Liquid filtration specialist Flow Clear Filtration has had exponential growth in market interest in its locally produced liquid filtration solutions, which are more cost-effective and accessible than imported options.
The company’s PS range of automatic self-cleaning equipment, GT range of fabricated basket strainers and BIB-style high-capacity filter bags were designed in-house and introduced to the South African market in 2010. Market response was initially slow, as customers were hesitant to use new products; however, with the filters having proven themselves, demand is increasing, owing to the many benefits the products offer over imports.
Flow Clear Filtration owner George Canning notes that, with little growth in the economy and very few new industrial projects and developments taking place, many filtration companies are competing for the consumable filtration market, which encompasses maintenance of filtration elements at existing plants. “However, this competition results in a lot of substandard filters being offered on the market. Customers need to be wary of cheaper products claiming to . . . achieve the same results as higher-quality solutions.”
He adds that most local filtration suppliers import their liquid filtration stock by container-load, leading to an oversupply of products such as standard filter housings, filter bags and cartridges. Simultaneously, the delivery time on specialised requirements has lengthened, as containers come in to South Africa less frequently.
The requirements of SANS 347 and the Occupational Health and Safety Act regarding pressure vessels are, moreover, not widely understood by importers and often ignored, Canning points out. “This can often be to the detriment of South African filter manufacturers who do have to comply, as customers sometimes opt to buy cheaper imported filter housings without certification.”
To overcome these challenges, Flow Clear Filtration sought to develop robust, simple and effective solutions that are available quicker than imported products, while remaining cost-effective and compliant with safety and quality regulations. “Technical support for these products also had to be much better than what was generally available from importers, who often have little experience in or knowledge of the products they are importing,” says Canning.
A traditional manually cleaned strainer requires extensive labour to be monitored and maintained, compared with the PS range of automatic self-cleaning strainers.
The range has applications in all industries where water needs to be cleaned. Canning notes that the range is particularly successful in gland sealing water filtration, nozzle protection cooling water filtration, wastewater reclamation, mine water treatment and mineral processing, as well as in the paper and pulp, petrochemicals, power generation and food manufacturing industries.
The strainer design incorporates a rotating brush that provides effective screen cleaning by mechanically scrubbing the screen during the purging cycle. The screen is made of stainless steel wedge wire, which Canning points out is stronger and more durable than the mesh used in many other strainers. “As the strainers are locally designed, we can also customise them to fit particular customer requirements, unlike imported strainers that are standard and can seldom be modified.”
He notes that small design refinements have been made since the strainer’s introduction, the most notable being the replacement of the sealed ball bearings on the rotation brush shaft with vesconite bushes. The bushes are more resistant to corrosion when submerged and are the same size as the ball bearings, allowing for easy upgrades in strainers that have been installed.
The strainers have been installed at two large paper mills in South Africa, as well as at a gold recovery operation on the East Rand, in Gauteng. Units have been exported to mines in Botswana, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“To date, we are not aware of a unit that has failed in service; the sale of spares has been very slow, indicating that the PS range is providing a long and trouble-free service life,” enthuses Canning.
Protecting Downstream Equipment
Canning explains that particles in water have a deleterious effect on equipment through which water passes: nozzles and heat exchanger tubes can get blocked, meters can be damaged, pulp impellers can be abraded and valve seats can clog. “In virtually all water-flow applications it is, therefore, important to remove the particles from the water.”
Flow Clear Filtration offers a range of GT fabricated basket strainers for this purpose, which have bigger baskets than traditional strainers. They require cleaning less frequently, are easily removed without mess or spillage and the bigger surface area of the baskets ensures minimum restriction to flow.
The strainers are available in various materials and in customisable designs to meet specific application requirements, and have a robust design that enables them to weather harsh conditions. Since the product’s introduction, Flow Clear Filtration has supplied more than 150 units, made mostly of fabricated carbon steel and fabricated stainless steel, with inlet/outlet ports ranging from 25 mm to 700 mm in diameter.
“Growth in sales has accelerated as the product has become more well known in South Africa. The GT strainers have a simple design that lends itself to accurate fabrication, and the result is that these strainers are very dependable.”
This year, the company filled an order for various sizes of the GT stainless steel strainers for a contractor undertaking a project for energy and chemicals company Sasol, as well as an order for various sizes of carbon steel strainers for an oil-recirculating application in a large quenching plant. Two 350-mm-diameter strainers with customised design were also supplied in September to a mine in Mozambique.
“While some consulting engineers and contractors design their own strainers for particular projects . . . and a few filtration companies offer a limited range of cast iron strainers, as far as we know, Flow Clear Filtration is the only company in South Africa that offers basket strainers in a full range of sizes, designs and materials,” concludes Canning.