stripper.
S=

QG H c

(10)

QL

QG and QL are the volumetric flow rates of gas and liquid,


respectively. If S > 1, it means that there is enough gas to
convey away all of the solute in the entering liquid and
complete removal by stripping is then possible, given a
sufficiently tall column. If S < 1, however, the system performance is limited by equilibrium, and the fractional
removal is asymptotic to the value of the stripping factor
(Robert etal. 1985).
If the stripping gas does not contain any contaminant
of interest, substituting CG, 1 = 0 into Equation (9), it can be
simplified to
C

L , 2 ( S-1) + 1

Lm S CL , 1

Z =
ln

( L K L a ) S-1

(11)

Equation (11) can be used in design calculations to


estimate the packing height necessary to achieve a given
treatment objective.

3.2 The process and the equipment


A packed column air stripper as shown in Figure 4 consists of a cylindrical column that contains packing materials (usually Raschig rings) and a spray nozzle for water
distribution at the top of the tower. The column also has
an air distribution system at the bottom. The water trickles down through the spaces between the packing materials to the bottom of the column while air moves upwards
in a countercurrent operation. The packing increases the
surface area of the contaminated water that is exposed to
air, thereby maximizing the amount of the VOCs moving
from the water to the air. The purified water is collected
at the bottom of the column, while the VOC-rich air leaves
the column at the top (Mead and Leibbert 1998, Beranek
2001, Richardson etal. 2002, Mourad etal. 2012). A typical
packed column air stripper is shown in Figure 4.
Air stripping is therefore only a mere phase separation
and the VOC-rich off-gas from the air stripper may have

to undergo further treatment to meet the emission limits.


This is usually done using integrated systems such as air
stripping and nonthermal plasma reactor (Abdullahi etal.
2013a), air stripping and catalytic oxidation (Chuang etal.
1992), air stripping and adsorption (Russsell et al. 1992,
Worrall and Zuber 1996), air stripping and vapor permeation (Zareei and Ghoreyshi 2011), etc.
This technology has been used mainly for the removal
of VOCs from dilute aqueous waste streams. Several
studies have reported high VOC removal efficiencies using
air stripper as shown in Table 1. Samadi etal. (2004) compared the performance of an air stripper to granulated
activated carbon (GAC) in the removal of chloroform from
Tehran drinking water. The removal efficiencies were
89.9% and 71.2% for the air stripper and GAC columns with
deionized water samples, respectively, while, for chlorinated Tehran tapwater, 91.2% and 76.4% removal efficiencies were obtained, respectively. This result shows that an
air stripper is more effective in chloroform removal.
Studies show that an economical solution to VOC
removal from wastewater can be best achieved using a
combination of technologies (Hammer 1999). A summary
of related works on the application of integrated system
for the treatment of VOCs is shown in Table 2. The goals
of integrated (hybrid) processes are to decrease pollution from wastewater, to decrease air pollution by returning clean air to the atmosphere, and to either recover the
VOCs or decompose them into smaller and less harmful
byproducts (Zareei and Ghoreyshi 2011).
The USEPA Engineering Bulletin published a review
on the effectiveness of air stripping on general contaminant groups present in aqueous solution. The review
showed that successful treatability tests at some scale
have been recorded for halogenated and nonhalogenated
volatile organics. Experts are also of the opinion that the
technology can be applied for halogenated semivolatile
organics but will not be applicable for some organic compounds such as nonhalogenated, semivolatile polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, dioxins and furans,
organic cyanides, and organic corrosives (USEPA 1991,
Bansode etal. 2003).
The application of air strippers in groundwater treatment have been age long. According to the USEPA, in the
late 1960s, an air stripper was used to remove TCE from
groundwater polluted by a refrigerator manufacturing
firm in the United States with an efficiency of 78%. High
removal efficiency was also reported by a joint research by
United States Air Force and Coast Guard, which assessed
the efficiency of a countercurrent packed column air stripper that uses centrifugal force to drive the liquid (Surinder
et al. 1992). The efficiency of an air stripper depends on

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8M.E. Abdullahi etal.: A packed column air stripper for VOC removal

Air out

Cover
Air outlet
screen
Mist eliminator

Water in

Distribution
tray
Pipe

Packing
material
Air

Column
Water

Flowmeter

Packing
material

Pipe

Redistributor
(Typical)

Manometer
device
Packing
material

Support
plate

Valve
Water

Flowmeter

Air in

Influent
water

Water outlet

Air duct
Damper
Centrifugal blower

Concrete pad
Centrifugal pump

Figure 4A packed column air stripper (Suthersan 1999).


