Companies throughout the world in a variety of industries – from railroads and steel mills to cosmetics and food manufacturing – have installed oil/water separators to aid with water recycling and wastewater treatment. Proper oil water separation is a key component to operational success for industrial facilities and now more than ever these manufacturers continuously look for efficient and effective solutions to separate oil and water in their everyday processes.
Wastewater often contains water, oils, fats, greases, and by-products from various industrial processes, such as coolants containing shaved metal pieces in CNC machining, fat, and trimmings following equipment cleaning in meat processing, and hydraulic oils mixed with dirt in heavy vehicle washing. Before wastewater can be recycled or discharged to municipal water treatment plants, the fats, greases, and/or oils contained in the wastewater must be separated and removed. Oil water separators are designed to separate oil and suspended solids from industrial wastewater; however, some industrial facilities find there are a number of variables that impact how well the separator functions.
Variables Affecting Oil/Water Separator Performance
- Proper Design
Oil/water separators must be designed to accommodate established maximum flow rates as well as variables such as stormwater runoff, so the flow doesn’t exceed design capacity. Excessive drainage of stormwater to an oil/water separator could significantly impair its operation and efficiency.1
- Frequency of Maintenance
To function properly, oil/water separators require ongoing service and maintenance by trained personnel. Frequent system inspections are necessary to prevent operational and mechanical failures that may cause leaks or accidental discharge of oil into water.2
- Emulsifying Agents
In many industries, detergents and soaps are used to remove oily grime from equipment or vehicles. However, wastewater containing detergents and soaps emulsify with the oil and significantly slow down the oil water separation. And excessive use of detergents can render a separator ineffective by completely emulsifying oils into the wastewater stream, allowing them to pass through the separator.
- Sludge Build-up
Over time, oil accumulates in the sump and combines with dirt and particles creating a sludge build-up that is heavier than water. The oily sludge falls to the bottom of the sump where it is then pumped through downstream oil/water separators getting trapped inside the piping, oil water separator media, and auxiliary controls causing an interruption in the facility’s monitoring equipment, ultimately increasing operating and maintenance costs.
- Oil Build-up on the Surface of the Oil Water Separator
Traditional oil water separators allow the oil to rise to the top and exit through a slotted pipe or overflow weir into a collection vessel. These methods require monitoring and manual adjustment, demanding time, and labor from maintenance personnel. If left unmonitored, which most seem to be, a layer of oil can build up on the surface, causing a host of other maintenance and performance problems, including:
- Lack of oxygen from reaching the water’s surface, resulting in the formation of anaerobic bacteria that can cause skin irritation, clog coalescing media, and emit foul odors.
- Heavy sludge formation on the top oil layer of the oil water separator from dirt and debris collecting in the oil. Eventually, the surface sludge tends to sink, affecting the performance of coalescing media and disrupting the operation of the separator.
- Risk of oil “flush out” … where any sudden or heavy inflow of water (for example, from an increase in production or from stormwater) can exceed the separator’s capacity, washing out the oil layer that has gathered on top and causing it to mix with the clean effluent.
- “Crowding” … where the oil layer takes up an increasing space in the separation chamber, reducing the overall separation area and thus reducing the functionality and efficiency of the separation process.
Faced with challenges like these, organizations often struggle with how to best optimize the performance of oil/water separators, so we put our decades of application knowledge to work. Our engineers identified a commonality within the five variables affecting oil/water separator performance, unintended oil escaping the oil water separator. Recognizing this operational inefficiency, Oil Skimmers, Inc. developed the concept of Active Oil Removal™ to prevent residual oil inadvertently entering downstream.
Active Oil Removal™ provides continuous oil removal from the water’s surface at the point of separation ultimately reducing equipment maintenance needs, improving operations of down-the-line filtration equipment, enhancing environmental compliance, and increasing cost savings. The integration of a Brill® Type Oil Skimmer with a Free-Floating Collector Tube™ has been incorporated into several existing oil water separators and has proven to maximize the effectiveness of oil water separators within a variety of applications.
Our oil removal experts are a phone call away and would love to learn more about your application. With our team of engineers, and variety of mounting options available to fit your application, we are confident a solution is waiting for you.
Contact us today @ 440-237-4600 or visit Brill® Tube Type Oil Skimmers to learn more!
1 US Army Corps of Engineers (January, 2010). AED Design Requirements: Oil/WaterSeparators
2 US Army Corps of Engineers (January, 2010). AED Design Requirements: Oil/WaterSeparators