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Air Stripping

Aeration Offers Dealers More Than

They May Realize
By Gary L. Rogers

Summary: For many applications, aeration is a process that makes practical

sense. Before using aeration, however,
its crucial to identify the importance of
oxygen transfer rates and how they affect
aerations overall effectiveness. Aeration
theory and a few key factors of the process are discussed here.

ater quality management

can be vitally important
for many applications,
particularly wastewater treatment,
lake and reservoir management,
aquaculture, environmental management, biofiltration and water treatment. A key water quality parameter
common to each is dissolved oxygen.
As a result, aeration can be critical in
maintaining good water quality conditions for all of these processes.

Various uses of aeration

Aeration is widely used in wastewater treatment in the biodegredation
of waste constituents.7,12 Oxygen is
used to degrade carbonaceous (biological oxygen demand [BOD]) as well
as nitrogenous (ammonia) components of the waste stream. Other applications of aeration include control
of odor by oxidizing sulfides and other
reduced compounds, as well as oxidation of iron and manganese.
Environmental consultants use
aeration in air stripping systems and
in unit processes for removal of petroleum compounds (BTEX) and volatile organic contaminants that are
degraded chemically or biologically
using aeration. These processes are

Water Conditioning & Purification

used for groundwater and surface

water remediation and treatment of
various hazardous wastes.
In aquaculture, oxygen depletion
can be a serious problem especially
with intensive applications. High
density production of the cultured
species requires high feed application rates that can result in accumulation of wastes and uneaten food.
They also lead to high concentrations of dissolved plant nutrients in
the water and, consequently, dense
growths of planktonic algae. These
conditions alone can exert an unbalanced demand on a ponds oxygen
reserves, and dissolved oxygen levels can fall to lethal levels for the
cultured fish or crustaceans if corrective action isnt taken. In addition, catastrophic declines sometimes
occur due to massive algae die-offs.
These oxygen depletions can cause
partial or complete mortality of the
cultured speciesand a substantial
loss to the grower.6,9,10,11
Aeration is also used in water
treatment processes, dechlorination
and other applications. In each case
described above, the first step in
design of an aeration system is to
determine total oxygen required
generally in kilograms of oxygen
per hour (kg O2/hr). Once the oxygen requirement is known, design is
similar for most applications. The
following section describes the
theory behind oxygen transfer. This
information is needed to properly
size aeration systems for various

Aeration theory
There are several theories proposed for the mechanism of oxygen
transfer in water. These theories are
widely used in modeling oxygen
transfer kinetics. Interestingly, the
simpler forms have proven effective
in aeration design yielding results
close to more complex models and
usually provide equivalent predictions of oxygen transfer.
The rate of gas movement into a
liquid is described by Ficks first law.
The relationship describes the rate of
mass transfer as directly proportional
to the concentration gradient. Its expressed as:
Equation 1.
dm/dt = Dm A dC/dt
In the equation, dm/dt is the mass
transfer rate in grams per second (g/
sec), Dm is the molecular diffusion
constant (or coefficient) of the gas in
square centimeters per second (cm2/
sec), A is the area through which transfer occurs (cm2), and dC/dt is the
concentration gradient of the gas.
One of the earliest models for gas
transfer suggests two laminar films
of gas and liquid exist at the interface
of two phases. The model is referred
to as the two-film model, or Lewis
and Whitman model after its original
presenters. Gas moves through the
liquid film by molecular diffusion and
is distributed in the liquid by turbulent diffusion. The two-film model
for oxygen transfer describes the rate
of transfer by the following:
Equation 2.
dm/dt/A = Dm (Cs-C) / Lf
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In this equation, dm/dt/A is the

rate of transfer per unit area, Cs is the
saturation concentration of gas, Lf is
the thickness of liquid film, and C is
the gas concentration. The model is
based on a stable laminar film at the
interface requiring tranquil flow conditions. These conditions are rarely
found in the field, yet Equation 2 has
been employed widely to effectively
describe oxygen transfer and aeration design for many applications.
The basic model for oxygen transfer used for sizing aeration systems is
based on the Lewis and Whitman
model. The following equations
present the model in differential form
and exponential form:
Equation 3.
dC/dt = KLa (Cs -C)
Equation 4.
C = Cs - (Cs CO) exp (-KLa t)
In these equations, C is the dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration in
milligrams per liter (mg/L), CS is the
equilibrium concentration of DO at-

tained as time approaches infinity, CO

is the DO concentration at time zero,
and KLa is the mass transfer or reaeration coefficient (hr-1) defined as
the rate of mass transfer per unit volume divided by the concentration
differential gradient (CS CO), and t is
time (hr).