Reproduced with permission from CRC Press, USA.

many factors such as the characteristics of the volatile


material (partial pressure, Henrys constant, gas transfer resistance, etc.), water and ambient air temperature,
turbulence in gas and liquid phases, area-to-water ratio,
column height, and exposure time. Packed column strippers operate most efficiently over a narrow range of water
flows of 0.81.8 (m3/min)/m2 of the tower cross-sectional
area. This means that a packed column air stripper uses
less air for the same water flow rate than a sieve tray air
stripper. Packed column air strippers are operated over a
wide range of flow rates typically from 1.5 to 76 (m3/min)/m2
of the column cross-sectional area this means that, if the

water flow rate to the column decreases, the air flow rate
will also decrease. This will reduce the cost of treating air
emissions.
Henrys constant, a primary indicator of a compounds potential for removal in an air stripper, increases
with the increase in temperature. Also, compounds with
low volatility at ambient temperature may require preheating to achieve high removal efficiency. In addition, different VOCs also have different values of Henrys constant
(Chuang etal. 1992, Nehra etal. 2008). Packed column air
strippers exhibit lower pressure drop characteristics than
the pressure drop through a sieve tray air stripper. This

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M.E. Abdullahi etal.: A packed column air stripper for VOC removal9

allows for a smaller blower and motor, with reduced electrical operating costs. In general, packed column air strippers are generally less expensive and easier to construct.
They are also preferred for liquids that have a tendency to
foam, since they have significant interference on the efficiency of a tray air stripper. However, tray strippers have
shorter heights and smaller diameters than an equivalent
packed column stripper.

4 Factors affecting air stripping in


apacked column air stripper
The performance of an air stripper is affected by physical and chemical properties of the contaminants and the
operating parameters (Mourad etal. 2012, Abdullahi etal.
2013b). The physical and chemical properties of VOCs give
an indication of the physical state of the compound and
its mobility. These properties include molecular weight,
melting point, boiling point, vapor pressure, water solubility, specific gravity, liquid surface tension, liquid-water
interfacial tension, and Henrys constant (Reidy et al.
1990). These factors determine the operating parameters.
Several studies investigated the influence of operating
parameters on the removal efficiency. In general, VOC
removal efficiency was found to depend on temperature,
air-to-water (A/W) ratio, hydraulic loading rates, packing
materials, size, depth and diameter, gas pressure drop,
and Henrys constant of the contaminant (Chuang et al.
1992, Nirmalakhandan et al. 1993, Alam and Hossain
2009, Mourad etal. 2012, Abdullahi etal. 2013b).

atmosphere across an air-wastewater interface can be


described by (Montgomery 1985, Hand etal. 2011, Abdullahi etal. 2014).
C -C g
dM
A
=-K L
H
dt

From a thermodynamic analysis, the temperature dependence of Henrys constant can be modeled by a Vant Hofftype relation, given in the integrated form by (Hand etal.
2011)
- H 0
+C
log( H ) =
RT

(13)

Equations (12) and (13) show that temperature plays


an important role on the mass transfer phenomena, as
KL increases as temperature is increased. This is also
reported by Lin etal. (2012) in the study of air stripping of
chlorobenzene as shown in Figure 5.
It was explained that the change of temperatures
influences the physical properties of both the liquid and
gas and has a significant impact on the mass transfer
process. For example, an increase in temperature would
lead to a pronounced reduction of liquid viscosity and
surface tension of air bubbles, resulting in the formation
of small and stable bubbles, and increases the probability
of coalescence. It is this duality that alters the interfacial
area and influences significantly on the mass transfer
process (Chuang et al. 1992, Zareei and Ghoreyshi 2011,
Lin et al. 2012, Abdullahi et al. 2014). In addition, the
change in physical properties of the liquid and gas change
with increasing temperature has also a great influence

4.1 Effect of temperature

4.0

Air flowrate 1.0 l/min


Air flowrate 1.5 l/min
Air flowrate 2.0 l/min
Air flowrate 2.5 l/min
Air flowrate 3.0 l/min

3.5
3.0
KL (min-1)

The mass transfer of VOCs occurs through volatilization,


which may be induced by mechanical surface aeration.
The process of removal of dissolved gas from liquid proceeds through the following consecutive steps (Montgomery 1985):
1. Transfer from the bulk fluid to the interface,
2. Transfer across the interface, and
3. Transfer away from the interface into the bulk of new
phase.

(12)

2.5
2.0
1.5
1.0
0.5
0.0

According to the two-film model, laminar films exist at


the gas-liquid interface. The resistance to the rate of mass
transfer is therefore estimated by summing the resistances
offered by the liquid- and gas-phase boundary layers. The
rate of mass transfer of a VOC from wastewater to the

10

15

20

25

30

Temperature (C)

Figure 5Effect of temperature on A/W mass transfer coefficient (Lin


etal. 2012).
Reproduced with permission from Taylor & Francis Group, UK.

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10M.E. Abdullahi etal.: A packed column air stripper for VOC removal

on diffusion coefficient. Viscosity decrease leads to a


decrease in the thickness of the stagnant film at the gasliquid interface, resulting in a lower mass transfer resistance, and hence increases the diffusion coefficient. Both
effects lead to an increase in KL. Furthermore, it is interesting that a jump of KL values was found at around 30C for
a given air flow rate as illustrated by Figure 6, which indicates that stripping at higher temperature could achieve a
higher chlorobenzene removal efficiency even at lower air
flow rate (Lin etal. 2012).
Similarly, the VOC removal efficiency increases with
temperature because increase in temperature causes a
decrease in the solubility of organic compounds in water
and increases Henrys coefficient and hence improves
removal efficiency (Chuang etal. 1992, Kutzer etal. 1995,
Zareei and Ghoreyshi 2011). The decrease in the solubility of organic compounds in water as the temperature
increases can be explained using the second law of

