Working with Oil Water Separators

The hazards of disaster continue to grow by the day as climate change and environmental degradation continue to spawn new natural threats to life and industry. This has made work in the sea one of the most hazardous professions there is. As it is, seafarers and vessels are regularly at risk due to storms cyclones and thunderstorms. They are also at risk from new from mechanical and electrical faults that may cause malfunctions and fires which, if it occurs during voyage, makes help due to the considerable distance from land support.

There is also the danger of chemical processes that can deteriorate ships and cause mechanical malfunctions.  Bilge water, dirty water that builds in a ship’s hull, is a common product of shipboard operations con often mix with sip through leaks in machineries such as diesel generators, air compressors, and the main propulsion engine. Bilge water are also those that come not just from rain or the sea but drain water or leftover water from the boilers, water collecting tanks, drinking water and other places where water cannot overflow or water that comes from other water drainage systems like the propulsion area of the ship where lubricants, fuel, solvents, anti-freeze, hydraulic and other fluid and cleaning chemicals drain into the engine room bilges in small quantities.  Although there are already modern gadgets such as alarms and automatic closure devices that are activated when the oil storage content of the waste water exceeds a certain limit, the dangers of oil and water leaks are constant dangers that have to be prevented early on. And as a water treatment procedure, it is important to properly drain water before discharging it back into the sea to avoid environmental contamination. 

For this purpose, ship machineries are equipped with oily  or oil water separator, which as its name implies, is a device designed to separate oil and water and prevent mixture than can damage engines and other machine parts. Although they are also used in oil refineries, chemical and gas-processing plants to separate gross amounts of oil and suspended solids from waste water effluents, oil separators are more widely and commonly used in the marine industry and are found on board ships for processing oily waste water.

The standards for oil water separator are set by the American Petroleum Institute which require individual separators to be free of contaminants like lubricating oil, cleaning product, soot from combustion, fuel oil, rust, sewage, and several chemicals or residues that can be harmful to the ocean. All oily water separator must also be capable of purifying type C oil or heavily emulsified oil. To measure this, oil separators are equipped with tamper-proof oil content monitors (OCM). These OCM takes a trickle sample from the oil separator overboard discharge line and analyzes the sample through an optical sensor. A change in signal at the sensor will indicate the presence of oil and if the signal reaches 15 ppm, the sensor will conclude that there is too much oil going through the discharge line and therefore unsafe for discharge. Due to the sensitive nature of the OCM and the equally sensitive nature of waste water treatment, OCM’s are precisely calibrated in special laboratories and shops and if found to be sampling a certain amount of heavy oil, it is flushed and thoroughly cleaned.


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