6

Findings and Recommendations

Chemical neutralization of VX nerve agent results in the production of a liquid hydrolysate stream that has greatly reduced toxicity compared to the original nerve agent but requires further treatment to meet the requirements of the Chemical Weapons Convention and to be suitable for disposal. After considering several approaches, the U.S. Army has selected SCWO (supercritical water oxidation) as the primary process for treating the hydrolysate from VX neutralization prior to ultimate disposition. The integration of SCWO into the complete process for the destruction of VX stored at Newport, Indiana, also requires an evaporator system after SCWO treatment to allow water to be recycled back into the neutralization process. The evaporation system also produces a dry solid waste stream consisting of salts produced during the neutralization and SCWO treatment steps. Excess condensed water from the evaporator is expected to be of relatively high purity and suitable for discharge. The technology selected for the evaporation process step is mature with considerable full-scale design and operations experience. In contrast, treatment of the hydrolysate will be a new application for SCWO. Thus, the findings and recommendations presented here focus on the use of SCWO for the treatment of VX hydrolysate.

FINDINGS

Finding 1. Limited pilot-scale testing has demonstrated the ability of SCWO to achieve high destruction efficiencies for the organic constituents of VX hydrolysate. Effluent from SCWO treatment of VX hydrolysate has been shown to have negligible acute toxicity in intravenous testing in mice, gavage testing in rats, and dermal testing in rabbits. The separation of salts in the effluents from SCWO through an evaporator system should produce relatively pure water suitable for discharge and solid salts suitable for disposal. Treatment requirements for VX hydrolysate are less stringent than they are for VX because the hydrolysate has low toxicity relative to the agent. However, criteria for process destruction efficiency and final disposal standards have not been established.

Finding 2. Using SCWO to treat VX hydrolysate is significantly different and more complex than previous applications. SCWO systems on a pilot scale have been used to treat several other types of wastes, but SCWO is in commercial operation at only one site. There has been only limited pilot-scale or operationalscale experience with wastes that are similar to VX hydrolysate in being highly corrosive and salt-laden. Operation with VX hydrolysate or appropriate surrogates at design conditions, equipment configuration, or approximate scale for full-scale operations has not been demonstrated. A vertical cylindrical reactor is the only reactor configuration that has been successfully demonstrated to date at pilot scale for the treatment of VX hydrolysate and similar waste streams. Additional development and pilot-scale testing of SCWO technology will be necessary to ensure sustained, reliable operation of a full-scale integrated treatment system. Sufficient time appears to be available in the Army's implementation schedule for the Army to carry out development and testing for using SCWO at the Newport site, provided they are carried out expeditiously.

Finding 3. Pilot-scale operation of SCWO in a vertical cylindrical reactor at the temperature and pressure necessary for the effective destruction of hydrolysate constituents has been limited to one eight-hour and two less than two-hour tests. During pilot-scale testing with hydrolysate, the following factors were identified that could create difficulties in sustaining system performance:

  • Large quantities of insoluble salts were produced, which must be effectively managed within, and downstream of, the SCWO reactor.



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OCR for page 52
Using Supercritical Water Oxidation to Treat Hydrolysate from VX Neutralization 6 Findings and Recommendations Chemical neutralization of VX nerve agent results in the production of a liquid hydrolysate stream that has greatly reduced toxicity compared to the original nerve agent but requires further treatment to meet the requirements of the Chemical Weapons Convention and to be suitable for disposal. After considering several approaches, the U.S. Army has selected SCWO (supercritical water oxidation) as the primary process for treating the hydrolysate from VX neutralization prior to ultimate disposition. The integration of SCWO into the complete process for the destruction of VX stored at Newport, Indiana, also requires an evaporator system after SCWO treatment to allow water to be recycled back into the neutralization process. The evaporation system also produces a dry solid waste stream consisting of salts produced during the neutralization and SCWO treatment steps. Excess condensed water from the evaporator is expected to be of relatively high purity and suitable for discharge. The technology selected for the evaporation process step is mature with considerable full-scale design and operations experience. In contrast, treatment of the hydrolysate will be a new application for SCWO. Thus, the findings and recommendations presented here focus on the use of SCWO for the treatment of VX hydrolysate. FINDINGS Finding 1. Limited pilot-scale testing has demonstrated the ability of SCWO to achieve high destruction efficiencies for the organic constituents of VX hydrolysate. Effluent from SCWO treatment of VX hydrolysate has been shown to have negligible acute toxicity in intravenous testing in mice, gavage testing in rats, and dermal testing in rabbits. The separation of salts in the effluents from SCWO through an evaporator system should produce relatively pure water suitable for discharge and solid salts suitable for disposal. Treatment requirements for VX hydrolysate are less stringent than they are for VX because the hydrolysate has low toxicity relative to the agent. However, criteria for process destruction efficiency and final disposal standards have not been established. Finding 2. Using SCWO to treat VX hydrolysate is significantly different and more complex than previous applications. SCWO systems on a pilot scale have been used to treat several other types of wastes, but SCWO is in commercial operation at only one site. There has been only limited pilot-scale or operationalscale experience with wastes that are similar to VX hydrolysate in being highly corrosive and salt-laden. Operation with VX hydrolysate or appropriate surrogates at design conditions, equipment configuration, or approximate scale for full-scale operations has not been demonstrated. A vertical cylindrical reactor is the only reactor configuration that has been successfully demonstrated to date at pilot scale for the treatment of VX hydrolysate and similar waste streams. Additional development and pilot-scale testing of SCWO technology will be necessary to ensure sustained, reliable operation of a full-scale integrated treatment system. Sufficient time appears to be available in the Army's implementation schedule for the Army to carry out development and testing for using SCWO at the Newport site, provided they are carried out expeditiously. Finding 3. Pilot-scale operation of SCWO in a vertical cylindrical reactor at the temperature and pressure necessary for the effective destruction of hydrolysate constituents has been limited to one eight-hour and two less than two-hour tests. During pilot-scale testing with hydrolysate, the following factors were identified that could create difficulties in sustaining system performance: Large quantities of insoluble salts were produced, which must be effectively managed within, and downstream of, the SCWO reactor.

