Industrial Afterburners and Thermal Oxidizers

A comparison of industrial afterburners with thermal oxidizers is relevant both by process and by consequences – but may vary according to precisely which configuration is employed.

An industrial afterburner uses controlled flame combustion within an enclosed space to facilitate a process already initiated. Such a configuration may be used as an air pollution control or monitoring system, and may be used with a configuration of other types of thermal oxidizers to maintain heat transfer. A large number of industrial afterburner technologies exist and can be modified to suit particular industrial requirements. Customized units of industrial afterburner technologies can be applied to stand alone or trailer mounted applications.

Afterburners can be efficient solutions for loading solvents and fast-changing operating conditions. Many industrial afterburner configurations employ computer-generated optimal designs which can be adapted to domain constraints and previous knowledge about relevant experimental variables. Carbon monoxide emissions are often used as initial controlled variables in the testing of experimental industrial afterburner configurations. Initial results are often verified and investigated in greater detail using chlorinated aromatics – from which empirical models are constructed using fundamental knowledge found in combustion theory. Afterburners are technically a form of thermal oxidizer, along with regenerative thermal oxidizers, recuperative thermal oxidizers, and catalytic oxidizers, although only the RTOs (regenerative or recuperative thermal oxidizers) are considered typical.

The primary function of a thermal oxidizer is to destroy VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) contaminants in the exhaust emerging from an initial process. A thermal oxidizer consists of a combustion chamber, a burner, and a blower to force air through the entire oxidizing configuration. In the operation of such a configuration, a contaminant-laden gas stream, air and fuel are continuously delivered to the combustion chamber where the fuel is combusted.

Any thermal oxidizer should be constructed of materials designed to withstand extremely high temperatures. The walls of the “combustion chamber” are usually well-insulated to avoid overheating of the outside walls. Sophisticated flame detection devices are often accessories with such configurations, especially in the interests of safety. Insulation may exceed 6” in thickness and is often a ceramic block.

Derek Lang is with Epcon Industrial, a manufacturer of air pollution control systems, thermal oxidizers, and industrial gas fired ovens. To learn more about thermal oxidizers, catalytic oxidizers, air pollution control systems, industrial ovens at

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