Liquid Environmental Solutions

What Are Oil Water Separators, How Do They Work and Why?

What is an oil water separator? Simply put, an oil water separator does just what you might expect from the name – it separates oil and suspended solids from water so that it can be skimmed away.

Oil is lighter than water so it tends to float to the top. However, because of the nature of wastewater, which is suffused with all kinds of contaminants, some oil particulates, especially tiny droplets, can get hung up.

Oil water separators are designed specifically to target oil based on the gravity difference between oil and water, allowing for heavier solids (sludge) to settle to the bottom while oil rises to the top, leaving additional wastewater in the middle layer. Sludge can then be scraped away, oil can be skimmed off the top and wastewater can move along for further treatment.

How Does it Work? After wastewater passes through filters to separate out the largest solids, it is funneled into the oil water separator to undergo treatment. In most cases, the wastewater travels across a series of chambers.

These chambers help to separate oil, water and sludge into three distinct spaces. The heavy sludge and suspended solids drop to the bottom.

As wastewater passes through the chambers, oil particulates are tumbled over the surface, allowing them to collect and form larger globules, increasing buoyancy. This, in turn, helps more of the oil to separate and rise to the top of the water.

The oil water separator ensures that the vast majority of oil and sludge is removed.

Why Separate Oil and Water? What is the problem with oil? Why does it need to be separated from water? Simply put, it can pose an environmental hazard.

Oils found in wastewater can include not only the cooking oils and grease that homes, restaurants and other commercial interests wash down the drain, but also petroleum and other hazardous products. These can disrupt ecological systems and prove harmful to plants, animals and even humans.

If it can clog your pipes, it can definitely harm the environment. This is why we separate it out from wastewater, why companies like LES collect and dispose of it and why oil water separators are so important.

We take the worry out of managing your separators and traps, so you can focus on your customers and your business – let’s talk.

Credit: Ecologix.