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Oily Water seperators

Prof Ir Dr. Ab Saman b. Abd Kader, PEng, MIEM,MCIT Faculty of Mechanical Engineering,UTM

The most common type of oily water seperators found on ships are of the gravitational type. These rely on the difference in SG of the mix to seperate out the oil from the water

Shown above is a gravitational type seperator capable of very good quality effluent discharge. A safety valve (not shown) is mounted on the unit as are test cocks and a drain valve. Operation The unit is initially filled with purge water. The discharge from the pump has a sample line take of to a 15ppm 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 15pp monitor is lined up to the pump discharge sample line

As oil coalescers 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.

Alarms and shutdowns

Should the 15ppm equipment detect discharge with oil content over 15ppm it shuts the unit down and activates and alarm When the pump cut out probe is activated a timer starts, should the oil interface not reach the pump cut in probe within a set time a alrm is sounded and the unit shutdown. Should the oil interface reach the alarm and shut down probe and alarm is activated and the unit shut down

Centrifugal seperators
Centrifugal seperators have been propsed for the use as oily water seperators.

The quality of the output is determined by the throughput rate. The slower the flow of oil through the seperator the better quality output. A question mark exists over their ability to cope with fine emulsions and chemical pre-treatment is recommended. Seperators capable of emulsion treatment Gravitational seperators are not capable of operation with oil emulsions , or mixtures containing oil of high sg. Approaching 1 or above.

The latter may be improved by the preheating of the mixture before or during the gravitatinal process.

The former is more difficult, current regualtion requires the careful control of detergents capable of effecting the operation of the fitted seperator.
This means that modern efficient detergents containing surfactants may be only used in restricted quantities or not at all. Alternatives to gravitational seperation are now becoming available capable of dealing with these mixtures. The most common at the moment involves the use of Polyaluminium Chloride.

This causes the emulsified oil to join to gether (flock).

The emulsion is thus broken and the water and oil seperated. 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 gravtiational seperators. An alternative method is the useof 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 scarificial anode made of aluminium. The released ions are attracted to the negatively charge fine droplets of contaminants. The overal 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 bouyancy. The seperated droplets rising to the surface may be removed. This is a very efficient process and large volumes can be coped with.

Waste heat recovery

Even with a very efficient engine, only about 50% of the heat in the fuel is converted into useful work at the crankshaft. The remainder I potentially wasted. Heat energy is lost in the cooling systems and exhaust gas but some can be recovered whether it is worth recovering depends upon a number of factors including the amount of energy available, the time for which it is available, capitol costs of recovery plant. Modern highly pressure charged engines have a large amount of energy in scavenge air cooling water and this can provide a primary heating source for bunker fuel tanks.

Jacket cooling water also contains a considerable quantity of heat this may be recovered in fresh water evaporators provided operates at a pressure giving a corresponding saturation temperature for water lower than the jacket water entering the heating element. By heating the water to its saturation temperature gasses dissolved in it are liberated. Thus there is the requirement for air ejection to maintain a low pressure. Any low temperature evaporator will operate over prolonged periods because scale does not form to any great extent. Joints and seals do not deteriorate.

Types of plant
There are two methods for generating fresh water, Reverse Osmosis (RO) and distillation. Reverse osmosis is generally used were large quantities of relatively low quality water is required. Typical examples of water produced are;
Treatment Sea Water Evaporator Reverse Osmosis After Demineraliser Total Hardness 250 <0.2 20 0 Calcium Hardness 200 <0.2 5 <1 Silica 14 <0.2 <1 Trace Sodium Chloride 15000 <20 <750 <2 TDS 15000 <20 <750 <3

The most commonly used form of shipboard freshwater generation is evaporative distillation, which uses engine jacket cooling water or steam heat from exhaust or gas fired boilers to evaporate sea water, which is then condensed into fresh water. Evaporation distillers comes in two main forms, multistage flash (MSF) and multi effect (ME) evaporators.





Single (and Multi-effect) submerged tube distillation was one of the early types of fresh water generation. It uses heat passing through submerged coils or tube bundles immersed in sea water to produce the distillate, which when condensed becomes the fresh water.

The system above shows an evaporator typically heated by Main Engine Jacket water with means to supply steam when the engine is shut down.

To start this evaporator

Open sea water cooling to the coiling coils

a take off line from the outlet of the cooler goes to the ejector booster pump.
After shutting any vents the booster pump is started. The vacuum in the shell should begin to drop. A take off from the eductor booster pump is led to the shell via a flow control valve. This should be cracked to fill the unit increasing to a design level gradually as the vacuum increases.

It should be noted that it is possible on some systems to increase feed to a point where the eductor can no longer cope and the shell is overfilled. This should be avoided as the possibility exists of getting saltwater on the demister -this is a mesh arrangement designed to remove wetness from the steam. Should this happen then it can take considerably longer before the salinity of the distillate falls to an acceptable level. Treatment chemical in the feed should now be added When the water reaches working level in the shell the heating coils may be warmed through.

It should be noted that it is rarely the case the eductor is able to provide all the vacuum required, instead as the unit begins to steam, the condensing of this steam assists to pull the down the shell pressure. The heating should be increase as the shell pressure reduced. The maximum temperature in the shell is governed by design and to a maximum of 85'C to reduce scaling the salinometer may be switched on once condensate is detected in the distillate pump suction. the distillate pump control may be switched to auto. On some installations a recirc is fitted which dumps the outlet from the distillate pump back to the evaporator.

