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Oily Water Separator, Different Types and Oil

Content Monitoring

Oily Water Separator treats bilges of machinery spaces, which reduces sea pollution
to a marginal level. A major source of oil pollution in the past from the operation of
ships was the discharge into the sea of tank washing from tankers. This was reduced
by the discharge of tank washing to a slop tank for settling, and discharge overboard
of the water While retaining the sludge for pumping ashore to the refinery, with the
next cargo. Crude oil washing (COW) eliminates the use of water and enables cargo
resides to be pumped ashore during discharge because cleaning is carried out
simultaneously with the discharge.

Ballast carried in oil cargo and bunker tanks which is therefore contaminated with oil
constitutes another pollution source, unless pumped out via an oily water separator.
New regulations require tankers of certain sizes to have segregated or clean ballast
A third pollution source is from machinery space bilges.

The most common type of oily water separators found on ships are of the
gravitational type. these rely on the difference in specific gravity of the mix to
separate out the oil from the water.

Centrifugal Oily Water Separator

Centrifugal separators have been proposed for the use as oily water separators. The
quality of the output is determined by the throughput rate. The slower the flow of oil
through the separator the better quality output. A question mark exists over their
ability to cope with fine emulsions and chemical pre-treatment is recommended.

Separators capable of emulsion treatment

Gravitational separators are not capable of operation with oil emulsions , or mixtures
containing oil of high specific gravity approaching 1 or above. The latter may be
improved by the preheating of the mixture before or during the gravitational process.
The former is more difficult, current regulation requires the careful control of
detergents capable of effecting the operation of the fitted separator.

This means that modern efficient detergents containing surfactants may be only
used in restricted quantities or not at all.

Alternatives to gravitational separation are now becoming available capable of

dealing with these mixtures. The most common at the moment involves the use of
Poly aluminium Chloride. This causes the emulsified oil to join to gather (flock). The
emulsion is thus broken and the water and oil separated. Using this process very high
quality effluent can be produced with little of no oil or chemical content. The cost is
higher than for more conventional gravitational separators.

An alternative method is the use of Electrocoagulation. This relies on the three

factors of a stable emulsion
-Ionic Charge
-Droplet or Particle Size
-Droplet or particle density
An electrical charge is passed through a sacrificial anode made of aluminium. The
released ions are attracted to the negatively charge fine droplets of contaminants.
The overall effect is one of agglomeration with larger and larger droplet sizes being
produced. In addition gas bubbles produced by hydrolysis attach to these droplets
increasing there buoyancy. The separated droplets rising to the surface may be
removed. This is a very efficient process and large volumes can be coped with.

Gravitational Separator Operation

The unit is initially filled with purge water. The discharge from the pump has a sample

line take of to a 15 ppm monitor. This is lined up and in used with flushing water used
until the pump is running. The unit activation button is pressed, the oil outlet valve is
closed, the suction valve is opened and the discharge pump is started. Bilge water is
drawn through the unit over a vertical arranged plate stack. The 15 ppm monitor is
lined up to the pump discharge sample line

As oil coalesces it is led to the oil discharge chamber. As the oil here builds up the
interface drops until the pump cut in probe is activated, the pump is stopped, the
suction valve is closed, the oil discharge is opened and the purge water is opened. Oil
is forced out of the oil outlet by the purge water.

When the oil water interface reaches the cut out the oil discharge valve and the purge
water valve is closed. The suction valve is closed and the pump started.
A complete Oily water separator and filter unit for 15 parts per million purity is shown
in figure. The complete unit is first filled with clean sea water, the oily water mixture is
then pumped through the separator inlet pipe into coarse separating compartment.
Here some oil, as a result of its lower density will separate and rise into the oil
collection space. The remaining oil/water mixture now flows down into the fine
separating compartment and moves slowly between the catch plates. More oil will
separate out on to the underside of these plates and travel outwards until it is free to
rise into the oil collecting space. The almost oil free water passes into the central
pipe and leaves the separator unit. The purity at this point will be 100 parts per
million or less. An automatically controlled valve releases the separated oil to a
storage tank. Air is released from the unit by a vent valve. Steam or electric heating
coils are provided in the upper and sometimes the lower parts of the separator,
depending upon the type of oil to be separated (heating reduces viscous drag of oil
and thus makes separation of oil and water easier).

Where greater purity is required, the almost oil free water passes to a filter unit. The
water flows in turn through two filter stages and the oil removed passes to oil
collecting spaces. The first-stage filter removes physical impurities present and
promotes some fins separation. The second-stage filter uses coalesces inserts to
achieve the final de-oiling. Coalescence  breakdown of surface tension between oil
droplets in an oil/water mixtures which causes them to join and increase in size. The
oil from the collecting spaces is drained away manually, as required, usually about
once a week. The filter inserts will require changing, the period of useful life
depending upon the operating conditions.

 Oil Content Monitoring

Regulations with respect to the discharge of oily water set limits of concentration
upto 15

parts per million. A monitor is required in order to measure these values and provide
both continuous records and an alarm where the permitted level is exceeded.

The principle used is that of ultra-violet fluorescence. This is the emission of light by
a molecule that has absorbed light. During the short interval between absorption and
emission, energy is lost and light of a longer wavelength is emitted. Oil fluoresces
more readily than water and this provides the means for its detection.

A sample is drawn off from the overboard discharge and passes through sample cell
(Figure ). An ultra-violet light is directed at the sample and the fluorescence is
monitored by a photoelectric cell. The measured value is compared with the
maximum desired value in the controller/recorder. Where an excessive level of
contamination is detected an alarm is sounded and diverting valves are operated.
The discharging liquid is then passed to a slop Vault.

Alarms and shutdowns

If the 15 ppm equipment detect discharge with oil content over 15 ppm it shuts the
unit down and activates and alarm. But in some cases only alarm is there.

Reasons for improper functioning of an Oily water Separator:

 The principle of separation on which this separator function is the gravity
differential between oil and water. The force acting on oil globule to move in the
water is proportional to the difference in weight between the oil particle and a
particle of water of equal volume. The resistance to the movement of the globule
depends on its size and the viscosity of the fluid. Thus in general, a high rate of
separation is favored by:

1. Large size of globule.

2.  Elevated temperature of the system (which affects both the specific gravity
differential of the oil and water and the viscosity of the water)
3.  The use of seawater.

Pumping consideration. Since the rate of separation depends on the oil globule
size it will be appreciated that any disintegration of oil globules in the oily feed to
the separator should be avoided and this factor can be seriously affected by the
type and rating of the pump used. A large number of bilge pumps are centrifugal
and they are often used as the supply pump to separator. They churn the supply
and produce small oil droplets dispersed throughout the water, which in turn may
seriously affect the separation efficiency. A positive displacement pump e.g. slow
running double vane, screw, reciprocating or gear pump enables a much better
performance to be achieved from the separator as they do not produce large
quantities of small oil droplets. Using pump after the separator may give a
discharge having less than 15 ppm. concentration without using second stage

From above two points it is evident that even if the separator is well maintained and
correctly operated following factors can cause improper functioning of the separator.

1. Through put of the separator is excessive.

2.  Excessive rolling and pitching of the ship causing disintegration oil globules.
3.  Pump or and rating is not matching, causing too much of turbulence.

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