What is a thermal oxidizer?
A thermal oxidizer (also known as thermal oxidiser, fume incinerator or thermal incinerator) is a type of air pollution control equipment used in industrial processes to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), odors, harmful air pollutants (HAPs), and other greenhouse gases (GHG) before releasing them into the atmosphere.
How does a thermal oxidizer work?
Using extreme high temperatures (1500°F) to trigger a combustion reaction, the VOCs & air pollutants undergo thermal oxidization, transforming the organic solvents into CO2 (carbon dioxide) and H2O (water).
Similar to an incinerator, a thermal oxidizer is an EPA-approved device to treat VOCs, odors, HAPs, contaminated gases, and aerosolized solvents.
Types of thermal oxidizers:
Direct-fired Thermal Oxidizer (DFTO)The simplest type of thermal oxidizer, it's just a burner in a box with a fan. The direct-fired TO does not have any heat recovery system. This is the least expensive type of equipment, but has the highest energy costs.
Thermal Recuperative Oxidizer (TRO)The recuperative type features an air-to-air heat exchanger (HEX), and uses the waste heat to pre-heat the incoming air to the burner. The TRO offers 60-70% thermal efficiency. It's more expensive than the DFTO, but offers lower energy costs.
Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer (RTO)The most common type of oxidizers, the RTO uses ceramic media to capture and recycle waste heat, offering 95% thermal efficiency. The RTO is the most expensive type of all, but offers the lowest energy costs.
Gas Flare (Vapor Combustor)While not technically a type of thermal oxidizer, the flare is similar to the direct-fired oxidizer but it does not require supplemental natural gas. Flares are used on very high concentration VOC gas streams (over 3-5% of LEL).
Catalytic Thermal Oxidizer (CATOX)This type uses a metal catalyst to speed along the VOC's decomposition reaction. The main advantage of catalytic thermal oxidizers is that they can operate at much lower temperatures of 800°F-900°F instead of 1400°F-1500°F.
Regenerative Catalytic Thermal Oxidizer (RCO)Similar to the catalytic oxidizer above, the RCO adds the same ceramic media from the RTO for waste heat recovery. The RCO is the most expensive type of oxidizer, but it offers by far the lowest operating costs.
Thermal Oxidizer Efficiency
*A Rotary RTO or Three-chamber RTO will be the most effective at removing odor compounds.
*Note: only direct-fired and recuperative oxidizers are effective at treating particulates.
Thermal Oxidizer Manufacturers
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Other Types of Thermal Oxidizers
Direct-Fired Thermal Oxidizer (DFTO)
- Gas Flare
- Vapor Combustor
Thermal Recuperative Oxidizer (TRO)
- Thermal Oxidizer with Heat Exchanger (HEX)
- Two-chamber RTO
- Three-chamber RTO
- Rotary RTO
- Recuperative Catalytic Oxidizer
- Regenerative Catalytic Oxidizer (RCO)
A photo of a thermal recuperative oxidizer (TRO) in an industrial penthouse.