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Decanter Centrifuge | Working, Types, Benefits, Cost, Specs, Uses

Decanter Centrifuge Alfa Laval NX 418

Table of Contents

A decanter centrifuge is an industrial liquid-solid separating machine. It separates solids from one or two liquids using the high centrifugal force generated by the rotating bowl. Solid particles need to have a higher density than the liquid for a decanter centrifuge to work.

Given its separating abilities, the decanter finds a variety of applications in biotechnology separation, oil fields, wastewater treatment, food industry, hemp processing,

Alfa Laval decanter centrifuges - detailed information.

How Does a Decanter Centrifuge Work?

A decanter centrifuge separates fluids from solids. Continuous process industrial centrifuges can process a large volume of fluids with sludge. Centrifugal force (upwards of 3,000 g) causes differential settling and separates the fluid from small sediment (50µ).

The rotating bowl has a concentric scroll that rotates at a differential speed to that of the decanter bowl. This speed differential allows the scroll to transfer the separated sludge.

Decanter Cross-Section Diagram

The following diagram shows the cross section of a typical decanter centrifuge.

Decanter Cross Section
Decanter Centrifuge Cross Section

Decanter Process Flow

The separation of fluid from the sludge occurs inside the rotating decanter bowl. The process of separation can be explained in the following steps.

Factors Affecting Decanter Performance

Decanter Centrifuge Optimization Curves
Decanter Centrifuge Optimization Curves

There are certain decanter features that have a direct impact on the performance of the decanter. These factors are adjustable to optimize decanter performance.

Decanter Performance Optimization provides a detailed insight into the optimization of the factors mentioned above for optimum decanter performance.

Types of Decanters

Decanter centrifuges are available in 2 configurations, namely 2-phase and 3-phase. In other words, solid-liquid separation and solid, liquid, liquid separation.

2 Phase Decanter

The two phase-type is a solid-liquid separator. In other words, it separates the fed slurry into a solid phase and one liquid phase.

Most de-sludging duties use a two-phase design. These include industrial sludge thickening, municipal wastewater, hemp biomass separation, etc.

Tricanter also known as 3-Phase Decanter

A 3 phase type separates solids from 2 immiscible liquids. In other words, a 3-phase decanter centrifuge produces a solid phase and two separate liquid phases.

For example, a 3-phase configuration separates crude oil from tank bottom sludge and water. Olive oil separation from water and biomass is another example.

Explosion Proof Decanter

Decanter Centrifuge for Hemp Ethanol Extraction
Explosion Proof Decanter for Hemp Ethanol Extraction

A decanter centrifuge with applications in hazardous or explosive environments needs special design considerations. The special purpose centrifuges are referred to as Explosion Proof Decanters.

In the domestic market the NEC classification for these areas comes under the Class 1 Division 1 zones. Therefore, it is common to refer to these decanters as Class 1 Div 1 rated machines.

Environments where flammable gases or liquids or dust is present require the use of explosion-proof decanters. Refiners, Offshore Oil Platforms, Mines, Chemical Plants Effluent, and similar locations mandate the use of these classifications.

Our article about Explosion Proof Centrifuges provides detailed information about these centrifuge classifications for explosion proof or hazardous areas.


Decanters compete with other separation technologies such as filter presses, screw presses, etc.

Though all these equipment have advantages, decanters have some specific benefits. These benefits are due to the decanter centrifuge being a mechanical separator.

All the other technologies use media separation, which has inherent drawbacks.

The following is a list of advantages of decanter centrifuges over filtration methods.

1. Process Adaptability:

Decanter centrifuges can easily handle product variations. They can produce consistent separation results even with varying flow-rates. These centrifuges can handle process fluid mix variations without final product degradation.

2. Compact Dimensions:

Decanter centrifuges have a small footprint compared to belt and filter presses of similar capacity. This small size allows for the installation of decanters in small, confined spaces.

3. Vapor Tight Design:

The basic design of decanters includes a rotating bowl in an enclosed chamber. This design prevents odors and other undesirable fumes, gases from contaminating the operating space.

4. Low Labor Costs:

Fluid separation through a decanter is practically an automatic process. This process requires minimal manual service of attendance, thereby reducing associated labor costs.

5. Reduced Operating Cost:

Since only wear parts are replaceable in decanter centrifuges, it minimizes the long-term operating costs. Filter media need constant replacement in other separation methods.

6. Long Service Life:

Robust design and construction are primary features of decanter centrifuges. Besides, high-quality material of construction helps decanters perform with reliability for extended periods.

7. Easy and Quick Installation:

Decanter centrifuge systems are self-contained and are thus easy to install. The speed and ease of commissioning allow them to be productive in short periods.

8. Wide Range of Particle Separation:

The decanter separates particle size range from 1 Micron to 15 mm or larger. This ability gives decanters a significant advantage over media filters with fixed apertures.

9. Three-Phase Separation:

Besides separating solids from liquids, three-phase decanters (tricanters) also separate immiscible liquids. This separation co-occurs with solids separation.

10. Easy Adjustments for Desired Separation Phase:

The decanter centrifuge user can adjust sludge dryness or centrate clarity quickly and easily. This ease of phase quality adjustment is an added benefit that is lacking in filtration equipment.


A decanter centrifuge has certain disadvantages when compared to other solid-liquid separation equipment. The following is a list of the main limitations of decanter centrifuges.

1. Capital Expense:

As compared to filters and similar separation devices, decanter centrifuges have a higher cost. Performance improvement and wear preventive options can further add to this cost.