Factors on rate of


Water Conditioning & Purification

Table 1. Dissolved oxygen saturation

concentration at varied temperatures
and salinities.

Several factors affect

the rate of solution of oxy- Temp (C)
gen in water. Downing and
Truesdale discussed many
of these factors including
the degree of agitation, ef25
fects of temperature, and
the concentration of soluble
and insoluble contami45
nants. The effect of wind
action on re-aeration rate
has been considered by Banks and
There are many water quality
parameters that affect saturation con-

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centrations of dissolved gases. Table

1 presents a summary of dissolved
oxygen saturation concentrations
based on temperature and salinity.
For further information regarding
saturation values, see Standard

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Standard tests in tank

Performance of aeration devices
may be compared based on evaluation of re-aeration rates from tests

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solved sodium sulfite solution, the

DO level is reduced below 0.50 mg/L
in the test tank.
Once the dissolved oxygen level
has stabilized near zero, the aeration
device is started and the rate of increase in dissolved oxygen is measured. The experimental run is terminated when the DO levels reach at
least 95 percent of saturation. Information must be recorded on the physi-

cal test configuration, meteorological

conditions, power consumption and
water quality, as well as the dissolved
oxygen data. The re-aeration results
of a typical aeration test are shown in
Figure 1.

Standard oxygen transfer rate

The data collected from the oxygen transfer experiments may be analyzed by the mass transfer model to
estimate the mass
transfer coefficient,
Figure 1. Results of standard aeration test.
KLa, and the satura9
tion concentration, CS.
The oxygen trans7
fer capacity of the
various aeration systems may be com5
pared using the rate
of oxygen transfer
predicted using this
model. The compari1
sons are for standard
50 conditions (zero disTime (min)
solved oxygen, 20C
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l)

completed in clean water. Results

are then converted to standard conditions. This procedure was prepared
by the American Society of Civil Engineers subcommittee on oxygen
transfer standards.2,3,5 The standard
aeration test includes guidelines on
basic geometry, analytical methods
for dissolved oxygen measurement,
test procedure and data analysis.
Dissolved oxygen measurements
may be made using DO meters and
probes or by wet chemistry methods
using titration of water samples collected throughout the test. In most
cases, DO probes are used.
Prior to each oxygen transfer test,
cobalt chloride (CoCl2) is added to
the tank and mixed to produce a
soluble cobalt concentration between
0.10 mg/L and 0.50 mg/L in the test
tank. Next, sodium sulfite (Na2SO3)
is dissolved and added to the tank
(approximately 8 mg/L sodium
sulfite per 1 mg/L DO concentration). With the addition of the dis-

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Water Conditioning & Purification


temperature, and 1.0 atmosphere of

The SOTR can be calculated by
first correcting KLa and CS to standard conditions using the values determined in the mass transfer model.
Equations 5 and 6 are used to convert
these values to standard conditions.
The value of SOTR is calculated using
Equation 7.
Equation 5.
KLa 20 = KLa (20 - T)
Equation 6.
CS 20 = CS (l/t )
Equation 7.
SOTR = V KLa 20 CS 20
In these equations, KLa 20 is the
value of KLa corrected to 20 C, is the
empirical temperature correction factor (generally equal to 1.024), CS 20 is
the value of C corrected to 20 C and
standard barometric pressure of 1.0
atmosphere, t is the temperature correction factor, V is the pressure correction factor, and T is the water temperature during the test (C). SOTR is

Table 2. Typical field oxygen transfer rates

for aquaculture at various temperatures and
dissolved oxygen levels (values are percentages of SOTR).

