Separating oil from water involves the application of two basic physical principles.
First, oil and water are not soluble in each other. Second, water is denser than oil.
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When oil is mixed with water, the oil initially exists in the form of droplets of various sizes. These droplets will tend to rise to the surface unless they are below a certain size.
The size of the droplet is proportional to the speed a droplet will rise to the surface so the larger droplets will rise to the top faster than the smaller ones. The same principles apply — the largest droplets separate the fastest, the smallest the slowest.
If the droplet is large enough and the flow down the tank is slow enough, the droplet will separate before the end of the tank is reached.
Therefore, assuming non-turbulent flow, oil water separation is enhanced by making the oil droplets larger, making the flow slower or making the rise time to the surface shorter.
This helps to minimize tank turbulence which begins gravity separation. Once in the coalescing media, the media surface coalescing action occurs where the small droplets combine into larger droplets and the oil rises to the surface.
At the tank discharge end, an oil-retaining weir prevents separated oil from flowing out of the tank with the clean water. The separated water must flow under this weir and then over the water discharge weir to exit the tank.
The purpose of this water discharge weir is to maintain a constant depth of fluid in the separator tank.
Separated oil accumulates on the tank surface until it reaches sufficient depth to overflow the adjustable oil discharge weir or be removed by a motorized wheel skimmer. A wheel skimmer keeps the tank surface in an oil free condition, preventing the buildup of anaerobic bacteria.
Factors such as dirt or certain chemical agents will inhibit coalescence.
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If sufficient inhibitors are present, a stable emulsion will result and will not separate in any reasonable time. Oil Separator.
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