Oily Water Separators: How Do Bilge Water Treatment Systems Work?



What is an oily water separator, and how does it benefit your vessel?

This type of water treatment system removes oil particles from bilge water. Oily water separators that adhere to  the IMO MEPC standards and have been specifically designed to be used in machinery space bilges of ships, making a system of this caliber an essential component of your vessel—especially if you enjoy avoiding fines.

To discharge water safely from your ship, you must comply with all maritime regulations; this is where an oily water separator comes in. For example, current maritime rules state that the oil content in discharged water must be less than 15 ppm. So to stay in compliance and avoid fines, you need a system to treat your oily bilge water to get to that standard before discharging.

What does an oily water separator system do?

Let’s zoom in on the specific functionality of your oily water separator.

An oily water separator system consists of a separator unit, a filter unit, and an oil content monitor and control unit. This unit consists of three stages: coalescing, sediment filtration, and emulsion removal.

Your system’s separator unit will use coalescing media to help coagulate and collect the oil. This oil will be removed from the process and discharged into a sludge tank. The larger particle-sized oil is extracted before the polishing stage of the process.

Then, during the polishing stage, the process takes the discharge from the coalescing tank and removes finer impurities, such as emulsified oils. When water has gone through the system, the water will have less than 15 parts per million (ppm) of oil.

Finally, the oil content monitor measures the oil content in the water and determines if it can safely be discharged overboard. The unit will recycle the process water if the oil content exceeds 15 ppm.

How do you choose the right system for your vessel?

While different makes and models of oily water separators may function similarly, it’s vital to ensure that you select the right one for your vessel. Why?

Each type of oily water separator is engineered to accomplish a specific goal, often for one ship undergoing particular conditions. Ensure that your goal aligns with the kind of separator you select, and you’ll enjoy efficient and effective use of your system for years to come.

If you overload your treatment system or select one that provides specifications that don’t match your vessel’s conditions, you’ll be setting yourself up for frustration. It’s much better to avoid a mismatch and consider the factors that should go into your oily water separator.

Factors to think about when purchasing an oily water separator system include:

The Size of Your Vessel

One of the foundational considerations that will drive your separator choice is how big your vessel is. This will influence the load you put on your separator, how hard it will need to work, and the amount of water it can process at a given time.

Think of it this way: Your separator can only process the designed flow rate. If you are generating more bilge water than it can handle, it will not be able to keep up. You’ll need to think about this before your purchase.

The Environment in Which You Use It

Where and how you use your vessel will factor into how you use your separator system. For example, your ship’s application will drive the contaminants in its bilge water. Therefore, your system’s media and components must be durable enough to work with these environmental contaminants. Similarly, operating your vessel in a hazardous area will require an oily water separator system that can handle harsher materials.

The Required Flow Rate of Process Water

The rate at which bilge water flows through the separator is directly related to your separator’s efficiency. Therefore, depending on your flow rate and efficiency requirements, you may need to consider a different system to meet your goals.

Need an oily water separator? Rely on H2O LLC for high-quality water treatment systems and more.

If it’s time to choose an oily water separator that is precisely manufactured to work well with your specific vessel, it’s time to reach out to the pros. At H2O LLC, we have the targeted expertise necessary to help you determine which system is right for you. So call our team today for more information!

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