This may take the form of an automatic three way valve operated by the salinometer. In addition a manual dump to bilge may be fitted to dump the initial charge of distillate out of the unit reducing the time to on-line
Single Stage Flash Evaporator

An alternative arrangement to the shell evaporator is the flash evaporator were heating takes place externally, the hot brine enters the low pressure chamber into a weir where some of the water flashes off.
Water overflowing the weir is either educted out or passed on to a second stage. Multi stage units with each stage maintained at a lower pressure allow improved efficiency and high outputs.

Multi Stage Flash Evaporator

A typical multi stage flash system is based upon preheating of a pressurised sea water stream, or more typically a recycle brine stream to which the feed sea water is added; the stream is heated in the heat input section brine heater. From here the recycle stream is passed into the first stage of a series of flash chambers. Here the pressure is released, permitting a portion of the brine stream to flash to form salt-free vapour which is condensed to give the fresh water. In condensing the vapour gives off its latent heat to the recycle brine stream.

From the first stage the flashing brine stream is passed to the second stage which is kept at a slightly lower pressure; more vapour flashes off.
In the same way the flashing brine stream passes to the next stage and so on through the plant with a portion of the vapour flashing off at each stage. A heat balance shows that the heat supplied in the brine heater has to be rejected. This is done in the last two stages of the plant which are cooled by a sea water stream which subsequently passes to waste.

Modern Developments
Since the introduction of MSF, more efficient types of ME evaporators have been introduced. Large Multi-effect Alfa laval evaporator

In 1990 Alfa-Laval Desalt introduced its D-TU concept-a ME desalination system based on tube type distillers, using evaporation under vacuum with the rising film principle. This means that the inner surfaces of the tube are always covered with a then film of feed water, preventing formation of scale. The heating medium (hot water/steam) circulates on the outside of the tubes in the heat exchanger.

The vacuum is created by water ejectors connected to each effect.

A controlled amount of sea feed water is led to the bottom of each effect, where it is mixes with the brine from the previous effect and into the tubes in the heat exchanger, where it is heated.

The generated vapours enter a separator where the brine droplets from the wet vapour are separated.
The dry vapour pass through the separator to the following effect where they condense. Th remaining sea water which has been converted to brine, flows to the next effect as feed water. The brine is taken out and discharged overboard. The latent heat in the vapours from the previous effect is used as a heating medium in the following effects. The process continues until the last effect where the generated vapours condense cooled by sea water.

The condensate vapours flow from one effect to the next, and are retained in a collecting tank as distilled water. If a low temperature evaporator is to be used for domestic purposes certain restrictions apply. Operation is not allowed within 25 miles of the coast or 50 miles of an estuary.

Chromate jacket water treatment must never be used.

The condensate must be treated in order to destroy bacteria.

Care must be taken if chemicals are used to inhibit marine growth in pipework.

Reverse Osmosis
Osmosis describes the process whereby a fluid will pass from a more dense to a less dense solution through a semi-permeable membrane. It is very important to the water absorbtion processes of plants. RO is a process which uses a semipermeable membrane which retains both salt and impurities from sea water while allowing water molecules to pass. Filtration of up to 90% is possible thus making the produced water unsuitable for boiler feed without further conditioning. Improved quality is possible using a two or more pass system.

An experiment to determine this osmotic head is shown.

The parchment paper acts as the semi-permeable membrane and allows the water molecules to pass but not the larger salt molecules. Reverse osmosis is the process whereby a pressure greater than the osmotic head pressure is applied to a solution of high density. Fluid is forced from the high density side to the less dense side.

For desalination plants the pressure is applied to sea water and the water is forced through the semi-permeable membrane. The semi permeable membrane which is typically made of polyamide membrane sheets wrapped in a spiral form around a perforated tube resembling a loosely wound toilet roll. Design of the cartridges is therefore such that the sea water feed passes over the membrane sheets so that the washing action keeps the surfaces clear of deposits. A dosing chemical is also injected to assist the action.

The two membranes sealed on the outer three edges, enclose porous under-layer through which the permeate spirals to central collecting tube

Pressurised feedwater passes lengthways through the tubular spiral wound membrane element. Freshwater permeate travels through the membrane layers as directed along a spiral bath inot a central perforated tube, while brine is discharged out the end of the membrane element.. The fluid could be water and the solutions sea water. Under normal conditions the water would pass from the less saline soultion to the more saline solution until the salinity was the same. This process will cease however if the level in the more saline side raises to give a difference greater than the Osmotic height. For practical use to allow the generation of large quantities of water.

It is necessary to have a large surface area of membrane which has sufficient mechanical strength to resist the pressurised sea water.. The material used for sea water purification is spirally wound polyamide or polysulphonate sheets. One problem with any filtration system is that deposits accumulate and gradually blocks the filter.

The sea water is supplied at a pressure of 60bar, a relief valve is fitted to the system.
The Osmosis production plant is best suited to the production of large quantities of water rather than smaller quantities of steam plant feed quality.

Pretreatment and post treatment. Sea water feed for reverse osmosis plant is pretreated before being passed through.

The chemical sodium hexa phosphate is added to assist wash through of salt deposits on the surface of the elements and the sea water is steriliased to remove bacteria which could otherwise become resident in the filter.
Chlorine is reduced by compressed carbon filter while solids are removed by other filters. Treatment is also necessary to make the water drinkable.

Rochem disc tube reverse osmosis plant

The disc tube module is supposed to have the main advantage over the spiral wound type in that it avoids the need for the difficult cleaning processes required.
With long lasting membranes, typically 5 years and in built cleaning system the unit will recover 30% as pure water from sea water passing through it

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