The Challenge of Removing Surface (free-floating) Oil


Courtesy of Oil Skimmers, Inc.

Imagine tackling your greatest production challenge quickly, easily and inexpensively.
Now imagine tackling your greatest production challenge quickly, easily and inexpensively – and even generating a profit while doing so.

For businesses and industries that deal with oil separation and removal, the solution does not need to be expensive or inefficient. In fact, the answer may be simpler than you think.

When Oil is a Problem
Industries as diverse as steel, biodiesel, manufacturing, food processing, trucking service industries, wastewater treatment and utility – all face a simple, common problem: oily water.

Where water is used extensively at some point along the production process, either in cooling machinery, washing down equipment or playing a crucial part in the manufacturing process, problems occur when water picks up oil. Regardless of whether the facility reuses the water or sends it to a city treatment plant, it has to be removed.

Many facilities, however, are not equipped to effectively remove oil. Plant efficiency suffers.

Even worse, profitability suffers.

Traditional Approaches to Oil/Water Separation
The first step in removing oil is separating it from water. Stokes’ Law states that, given time and a large enough surface area, oil and water will eventually separate, giving you two distinctive layers. A good system of separation will give you those two layers.

To facilitate this process of separation, many plants use builtin grease/oil water interceptors, or separators. By using a combination of flow patterns, baffles, plates or aeration to increase contact with the oily water, these speed up the process by maximizing the number of small droplets that will agglomerate and rise to the surface, resulting in a concentrated oil layer and a layer of oil-free water ready for secondary
processing or discharge.

While separators themselves are efficient and inexpensive to use, there is still the problem of removing the separated oil.

When oil is not continuously removed from the surface of the oil/water separator, several problems can occur:

  • Heavy rain or water flow can exceed the design of the separator and wash out the oil build-up;
  • Failure to remove the oil can cause excessive oil build-up, increasing the chance for the oil to escape and reduce the area of the separation chamber;
  • The oil layer prevents oxygen from reaching the water, allowing anaerobic bacteria to grow, plugging separator plates and emitting foul odors;
  • During maintenance, or as components are lifted out, the tank walls and interior components become completely oil-coated;
  • When completely drained, residual oil escapes into the outlet piping and released downstream once the separator is refilled; and/or
  • The oil layer can make visual inspections of the coalescer and components very difficult, if not impossible.

Most oil removal solutions and services are effective in removing the oil, but they can be expensive, with some requiring additional manpower or expensive parts that require continuous maintenance.

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