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Oily Water Treatment – Why do we even bother…?

Paul Hallier, Ultrapak Rental Manager

9 May 2017

We all like to think of ourselves as environmentally conscious people who would do the right thing by the environment, i.e. minimise our own personal and corporate pollution wherever possible.

That being said, oily water treatment is something that for all but the lucky few, doesn’t generate any money for the business, only costs money. Only a very small margin of people using oil water separators are actually recovering a valuable product from their waste water such as oil, solvent or fat.

Most businesses that we talk to are installing something for one simple reason, they have to. Government regulations, be they local or national, generally require businesses to install a treatment system that is able to remove the contaminants.

Oily water has to be treated
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The Big Yellow Gear

The aim in the mining industry worldwide, regardless of what they’re mining, is to dig dirt out of the ground as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is how they’re going to maximise their profits and provide a return to shareholders.

One of the key tools miners use is the ‘big yellow gear’. They’re more than happy to invest millions in the biggest and best machinery for getting dirt out of the ground as quickly as possible, and why are they happy to invest?

Because this equipment is directly responsible for MAKING MONEY. The bigger the gear is, the faster they can move the dirt! The more haul trucks they have, the faster they can move the dirt! The less maintenance they require, the longer you can keep the wheels turning which in turn improves efficiency and makes more money.

So oily water treatment… Why bother?

An oil water separator is never going to make money in a traditional sense like the big mining gear. You generally get an oily water separator for two initial reasons:

  1. As we said at the beginning, you want to do the right thing environmentally both yourself and through your company
  2. You want to avoid the fines that are imposed by a government agency when you don’t achieve a certain water quality prior to discharge to the environment (remote) or the sewer (metropolitan)

The second reason is the real motivator for businesses. You are ultimately looking for a system that’s powerful enough to meet the government agencies discharge requirements and beyond that you want it to cost as little as possible, both to buy or rent in the first place and then also to keep it running (operating costs).

For some people/businesses, putting in a really low powered, gravity based system that’s unlikely to meet compliance is fine because it’s purely there for show, as a box ticker. But for most people compliance is important and so detailed lifecycle costs analysis around cost of ownership, performance and capital expenditure become important.

Oil water separator

So individually why do we bother with oily water treatment? Because deep down we’re good people and we want to ensure that the rivers we fish in and the landscape we enjoy is passed down to future generations in as good a condition as we can manage and we’re all responsible for that at both a corporate and personal level.