thermodynamics. Heating a solution of a gas enables the


particles of gas to move more freely between the solution and the gas phase. The second law predicts that
they will shift to the more disordered, more highly dispersed, and therefore more probably gas state. This leads
to an increase in Henrys coefficient and hence improves
removal efficiency (Zareei and Ghoreyshi 2011).
Reidy et al. (1990) attributed the increase in VOC
removal efficiency, as the temperature rises to increase in
vapor pressure with temperature. Thus, as the vapor pressure increases, the ease of contaminant removal increases.
Table 3 shows the vapor pressure of water measured at
four different temperatures.
Table 3 shows a nonlinear increase in pressure as
the temperature increases. Thus, a plot of vapor pressure against temperature does not give a straight line but
rather gives a curve that rises faster and faster as the temperature increases. An increase temperature will result in

Rashing
ring

Lessing
ring

Partition
ring

Beri saddle

Intalox saddle

Tellerette

Pall ring

Nor pac
ring

Tri-pac

Figure 6Examples of packing material for air stripping towers (Hand etal. 2011).
Reproduced with permission from McGraw-Hill Education Ltd., UK.

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M.E. Abdullahi etal.: A packed column air stripper for VOC removal11

Table 3Equilibrium vapor pressure of water at four different temperatures (Lowe 1990).
T (C)
0
10
20
30

P(mm Hg)
4.85
9.21
17.54
31.82

Change in P (mm Hg)

4.63
8.33
14.28

rise in vapor pressure and hence Henrys constant, which


therefore increases the ease of contaminant removal
(Reidy etal. 1990, Lin etal. 2012).
If it is assumed that the effect of temperature on
Henrys constant is due almost entirely to changes in
vapor pressure, the relationship between Henrys constant and temperature can be approximated by the Clausius-Clapeyron equation given as Equation (14)
H
P H V 1 1
ln 1 ln 1 =
H
R T2 T1
2
P2

(14)

Bass and Sylvia (1992) reported that the Henrys constant for methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) is doubled by a
17C temperature increase, from 12C to 29C. Therefore,
heating the wastewater by this amount before treatment
would reduce the stripping air requirement by half.

4.2 Effect of A/W ratio


The research results show that, at any given temperature, the increase in A/W ratio results in higher VOC
removal efficiency. This is because increased air flow rate
increases the interfacial area, decreases gas-phase resistance, and hence increases the efficiency of mass transfer. Another effect of increased A/W ratio is it causes a
decrease in partial pressure of the solute in the gas phase,
decreases its solubility, and improves its removal efficiency (Chuang etal. 1992, Alam and Hossain 2009, Zareei
and Ghoreyshi 2011, Abdullahi et al. 2014). In another
study, Lin etal. (2012) reported that the effect of air flow
rate on chlorobenzene removal was more significant
when the system was operated at a lower flow rates (12
l/min) than higher flow rates especially for higher temperature. It was explained that the increase in interfacial
area while the air flow rate increases is nonlinear. Traditionally, the decreasing of bubble size (or the increasing
in bubble concentration) would lead to an increase in airaqueous interfacial area at lower air flow rate. However,
frequent bubble collision at higher air flow rate condition
would increase the diameter of air bubbles during the air

stripping; as a result, the interfacial area does not linearly


increase with an increase in air flow rate. Moreover, since
the total A/W interface surface area is proportional to the
number and size of the air bubbles, an increase in air flow
rate will result in an increase in the KL values and hence
the removal efficiency. Alam and Hossain (2009) also
reported an increase in ammonia removal from industrial
wastewater with increase in A/W flow ratio.
According to Nirmalakhandan etal. (1993), the design
of most countercurrent packed towers for air stripping
in environmental application is for operation under low
liquid and gas loading rates. Mourad etal. (2012) reported
that the typical gas-liquid ratio for packed bed air stripper will range from 10:1 to 30:1. However, the use of higher
A/W flow ratios during air stripping has reported in some
literatures. Kutzer et al. (1995) studied the influence of
the operating conditions on the removal efficiencies of
perchloroethene, TCE, 1,2-dichloroethane (DCE), and
1,1,2-TCE at A/W ratios of 10100. Also, Alam and Hossain
(2009) investigated the effect of A/W ratio on the air stripping of ammonia at A/W flow ratio of 12502000.

4.3 Effect of initial VOC concentration


Initial VOC concentration is another very important factor
that affects the performance of the air stripper. This is
because the rate of volatilization of VOCs is dependent
on its concentration. Research results show that increasing the initial concentration enhances the VOC removal
(Alam and Hossain 2009, Lin et al. 2012). According to
Lin et al. (2012), the positive effect of increasing initial
chlorobenzene concentration is related to a large concentration gradient of chlorobenzene concentration on the
air-liquid interface, which is feasible for the diffusion of
chlorobenzene during air stripping. In addition, a linear
relationship was found between the obtained KL and the
initial concentration of chlorobenzene, which is essential
for choosing KL under different pollution concentration in
practical operation. This is illustrated by Figure 7.

