What to Know When Selecting a Flocculant

When it comes to flocculants many consider dry or liquid emulsions to be their only options with solution flocculants being a thing of the past. However, a new generation of chemistry is proving solution flocculants can be more capable and efficient.

It doesn’t matter what water treatment facility you visit or which operator you talk to, you’ll always conclude the same thing: Every water treatment system is different in some way, shape, or form. The “right” way of doing things is never the same because there will never be a one-size fits all solution. 

Your chemical package is no exception to this. It’s essential to know all the characteristics and requirements for using different products to determine what’s best for your water treatment needs. 

When it comes to flocculants many consider dry or liquid emulsions to be their only options with solution flocculants being a thing of the past. However, a new generation of chemistry is proving solution flocculants can be more capable and efficient. This means that if you haven’t done so already, it’s time to reevaluate.

Major Considerations

Before reviewing specifics related to dry, emulsion, and solution flocculants, there are a few critical items to consider. How much is your makedown system costing you in labor, downtime, increasing system variability, and dollars? These considerations will greatly impact how your water treatment systems operate and the team you have operating them.

Makedown Equipment 

Makedown is necessary to activate both dry and liquid emulsion flocculants. This process requires expert knowledge, ongoing maintenance, and equipment to perform mechanical or hydraulic mixing. This opens up a significant amount of room for error if your water treatment system is not properly equipped for makedown needs. 

Makedown systems also require the addition of water and its quality can impact flocculant efficacy. For example, contaminated or unclean waters can prevent the molecules of active ingredients from fully unfolding and working as desired and potentially consume polymer activity before application. Additionally, high chlorine levels can break polymer chains altogether, cooler temperatures can decrease activation levels, harder waters can reduce activity, and any suspended solids can impact the efficacy of the mixing. 

Makedown Labor

Having the right team with the right knowledge is extremely important when determining what type of flocculant is the best fit for your water treatment operations. All components of the makedown process require regular attention, maintenance, and inspection if the flocculants are going to consistently perform as needed. 

However, even when you’ve got the expertise, there may still be variability from operator to operator or shift to shift. It is difficult to ensure complete consistency at all times.

Dry vs. Liquid vs. Solution

Dry Flocculant

Dry flocculants are dehydrated flocculants that are shipped in bags or sacks rather than totes and are suitable for applications that consume large amounts of polymer. With ~90% active ingredient, every pound of flocculant shipped has a greater capacity to treat water than other options. As a result, dry flocculants have a high ROI, however, there are other equipment and labor costs that must be considered. 

Pros Cons
  • ~90% active ingredient
  • Shipping is more cost-friendly
  • Less expensive annually
  • Most stable
  • Requires often cumbersome makedown
  • Labor-intensive
  • Health and safety hazards due to dust and lifting of heavy sacks or bags.

Liquid Emulsion Flocculant

Liquid emulsion flocculants are most common in water treatment systems that consume lower amounts of polymer. Typically found on the market as an emulsion or a dewatered emulsion, they contain approximately 30-60% active ingredient. Handling liquid emulsion flocculant is simpler than with dry flocculant because it can be easily pumped and mixed. However, the addition of oil and water adds to the chemical weight, complexity, and shipment cost. Like dry flocculants, they must be made down before being applied in a water treatment system. 

Pros Cons
  • Higher efficacy than traditional solution polymers
  • Faster maturing times
  • Easy to handle
  • Requires makedown
  • High maintenance needs
  • More expensive annually
  • Low stability (settling issues, “fish eyes”, clumping)

Solution Flocculant 

Solution flocculants (aka. Mannich flocculants) were popular during the ’90s and provided major wins in terms of labor costs as a result of not requiring makedown. However, being simple dilutions, they had to be dosed at much greater volumes to provide equivalent treatment results as dry or liquid emulsion polymers which makes them cost-ineffective.

Pros Cons
  • No makedown
  • Less expensive per pound
  • Easy to handle
  • More stable than liquid emulsion flocculants
  • 1-20% active ingredient meaning more is needed to match emulsion or dry dosing
  • Needs pump suitable for high viscosity

CarboNet SimpleFloc™

CarboNet SimpleFloc™ is very similar to a solution flocculant in terms of physical characteristics but is significantly more effective. This is due to the use of  NanoNet™ technology – a proprietary chemistry that maximizes the efficacy of the polymer (ie. polyacrylamide), thereby reducing the amount of active ingredient required in its formulation. This means that though CarboNet SimpleFloc™ contains approximately 2-3% active ingredient, it performs at or near equivalence with 25-45% emulsion polymers.

Pros Cons
  • No makedown
  • Simple dosing requirements
  • Inexpensive
  • Performs at the equivalent of 25-45% liquid emulsion with only 2.5% active ingredient
  • Variable efficacy based on water contaminants

Flocculant Comparison Table

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