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Using Supercritical Water Oxidation to Treat Hydrolysate from VX Neutralization Unexpected fluctuations were observed in temperature, pressure, and salt expulsion from the SCWO reactor. High levels of corrosion and erosion of materials of construction were observed in the reactor liner and pressure let-down valves. The sustained performance and reliability of the pressure let-down system was not demonstrated. Although at this point in development the Stockpile Committee cannot be certain, it believes that a SCWO system for the treatment of VX hydrolysate with sufficient sustained performance can be achieved with additional development and testing. Finding 4. Limited bench-scale and pilot-scale tests have demonstrated operating regimes under which SCWO can effectively destroy carbon-phosphorus bonds and oxidize the organic constituents present in VX hydrolysate. The demonstrated conditions for high levels of destruction (> 99 percent) include temperatures between 640°C and 730°C and pressures between 234 and 261 bar. At temperatures and pressures below this regime, effluent from SCWO processing may contain significant concentrations of residual organic species that are difficult to destroy, including constituents with carbon-phosphorus bonds. A basis for the reliable scale-up and operation of SCWO technology for the treatment of VX hydrolysate has not yet been demonstrated. Fundamental knowledge about the following processes within the SCWO reactor is still not available: the number and characteristics of the physical phases, including large quantities of entrained and adhered solids and potentially liquid, gas, and supercritical fluid phases fluid dynamics and mixing processes complicated by relatively high loadings of insoluble salts heterogeneous and homogeneous reaction mechanisms and kinetics salt nucleation, particle growth, agglomeration and adhesion mechanisms, and kinetics Because the understanding of fundamental processes is limited and the process operational data and experience are sparse, empirical design and engineering judgment will be required for the selection of a prudent scale for development prior to full-scale demonstration. This is common engineering practice. Finding 5. Alkaline VX hydrolysate and its destruction products under SCWO reaction conditions create an extremely corrosive and erosive environment that requires the careful selection of materials of construction. Although preliminary data indicate that certain noble metals, such as platinum and gold, may have acceptable properties, the data currently available are insufficient for the selection of materials of construction. The Army has initiated further testing of materials of construction. Finding 6. Process monitoring and control strategies for the management of salts within the SCWO reactor and the destruction of the organic constituents of the hydrolysate have not been demonstrated. RECOMMENDATIONS Recommendation 1. A pilot-scale SCWO process facility with the critical characteristics of the full-scale design should be constructed and operated to further define operating characteristics and demonstrate sustained continuous operation of the process. Objectives for process development and demonstration should include: operation with either hydrolysate or a suitable surrogate to demonstrate reliable operation for periods similar to full-scale design operating cycles the development and validation of process monitoring and control strategies for salt management and the destruction of organic constituents the definition of stable operating regimes, including the temperature, pressure, and the use of the oxidant (liquid oxygen or compressed air) selected for full-scale operation the definition of a basis for process scale-up, operation, and maintenance of a full-scale system the development and demonstration of a reliable pressure let-down system Because the understanding of the fundamental process mechanisms and operating characteristics is limited, the committee recommends that the pilot-scale system be within an order of magnitude of the total mass and heating throughput of a full-scale design unit. Based on testing and reactor scale-ups to date, a vertical cylindrical reactor configuration is recommended as the system

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Using Supercritical Water Oxidation to Treat Hydrolysate from VX Neutralization that will probably require the least amount of additional development. Other reactor configurations may perform at required levels but would require significant additional development. Recommendation 2. Testing of materials of construction should be carried out as necessary to finalize the selection of materials for critical components, including the SCWO reactor and the pressure let-down system. Additional pilot-scale testing indicated in Recommendation 1 should include fabrication with the materials of construction selected from testing smaller samples and evaluation of corrosion and erosion rates for critical components. Recommendation 3. Flexibility and redundancy of critical components should be incorporated into the design of the full-scale system to allow for uncertainties about the basis for scale-up and operation. Trade-offs should be evaluated to establish an appropriate balance between two 100 percent capacity SCWO reactors or a greater number of smaller reactors. The analysis should consider performance uncertainties associated with process scale-up and complexity, as well as the reliability of operating several reactors in parallel. Recommendation 4. The Army should make provisions for targeted research and development to resolve problems identified during pilot-scale testing and the full-scale implementation of SCWO technology. Recommendation 5. Requirements for process destruction efficiencies and final disposal standards for all effluent streams from SCWO treatment should be clearly defined to ensure that the final design meets regulatory standards.