4.4 Effect of shape and height of packing


materials
The packing material may consist of individual pieces
randomly dumped into the column or structured. The
structured column packing is formed from vertical sheets
of corrugated thin gauge ceramic/metal/plastic with the
angle of the corrugations reversed in adjacent sheets to
form a very open honeycomb structure with inclined flow

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12M.E. Abdullahi etal.: A packed column air stripper for VOC removal

C0=10 mg/l

10

C0=7 mg/l
C0=5 mg/l

CB concentration (mg/l)

C0=3 mg/l
6

C0=1 mg/l

curve fitted
temperature 15C
air flow rate 2.5 l/min

0
0

8
10
Time (min)

12

14

16

Figure 7Effect of initial concentration on chlorobenzene (CB)


removal (Lin etal. 2012).
Reproduced with permission from Taylor & Francis Group, UK.

channels and a relatively high surface area. Packing material provides a large A/W interfacial area resulting in an
efficient transfer of the volatile contaminant from the
water to the air (Wang etal. 2006, Alam and Hossain 2009,
El-Behlil etal. 2012). Packing materials normally employ
at least one of the following mechanisms (Ali 2012):
1. Dividing the gas into small bubbles in a continuous
liquid phase.
2. Spreading the liquid into thin film that flow through a
continuous gas phase.
3. Forming the liquid into small drops in a continuous
gas phase.
There are several different varieties of commercially
available packing material with their physical properties
usually provided by the manufacturers (Hand etal. 2011).
Some examples are displayed in Figure 6. The types and
shape of packing materials determine the pressure drop
in the air stripper. Packing offers resistance to flow under
given air and water loading rates. The packing media
hold up a certain amount of liquid depending on the
relative amount of space (gap) left between them, which is
referred to as voidage (Nirmalakhandan etal. 1993).
The choice of packing materials should therefore be
based on the ratio of their absolute pressure drop to avoid
the phenomenon of flooding. Modern plastic lattice packings are superior to classic packings such as stainless-steel
pall rings or ceramic saddles due to its high voidage, which
reduces the tendency of plugging. To minimize the pressure
drop of packings, many manufacturers offer large random
packings up to a nominal size of 90mm (Kutzer etal. 1995,
El-Behlil et al. 2012). However, ceramic random column
packing is highly suitable for the conditions of higher and

lower temperatures and can be much more resistant to all


kinds of organic acid, inorganic acid, and solutions, except
for the hydrofluoric acid than metal packing. Random
ceramic packing or column ceramic packing is widely used
in drying towers, absorbing towers, and cooling towers
in the fields of chemical and petrochemical industries.
Acid-resistant ceramic packings rings are widely used in
refineries, chemical engineering, acid plants, gas plants,
oxygen plants, steel plants, and pharmaceutical plants
(Cameron and Chang 2010). Ceramic packings are mainly
used as linings of reaction vessel in washing towers,
cooling towers, reclaiming towers, desulfurization towers,
drying towers, and absorbing towers. They can also be
used as lining bricks in anticorrosion pools and channels
(Cameron and Chang 2010, El-Behlil etal. 2012).
The effect of packing materials on the removal efficiency of VOCs from wastewater was studied by Alam
and Hossain (2009) using four different packing materials (coal chips, plastic ring, stone chips, and wood chips).
They observed that, among the four types of packing
materials used, a plastic ring gave the best performance
due its high surface area. Plastic is also lighter and will
therefore not add much to the weight of column. Alam
and Hossain (2009) reported that removal efficiency
increased with an increase in packing height, which was
due to the increment of contact time between air and
water. They observed an increase in percentage removal
from 63.5% to 91.60% when the height of the packing was
being gradually increased from 1 to 5 ft during air stripping of ammonia using plastic rings. However, the choice
of optimum height is a tradeoff between pressure drop,
packing volume, and total brake power. The total brake
horsepower is the ideal power plus the frictional power
requirements for stripping in a packed tower, and as the
pressure increases, the brake horsepower will increase.
Lower packing height requires a larger pressure drop for
a given A/W ratio but requires less total brake horsepower
to achieve the same removal efficiency and vice versa
(Wang etal. 2006).

4.5 Effect of physical and chemical properties of the VOCs


Air stripping of VOCs from wastewater depends on their
physical and chemical properties. These properties
include: molecular weight, melting point, boiling point,
vapor pressure, water solubility, density (specific gravity),
liquid surface tension, liquid-water interfacial tension
and Henrys constant (Reidy et al. 1990, Russsell et al.
1992, Huang and Shang 2006, El-Behlil etal. 2012). Thus,

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M.E. Abdullahi etal.: A packed column air stripper for VOC removal13