for field conditions

wont be the same as
that predicted at standard (SOTR) condiDO Level in
tions. The field oxyTemp (C)
Water to be
gen transfer rate may
Aerated (mg/l)
be estimated using the
88 %
89 %
90 %
92 %
95 %
following equation:
80 %
80 %
80 %
81 %
82 %
Equation 8.
72 %
71 %
70 %
69 %
69 %
OTR = SOTR (T-20)
64 %
62 %
60 %
58 %
57 %
( Cs - C)/C20
56 %
53 %
50 %
47 %
44 %
48 %
44 %
40 %
35 %
31 %
In this equation,
40 %
35 %
29 %
24 %
18 %
OTR is the field oxygen
32 %
26 %
19 %
13 %
transfer rate (kg O2/hr),
24 %
17 %

is the correction for

16 %

KLa in process water,


is the correction for disNote: The field oxygen transfer rates listed above were calculated using the
following factors: = 0.92, = 0.98, and = 1.024 (applicable for selected
solved oxygen saturafresh water aquaculture projects at sea level). These factors are application
tion in process water,
specific and vary depending on process and site conditions.
and is the correction
for temperature.
measured in kilograms per hour (kg/
Table 2 presents a summary of
hr). V is the volume of water in the
field oxygen transfer rates applicable
test tank (L).
to aquaculture. The factor obtained
from the table is multiplied by the
Oxygen transfer rate
SOTR to obtain the field oxygen transThe oxygen transfer rate (OTR)

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Water Conditioning & Purification

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fer rate (kg/hr). Table 2 was prepared

based on freshwater conditions at sea
level using an of 0.92, of 0.98, and
of 1.024. Similar tables may be prepared for applications other than

Maintaining adequate dissolved
oxygen concentrations can be vitally
important in many applications. A

better understanding of aeration

theory is needed for proper sizing
and design of aeration systems. q

1. APHA, AWWA, WEF, Standard Methods for
the Examination of Water and Wastewater, 18th
Edition, 1992.
2. ASCE Oxygen Transfer Standards Committee, Development of Standard Procedures
for Evaluating Oxygen Transfer Devices,
EPA-600/2-83-102, American Society of Civil
Engineers, New York, 1983.

3. ASCE Oxygen Transfer Standards Committee, A Standard for the Measurement of Oxygen Transfer in Clean Water, ASCE, 1984.
4. Banks, R.B., and F.F. Herrera, Effect of
Wind and Rain on Surface Re-aeration, Journal of Environmental Engineering, ASCE,
EE3:489-504, 1977.
5. Brown, L.C., and C.R. Baillod, Modeling
and Interpreting Oxygen Transfer Data,
ASCE, Vol. 108, No. EE4, 1982.
6. Colt, J.E., and G. Tchobanoglous, Design
of Aeration Systems for Aquaculture,
Bioengineering Symposium for Fish Culture
(FCS Pub. 1); 138-148, American Fisheries Society, 1981.
7. Crites, R., and G. Tchobanoglous, Small
and Decentralized Wastewater Management
Systems, McGraw Hill, 1998.
8. Downing, A.L., and G.A. Truesdale, Some
factors affecting the rate of solution of oxygen
in water, Journal of Applied Chemistry, 5, 57081, 1955.
9. Madenjian, C.P., G.L. Rogers and A.W. Fast,
Estimation of Whole Pond Respiration Rate,
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 47; 682-686, 1990.
10. Rogers, G.L., and A.W. Fast, Aeration
and Circulation for Effective Aquaculture
Pond Management, Aquacultural Engineering, 8; 349-355, 1988.
11. Rogers, G.L., C.P. Madenjian and A.W.
Fast, Estimation of Oxygen Transfer Rates
for Mechanical Aerators in Brackishwater
Aquaculture Ponds, Journal of Applied Aquaculture, Vol 1(2); 63-77, 1991.
12. WPCF, Aeration Manual of Practice,
FD-13, ASCE and Water Pollution Control
Federation (now WEF), 1988.

About the author

S Gary L. Rogers, Ph.D., is a civil engineer
with Aquatic Eco-Systems Inc., of Apopka,
Fla. He provides technical support for wastewater and environmental products. Dr.
Rogers has over 20 years experience with
aeration equipment applications in aquaculture, environmental consulting, lake and
reservoir water quality management, and
wastewater treatment. He can be contacted
at (407) 886-3939, (407) 886-6787 or email:

Ninety-five percent of the
worlds cities still dump raw
sewage into their waters.

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