Rapid on-site analysis of fats, oil and grease (FOG)

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Courtesy of Spectro Scientific

It is estimated that 23-28% of Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) are due to Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG) or as much as 19 million gallons from 1998 to 2001 (State of North Carolina, 2004). Our increasingly mobile society has led to a decrease of cooking at home and a significant growth in the commercial food sector. This, on top of other industries such as metal processors, meat packers, cosmetic manufacturers and industrial laundry establishments that already contribute to oil and grease in the waste stream, contributes to the increase of SSO’s.

As part of the Clean Water Act, industries discharging into Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW’s) are facing new and stricter FOG regulations. Many are faced with limits of 100 ppm of oil and grease. These new limits are forcing industries to monitor their effluent more closely prior to discharge, which means more frequent measurements to ensure compliance. For POTW’s, an important feature of any FOG program is locating and monitoring industries and food service establishments dumping high levels of FOG in the sewer line. For industries and POTW’s waiting for remote laboratory results, this can add costs in time and dollars. An accurate, quick and simple form of on-site analysis can greatly assist regulators, as well industries, that want to insure their pretreatment system is operating properly. A new simplified procedure for FOG analysis based on solvent extraction and infrared absorption can give a regulator or operator an on-site result in less than 10 minutes.

Infrared Analysis of FOG

Infrared analysis of oil and grease has been used in the petroleum industry on highly regulated off- shore oil platforms for over 30 years with analyzers such as the InfraCal TOG/TPH Analyzer pictured to the left. EPA Methods 413.2 and 418.1 are infrared methods for oil and grease measurement using the now banned Freon to extract the hydrocarbons from the effluent. EPA Method 1664 using hexane as the extraction solvent and gravimetric analysis is now the standard method replacing Freon methods. This gravimetric procedure requires a skilled laboratory technician and is a time and equipment intensive process. The ASTM passed an alternate method, D 7066-04, using a Freon replacement solvent, S-316 and simplified infrared analysis. There is also an alternate infrared method using hexane extraction and evaporation.

The measurement by infrared absorption makes use of the fact that hydrocarbons such as fats, oil and grease can be extracted from water or soil through the use of an appropriate solvent. The extracted hydrocarbons absorb infrared energy at a common infrared wavelength and the amount of energy absorbed is proportional to the concentration of the oil/grease in the solvent. This can be directly calibrated or converted to the amount of oil in the original sample.

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