the first step in determining which treatment method is


the evaluation of known properties of the contaminants
(Spencer and Witco 2008). Knowledge of a compounds
physicochemical tendencies can be used to alter the
behavior and fate of that compound in the environment
(Russsell etal. 1992).
Density (specific gravity) and molecular weight:
Density can be defined as the concentration of matter and
is measured by the mass per unit volume. In relation to
liquids, these units are grams per milliliter. The density
of a substance is usually referenced to pure water, which
is taken to be 1 g/ml. A spill of sufficient magnitude of
high-density compounds often results in the formation
of a plume or pool(s) of dense nonaqueous phase liquid
(Russsell et al. 1992). The molecular weight of a compound provides indirect information about the size and
chemical complexity of a compound. For most organic
compounds having an intermediate molecular weight
(e.g., benzene), vapor pressure increases three to four
times for each 10C rise in temperature. Density is also a
function of temperature. It decreases as the temperature
rises. Therefore, heavy organic compounds in wastewater
are not strippable with air and may require steam stripping (Bravo 1994).
Boiling point: VOCs are organic chemicals with high
vapor pressure at ordinary, room temperature conditions.
This is due to their low boiling points, which causes large
numbers of molecules to evaporate from the liquid or
solid form of the compound into the surrounding air. For
instance, formaldehyde with a low boiling point of -19C
(-2F) slowly leaves the paint into the air. Some common
examples include acetone, benzene, ethylene glycol,
formaldehyde, methylene chloride, perchloroethylene,
toluene, xylene, and 1,3-butadiene (Zorgoski et al. 2006,
Goldstein and Galbally 2007).
Solubility: The solubility of the compound as defined
by solubility constants indicates the extent to which the
compound will dissolve in water. In another words, it is
the maximum concentration of a solute that can be carried
in water under equilibrium conditions and is generally
given as parts per million or milligrams per liter (Russsell
etal. 1992, Spencer and Witco 2008). For the purposes of
water quality and treatment, solubility is the amount of a
contaminant that can dissolve in water at near ambient
temperatures (25C). The water solubility limit of TCE is
1000 mg/l, the maximum concentration of TCE that can
be in aqueous solution at 20C. Water solubility of a compound has a direct relation on its distribution coefficients.
A compound that is relatively insoluble in water will
prefer to partition into another phase (volatilize) (Russsell
etal. 1992).

The volatility of the compound as defined by Henrys


constant indicates how well a contaminant will be removed
by air stripping. Partition coefficients and adsorption
isotherm data are available for many compounds (Russsell et al. 1992). Most organic substances become more
soluble as the water temperature increases, unless the
organic compound is volatile (Huang and Shang 2006,
El-Behlil et al. 2012, Abdullahi et al. 2013). Solubility of
organic compounds in water is controlled primarily by the
polarity of the compound. Nonpolar organic compounds
do not dissolve well in the polar solvent water. Solubility
values < 1 mg/l (1000 g/l) are considered insoluble, thus
allowing the compound to be easily removed from water.
Highly soluble compounds, such as ethylene glycol or tertiary butyl alcohol, are very difficult to remove from water.
Very soluble compounds do not transfer to other solvents
or adsorbents, nor will they bind to soils or activated
carbon (Spencer and Witco 2008).
The equilibrium concentration of a solute or contaminant in air is directly proportional to the concentration
of the solute in water at a given temperature. This is supported by Henrys constant, which states that the amount
of gas that dissolves in a given quantity of liquid, at constant temperature and total pressure, is directly proportional to the partial pressure of the gas above the solution.
Therefore, Henrys constant describes the tendency of a
given compound to separate between a gas and a liquid
and is a special case of solubility, as the compound is
soluble in both water and in air (Spencer and Witco 2008).

4.6 Hydraulic loading rates


Liquid mass loading rate is defined as the mass of contaminant entering the stripper per unit area. An air stripper may be operated under high or low liquid loading
rates, but low hydraulic loading may cause low mass
transfer efficiency (Berenek 2001). The advantage of high
loading rate is that it results in shorter packing depths
and faster remediation. However, the operating cost may
escalate because of the need to use high-performance,
costly packing materials. Most countercurrent packed
towers used for air stripping in environmental applications are generally designed to operate under low liquid
loading and gas rates (Nirmalakhandan etal. 1993). For a
given packing material, the transfer efficiency of a given
chemical increases with the air and water loading rates.
The packing while providing the surface area for mass
transfer also offers resistance to flow, resulting in a pressure built up in the gas phase, and this increases with the
increasing air and water loading rates. The loading rates

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14M.E. Abdullahi etal.: A packed column air stripper for VOC removal

should therefore be chosen to maximize mass transfer


while keeping the pressure gradient under nominal levels.
Excessive loading prevents water from flowing down,
resulting in the accumulation of the water at the top of
the packing called flooding. An exponential increase in
pressure gradient is usually observed when loading rates
approach the flooding limit and the air loading rate at this
point is called flooding velocity. The opposite situation
occurs when the air loading rate is far above the liquid
loading rate, resulting in the entrainment of the liquid.
The pressure drop in the tower should be between 200 and
400 N/m2 per meter of the tower to height to avoid flooding (Srinivasan etal. 2011).

5 Mathematical models for a packed


column air stripping process
The complexity and high cost of direct plant operation
prompted the development of models to study system
behavior. According to Djebbar and Narbaitz (2002), pilotscale studies are a relatively expensive method of determining the overall mass transfer coefficient (KLa) in an
air stripping system. The simulation of models enhances
improved estimation of system variables and examines the
effects of process changes on the efficiency of the air stripping system (Mourad etal. 2012). The use of a mathematical model can therefore be said to be a complementary
approach to laboratory and pilot plant experimentation,
since it can simulate the dynamic behavior of the air stripping process and can select the optimum process design
(Melcer 1994). Mathematical models that effectively
describe the air stripping of VOCs in packed columns are
useful tools for the design and scaleup of an air stripping
process, with predictive models being of special interest to
assess process feasibility preliminarily and/or to validate
experimental data for process scaleup.
Modeling water treatment method has been taken
much consideration by companies (suppliers) in the last
decades, while many researchers have worked on prepared
models. For example, the Swedish Water and Wastewater Association developed the quantitative microbial risk
assessment (QMRA) modeling tool to investigate a probably waterborne outbreak of calicivirus that occurred in
the municipality of Lilla Edet, Sweden, after a period with
heavy rain (Heinicke et al. 2009). Elias et al. (1996) also
developed a helpful tool for the study of anaerobic biological reactors in order to optimize production of methane
and the quality of the treated wastewater. Zhang and
Cheng (2000), on the contrary, developed a mathematical