2. Light Particle Separation

Centrifuges leverage the difference in specific gravities between solids and liquids to separate. When the solids (such as biological cells) have a specific gravity close to that of the liquid, the decanter cannot separate them.

3. Power Requirement:

Large horsepower motors power decanter centrifuges. When compared to filtration machines, these drive motors need a higher operating current.

4. Noise and Vibration:

Decanter centrifuges have heavy rotating bowls. Rotation of heavy masses causes vibrations which lead to noise. These centrifuges can create noise levels in the 70-80 dB range.


The following table lists some of the essential technical specifications of Alfa Laval decanter centrifuges. Of course, each manufacturer has a slightly differentiated specification. In general, high-quality, decanter centrifuges have similar properties.

Material of Construction (MOC)316L Stainless Steel (established, high-quality brands)
Max. Bowl RPM2,000 ~ 6,500
Bowl Diameter6" to 60"+
G-Force (Centrifugal Force)4500 G's Max.
Particle Size Separation Range50 µm to 1/2"
Processing Capacity5 GPM to over 1,500 GPM
Drive Power5 HP to Over 150 HP
Size (Footprint)2' x 4' to 8' x 15'
Differential Speed1 ~ 25 RPM
Gearbox TypePlanetary Gearbox; 1 kN-M to 3.5 kN-M Torque

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Prospective buyers should consider some crucial aspects listed below before the selection and purchase of a decanter.

There are many decanter centrifuge manufacturers worldwide. Yet, it is essential to consider the origin and legacy of the manufacturer—especially given the initial cost and sophistication of these machines.

Long term durability and field experience have proven the reliability and longevity of a few brands.

Alfa Laval is the top quality manufacturer in centrifuges for over 100 years! Alfa Laval is a 'name brand' among centrifuge manufacturers. It is not uncommon to see Alfa Laval centrifuges last 50+ years.


A decanter centrifuge comes in different designs and sizes. For optimum process efficiency, sizing is a critical parameter in decanter selection.

A decanter rated at 100 gallons/minute on wastewater will likely process 20 gallons/minute on thick waste oil. Therefore, the user should carefully consider the process-fluid properties and decanter design features to size a proper decanter for each process.

Other design features such as auger pitch, beach cone angle, gearbox ratio, bowl speed, and auger speed significantly affect decanter sizing. Consulting an experienced centrifuge company with extensive decanter application history is highly desirable and recommended.

Equipment Cost

Decanter centrifuges are considered capital equipment based on their expected operating life and durability. Their price depends on the manufacturer and size/capacity.

A new machine (from a quality, established manufacturer) starts from around $50K for a small capacity unit to over $1M  for a large capacity machine. Accessories such as explosion-proof upgrades, control systems, pumps, etc., are optional and add to cost.

Remanufactured models range from 40% to 60% compared to new models of similar capacity.

Operating Costs

Decanter centrifuge operating costs can be categorized as follows.

Power Consumption

The only power-consuming component of these centrifuges is the motors. Consider the following example:

Your cost per kWh: 25 ¢
Capacity:  5 GPM
Volume processed per hour: 300 Gallons
Cost per gallon processed: 25 ¢ / 300 = 0.08 ¢

Spare Parts

The availability of spare parts is an important consideration for the longer-term operating costs.

For 'no-name' decanters, the buyer is wholly dependent on the single source manufacturer overseas. Stock, availability & part cost are essential considerations for critical equipment.

On the other hand, generic spare parts are readily available for established, brand name manufacturers. The manufacturers themselves have parts stock worldwide, for quick delivery.


Decanter centrifuges are continuous processing, self-contained machines, which means there are no operating labor costs involved. Only service and maintenance require labor.

Chemical Use

Specific processes need chemicals to aid separation, which is an extra cost that the buyer should consider.

Maintenance & Service

Decanters from high-quality manufacturers are generally very reliable. As long as the user maintains them per the manufacturer's recommendation, they provide reliable service.

Ongoing maintenance involves periodic gear-box oil change and bearing lubrication. The primary service involving bearing replacement is every few years, depending on the severity of use.

Processes involving abrasive solids such as drilling mud will need scroll or screw rebuild based on wear rate.

New versus Remanufactured

New machines from branded manufacturers like Alfa Laval is the first choice. However, given the cost of new models, buyers often seek remanufactured decanters from trusted and established companies.

Important considerations before buying a remanufactured decanter centrifuge

We have condensed 35 years of our centrifuge specialty into a 9 Step Guide to Selecting Your Perfect Industrial Centrifuge.

Alfa Laval NX-314 Decanter


Decanter centrifuges are perfect for the separation of liquids from high amounts of solids. In real terms, they can separate over 50% (v/v) solids from liquids continuously. Decanter centrifuges can produce up to 4000 g's of centrifugal force, which is sufficient to separate particles down to 50µ.

The following are some of the industries using our remanufactured decanters.

Remanufactured Units for Sale - from Dolphin

Dolphin Centrifuge has been remanufacturing Alfa Laval decanter centrifuges for over 30 years. We have a similar experience with Sharples decanter centrifuges.

Our remanufacturing process follows OEM guidelines. We strictly adhere to all the remanufactured decanter considerations listed above.

We have a stock of over 50 Decanters at our factory in Warren, MI. Our stock decanters are carefully selected based on their previous use. We stock gently used decanters from olive oil or other similar benign last use.
We avoid decanters from drilling mud or other abrasive applications.

Contact Dolphin Centrifuge for price & technical details for our remanufactured and new decanter centrifuges in stock.


To get more details email us or call us on (248) 522-2573

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