model to describe the removal of cyanogen chloride from


a gas stream passing through a bed packed with activated
carbon impregnated with copper, chromium, and silver.
Lee etal. (2000) also developed a model to predict the performance of fixed-bed absorbers.
Different types of models have been developed over
the years in the area of packed column air strippers. They
include model equations that describe the VOC removal
mechanisms as presented in the Theory of air stripping
section with differing degrees of refinement relating to
mass transfer assumptions and methods of calculating
rate coefficients (Melcer 1994); models for the prediction
of the system parameters such as mass transfer coefficient (Robert etal. 1985, Djebbar and Narbaitz 2002); and
models for design, cost, and performance assessment
(Dzombak et al. 1991, Lo and Alok 2000, Mourad et al.
2012).

5.1 Models for the prediction of mass


transfer coefficient
A packed column air stripper differs from other types of
stripper due to the presence of the packing materials,
which increase the interfacial surface area between the
liquid (water) and gas (air) phase and enhance the interphase mass transfer of contaminant from water to air
(McKinney and Lin 1996). There are a number of design
equations that can be used to predict the performance
of packed column air strippers. A very important design
variable, utilized in the majority of these equations, is the
mass transfer coefficient (Djebbar and Narbaitz 2002). This
coefficient is a function of the compound to be stripped,
A/W ratio, air and water temperature, hydraulic loading
rates, types and size of packing material, size depth and
diameter, gas pressure drop, and Henrys constant of the
contaminant (McKinney and Lin 1996, Djebbar and Narbaitz 2002). Moreover, the A/W ratio of VOCs depends on
Henrys constant and the hydraulic stability of the column
(Mourad etal. 2012).
The overall resistance to interphase mass transfer can
be considered as the sum of the two resistances, a gas- and
liquid-phase resistance referred to as the two-resistance
theory. This can be represented as
1
1
1
=
+
K L a K L a HkG a

(15)

where KLa is the overall (liquid-phase-based) mass transfer coefficient and H is the Henrys law constant expressed
as the ratio of the VOC mass concentration in the gas

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M.E. Abdullahi etal.: A packed column air stripper for VOC removal15

phase to that in the liquid phase (Djebbar and Narbaitz


2002). If the gas-phase resistance can be considered sufficiently small to be neglected, then the transfer is liquid
phase controlled (Robert etal. 1985).
Three most popular models for predicting mass
transfer coefficient are those of Sherwood and Holloway, Shulman etal., and Onda etal. (Robert etal. 1985,
Djebbar and Narbaitz 2002, Kim and Deshusses 2008).
The Sherwood-Holloway model presumes that the liquid-phase resistance controls, thus neglecting the gasphase resistance; it is the model most widely used to
date in the studies of VOC stripping for water treatment.
The models of Shulman et al. and Onda et al. evaluate
the gas-phase resistance as well as the liquid-phase
resistance and hence qualify as two-resistance models
(Robert et al. 1985, Djebbar and Narbaitz 2002). Ondas
correlations are known for their good fit with experimental data and have been recommended by many chemical engineering handbooks (Kim and Deshusses 2008).
However, Ondas correlations were developed from only
a few plastic packing materials with limited sizes, which
restricted their applicability to a few packings and limited
their accuracy to about 20% (Djebbar and Narbaitz 2002,
Kim and Deshusses 2008). To overcome this, Djebbar and
Narbaitz (2002) developed a neural network (NN) model
that was able to simulate the sudden increase in KLa at
high gas loading rates. Also, it simulated more realistically the effect of the packing depth and liquid flow with
an absolute error of < 19%. In another research, Kim and
Deshusses (2008) developed correlations that allow the
determination of gas film mass transfer coefficients and
liquid film mass transfer coefficients for packing materials used in biofilters and biotrickling filters for air pollution control. In their research, lava rock, polyurethane
foam (PUF) cubes, pall rings, porous ceramic beads,
porous ceramic Raschig rings, and various compostwoodchips mixtures were used as packing material, and it
was observed that most of the fitted data fell within 20%
of the experimental values.
Robert et al. (1985) evaluated two-resistance models
for air stripping of volatile organic contaminants in a countercurrent packed column air stripper. In their research,
mass transfer of six volatile organic solutes was studied
to assess the validity of previously proposed, generalized
correlations for predicting the stripping behavior of trace
organic contaminants. The assumption of liquid-phase
control of the transfer rate was confirmed for most volatile
solutes, oxygen, and dichlorodifluoromethane as against
moderately volatile solutes such as carbon tetrachloride,
tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, and chloroform;
the gas-phase resistance was found to be affected by both

gas- and liquid-phase resistance. The Onda model predicted the transfer rate constants within an average standard deviation of 21%. Also, a comparison of empirically
generated mass transfer coefficient using Onda correlation to actual mass transfer coefficients in an air stripping
tower for the removal of dissolved gasoline constituents
from groundwater by Wolf etal. (1989) gave 31% standard
deviation.

5.2 Models for the design, cost, and


performance assessment
Mourad etal. (2012) developed a trace organic treatment
model (TOTM) by reviewing and adopting the available
analysis and design procedure for a packed column countercurrent air stripper such as the Onda correlation. The
model considered some regulated trace organic contaminants, including the maximum allowable concentration
levels (MCL) and some of their physical and chemical
properties. The model built using visual basic was developed to be user-friendly considering all possible contaminant characteristics, initial concentrations, final
concentrations, and method of treatment. This software
gives the user properties of contaminants and available
packing materials. It was successfully used to investigate the effect of temperature and packing material on
air stripper volume (Mourad etal. 2012). To predict water
treatment cost, the Best Available Technology Evaluator
(BATE) was developed by Lo and Alok (2000), which can
be used to evaluate the cost and performance of the air
strippers.
Moreover, Air Stripper Design and Costing (ASDC) is
another microcomputer-based program written in C language for air stripper design and cost optimization. This
model has features that enable the modification of some
cost factors such as packing material unit cost and electricity rate. The adjustments for inflation are also included
in the program (Dzombak etal. 1991).
David W. Hand of the National Center for Clean Industrial and Treatment Technologies (CenCITT) of Michigan
Technological University also developed a computerbased model named Aeration System Analysis Program
(ASAP) (ASAP 2013). The mathematical models contained in ASAP can be used to
Assess the preliminary design and feasibility of using
air stripping processes,
Plan pilot plant studies and interpret their results,
and
Provide process design when site-specific model
parameters are available.

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16M.E. Abdullahi etal.: A packed column air stripper for VOC removal

Also, ASAP has the ability to provide a value of the


overall mass transfer coefficient, KLa, through the use of
the Onda correlation with a factor of safety.
The ASAP Packed Tower Aeration Model is designed
to predict the performance of countercurrent packed
tower air strippers. This model calculates the removal efficiency using several simplifying assumptions, including
steady-state, plug-flow reactor conditions for both air and
water streams, clean influent air stream, and equilibrium
of contaminant concentrations in air and water phases, as

described by Henrys law. The model can be used to assess


the preliminary design and feasibility of air stripping processes, plan pilot-scale studies, or interpret pilot-scale
results (NWRI 2006).
The Iowa State University also developed a computerbased program named AirStrip v.1.2, which uses the mass
transfer correlations of Onda etal. to design and rate air
strippers (Raschig Jaeger Technologies 2006). This model
was tested for the removal of MTBE by Butillo etal. (1994).
This was done to evaluate the effectiveness of raising

Table 4Summary of packed column air stripper models.


Name

Developers/Source

Description

TOTM

Khaldoon Mourad and Ronny Berndtsson


(Lund University, Lund, Sweden 22100)
and Wail Abu-El-Shar and Abdalla M.
Qudah (Jordan University of Science and
Technology, Irbid 22110, Jordan)

Mourad etal. 2012

BATE

ASAP

Irenem C. Lo (Department of Civil


Engineering, The Hong Kong University of
Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay,
Hong Kong, P.R. China) and Pota A. Alok
(Department of Civil Engineering, Kansas
State University, Manhattan, USA)
David W. Hand, Ph.D., CenCITT, Michigan
Technological University, 1400 Townsend
Drive, Houghton, MI 49931, USA

TOTM is packed column countercurrent air

stripper model based on Onda correlation


built using Visual Basic. This software gives
the user properties of contaminants and
available packing materials and was used
to investigate the effect of temperature and
packing material on air stripper volume.
BATE has been developed for evaluating the
cost and performance of the best available
technologies for removing VOCs from
drinking

ASAP Features:

Hand 1991

Extensive vendor tower packing database


Design and rating mode options
Henrys law database and parameter
estimation methods
Physical and chemical properties database
including compounds from USEPAs Title III
Consolidated Chemical List
The NN model can simulate the sudden
increase in KLa at high gas loading rates and
to simulate the effect of the packing depth
and liquid flow on KLa

Djebbar and Narbaitz


2002

Interactive, microcomputer-based program


written in C language for air stripper design
and cost optimization

Dzombak etal. 1991

AirStrip v.1.2 is a computer program that

uses the mass transfer correlations of Onda


etal. to design and rate air strippers
Correlations that allow the determination of
gas film mass transfer coefficients and liquid
film mass transfer coefficients for different
packing materials used in biofilters and
biotrickling filters for air pollution control

NN prediction of
KLa (NN model)

ASDC

AirStrip v.1.2

Development mass
transfer coefficient
for different
packing materials

Y. Djebbar (Senior Project Engineer,


Greater Vancouver Regional District, 4330
Kingsway, Burnaby, BC, Canada V5H 4G8;
e-mail: Ydjebbar@gvrd.bc.ca) and R.M.
Narbaitz (Professor, University of Ottawa,
Civil Engineering Department, Ottawa, ON,
Canada KIN 6N5)
D.A. Dzombak, H. Fang, and S.B. Roy,
Department of Civil and Environmental
Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University,
Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA
Iowa State University

S. Kim and M.A. Deshusses

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References

Lo and Alok 2000

Raschig Jaeger
Technologies 2006
Kim and Deshusses
2008

M.E. Abdullahi etal.: A packed column air stripper for VOC removal17

the influent water temperature to increase stripping


efficiency. For the elevated temperatures, the computer
model predicted the following MTBE removal efficiencies:
99.41%, 99.78%, and 100% at temperatures of 65F, 80F,
and 100F, respectively. However, the laboratory analytical result of effluent water sample indicates an MTBE
removal efficiency of 99.98%. This shows a good prediction, although the actual system operated with efficiency
greater than the engineered model.
In another research to assess the performance of air
stripping to remove MTBE from contaminated groundwater, the California MTBE Research Partnership undertook
this project to assess the accuracy of several available
models used to predict the cost and performance of packed
tower and low profile air strippers. Data from nine case
study sites operating during the late 1990s were obtained
and analyzed. Two models were chosen for evaluation:
the ASAP and Packed Tower Model and the North East
Environmental Products (NEEP) ShallowTray Modeler
software. Commercially available models were found to
predict actual removal efficiencies within 15%, demonstrating that modeling can be a valuable tool for assessing air stripper cost and performance during conceptual
design or remedy selection (NWRI 2006).
A summary of the various packed column air stripper
models is shown in Table 4.

6 Conclusion
The packed column air stripper is a proven, effective means
of removing VOCs from groundwater and wastewater. It
has been used in many sites, either alone or in conjunction with other methods with effective results. As shown
in the present review, extensive experimental and theoretical researches have been carried out by a lot of researchers, and a large volume of knowledge on the application
of a packed column air stripper in the removal of VOCs
from wastewater has been collected. Various models have
been developed to determine the overall mass transfer
coefficient. Empirically generated and actual mass transfer coefficients in air stripping towers for the removal of
various compounds are available. In addition, different air
stripper design software have been developed. However, a
knowledge gap still exists in the synthesis of this knowledge to formulate practically applicable mathematical
relationships for the general description of the process.
Mathematical models capable of effectively describing
the air stripping of VOCs in packed columns are useful
tools for the design and scaleup of air stripping process.

Predictive models make it possible to assess process feasibility preliminarily and/or to validate experimental data
for process scaleup. Further attention is therefore required
in the area of air stripper performance optimization. There
has been no research on the development of a mathematical model and optimization of an air stripper using statistical experimental design method. Such a determination
is critical to the understanding of the interactive effect
of process variables such as temperature, A/W ratio, and
height of packing on an air stripper performance.
Acknowledgments: The authors would like to express
their sincere appreciation to Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
(UTM) for the financial support under the exploratory
research grant scheme (ERGS) and international doctorate fellowship.

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Mohammed Evuti Abdullahi obtained his first degree in Chemical


Engineering from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria-Nigeria, in
1994 and his Masters degree in Chemical Engineering from the
Federal University of Technology, Minna-Nigeria, in 2005. After
9years of experience as a lecturer in the polytechnic sector, he
moved to the University of Abuja-Nigeria in 2008. He is presently
a PhD research fellow in the Faculty of Chemical Engineering,
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM). His research interest is in the
area of wastewater treatment and environmental pollution control.
He is a registered engineer and has many academic publications to
his credit.

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Mohd Ariffin Abu Hassan is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of


Chemical Engineering in UTM. He obtained his first degree in Chemical Engineering from UTM and was awarded the ESSO medal. He
performed his Masters degree in Engineering Management at UTM
in 1998 and obtained his PhD from UMIST, Environmental Technology Centre, Chemical Engineering Department in 2004. His research
interest is in the area of wastewater treatment.

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M.E. Abdullahi etal.: A packed column air stripper for VOC removal21

Zainura Zainon Noor started her career at UTM in 1999 as a research


officer in the Chemical Engineering Pilot Plant. A well-trained chemical engineer specializing in environmental engineering, Dr. Zainura
has established and strengthened her expertise in Green Technology, which includes cleaner production, life cycle assessment (LCA),
water and carbon footprints, and greenhouse gas inventory and projection as well as sustainable development. She is an accomplished
project manager and is currently leading the Green Technology
Research Group (Green Tech RG) at one of UTMs prominent centers
of excellence, the Institute of Water and Environmental Management
(IPASA). She is now an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Chemical Engineering, UTM.

Raja Kamarulzaman Raja Ibrahim is currently a senior lecturer in


the Faculty of Science and an associate researcher at the Advanced
Photonic Science Institute in UTM. He obtained his first degree in
Physics from UTM in 2002 and his Masters degree in Optoelectronics from the University of Southampton, UK, in 2005. He obtained
his PhD in Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science from the
University of Manchester, UK, in 2012 for his work on mid-infrared
diagnostics of the gas phase in nonthermal plasma applications.
His research interests include the development of optical sensor
systems for various applications and the development of nonthermal plasma reactors for environmental pollution applications and
gas-phase analysis using optical techniques.

Bereitgestellt von | De Gruyter / TCS


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