Oil & Water Separation: Process Water Does Have a Bottom Line

Sept. 1, 2009
[Web Exclusive - Industrial WaterWorld - Sept. 1, 2009] -- Aqueous Recovery Resources Inc.'s technology effectively separates process oils and other liquids along with suspended contaminants from water, enabling users to separate liquids differing in specific gravity for key savings in water consumption by allowing reuse of the water as well as other process fluids, such as the separated oil...
By John Scambos
• Industrial water reuse can increase profits while helping to stave off a looming national water crisis.
Companies are learning they can cut water use and increase the bottom line at the same time by turning to technology from Aqueous Recovery Resources.[Web Exclusive - Industrial WaterWorld - Sept. 1, 2009] -- The facts are hard to ignore behind the push for greater industrial water reuse. Industry accounts for an astounding amount of freshwater use... and waste in the United States. According to the U.S. States Geological Survey, it's over 100 million gallons per day. While a majority of that water is used for cooling in power plants, much of the remainder is used in processing plants.In 2000, self-supplied industrial water withdrawals accounted for about 5% of the total water used, over 20 mgd according to the USGS. Industrial water use includes water used for fabrication, processing, washing and cooling. It also includes water used by pharmaceutical processing, petroleum extraction and refining, and industries producing chemical, food and paper products. Though industrial water use has stabilized in this country in recent years, it still represents a great opportunity for preserving this dwindling natural resource. That's because other users don't have a lot of systemic flexibility.
There are three major players in the game of water use: agricultural, residential and industrial. While it can be made more water efficient, cutting agricultural use is a hard sell as people have to eat. Cutting residential use would only help on a small scale unless implemented universally, which is unlikely at best. If we're to get serious about having clean freshwater for future generations, a big part of the answer will clearly have to come from better management of industrial water use.
And in the future we'll have to get serious about freshwater use. According to the Associated Press, at least 36 states will face water shortages within five years due to a combination of rising temperatures, drought, population growth, urban sprawl, waste and excess. Freshwater withdrawals already exceed precipitation in many parts of the country. But, it's also a global problem.
By 2025, more than half the nations in the world will face freshwater stress or shortages and by 2050 as much as 75% of the world's population could face freshwater scarcity. So say Mike Hightower and Suzanne Pierce, water experts at Sandia National Laboratories, in an article they wrote that appeared in a recent issue of Nature.
This dynamic separation technology called Suparator® achieves perfect separation of any two fluids with a specific gravity differential.
Industrial Water Reuse
In the industrial sector, there's a lot of money tied up in water, only most company executives don't know it. First, there's the initial cost for water, which according to a report is too low; and then there's the cost of using that water and treating it before it can be released to the environment. It turns out, though, most executives only think they know how much their water costs them.
"Sure, they can tell how much they paid for the water – after all, they get a bill every month," says John Sparks, of ChemSave Unlimited in Cincinnati, OH. "But what they don't always understand is water has a cost attached to it each time you use it in a process. Add that to the cost of chemicals and waste treatment and you have the true cost of that water, and it isn't cheap." ChemSave helps companies control their water costs.
Traditionally, companies resisted investing in water savings because they thought water was cheap, but that's changing. "We need to show them a return on investment in a year or less," adds Sparks. "We have to make the connection between improving environmental performance and improving bottom line performance." Sparks calls the process "finding money" for his clients.
The EPA requires industry to return water back in its original state. Removing oils, soaps and chemicals can drive the cost up to three times its original purchase price. Efficient reuse saves consumption of the typical chemicals and energy, in the form of heat, used to prepare raw water for industrial use, and the additional treatment to make "used" water suitable for discharge back into the environment. Industries that use large amounts of process and cleaning waters are employing new technologies to conserve on freshwater primarily through reuse. But as has already been suggested, water is often filled with chemicals and solvents that first must be separated from the water for it to be re-usable.
New Technology
This liquid-liquid separation allows reuse of the recovered contaminants, like oil, as well providing a means of reuse of it as well.Aqueous Recovery Resources Inc. has developed an innovative technology that effectively separates process oils and other liquids along with suspended contaminants from water. The system enables users to separate liquids differing in specific gravity, thus making significant savings in water consumption by allowing reuse of the water as well as other process fluids, such as the separated oil. This savings of water also improves uptime, extends the use of detergents and significantly reduces the need to prepare water, thus saving on energy.
Called Suparator®, this exclusive "dynamic separation" technology is based on the Bernoulli Principle of physics, which describes the relationship between pressure and the velocity of a moving fluid. This unique application of the principle achieves near perfect separation of any two fluids with a specific gravity differential. Unlike conventional water separation devices, it uses no moving parts or media to provide +99% separation of polluting oils or liquid contaminants from water while it's still in the process tanks, thus saving a typical industrial user millions of gallons of water a year.
This liquid-liquid separation allows reuse of the recovered contaminants, like oil, as well providing a means of reuse of it as well. Plus, since separation is accomplished dynamically, the process is able to remove dirt and other unwanted foreign objects from the suspended oil before they settle into the water tank, necessitating water and/or detergent changes. Sparks has seen some major cost savings at companies that have used this technology to separate, and then reuse water and chemicals. "Their chemical costs have dropped up to 70% and the water costs have fallen by 20%."
At Ford Motor Co.'s Dearborn, MI, plant the system removes preservative oil from pickup truck door "blanks" before the doors are formed in a giant press. The steel blanks have to be cleaned of oil and any dirt or other foreign matter before being stamped.
The water consumption savings also improves uptime, extends use of detergents and reduces the need to prepare water, thus saving on energy as well.Daimler-Chrysler has successfully deployed the same technology in paint-line operations, resulting in a superior finish for the high-end Mercedes vehicle product line where fluid quality is directly related to finish quality. The Daimler facility in Sindelfingen, Germany, has achieved a CO2 emission reduction equal to the auto emissions from 1.5 million kilometers by not having to reheat replacement water.
The technology also has been already deployed on an exploratory basis in pharmaceutical solvent extractions, plastics and ballistic fiber production, petrochemical plant effluent pre-treatment, crude washing and other applications. In every instance, Suparator more effectively removed the contaminating fluid from the aqueous stream than prior methods.
In Colorado this technology has been assisting a water reclaimer supplying "hydraulic fracturing" water to Halliburton and other oil well production services firms. The results surprised the seasoned professionals by recovering nearly 1,000 gallons of crude oil from a contaminated "produced water" source in less than four hours. The crude contained a measured 500 ppm of water. This low water content allowed the oil to be sold immediately at a significant profit to the water reclaimer. Previously, the reclaimer was unable to remove the contaminated oil with low enough water content for the market and had to have the water/oil mixture skimmed and hauled off at a significant expense.
It's clear that by reducing industry's voracious appetite for clean water through point-of-use recycling saves significant money. At the same time, other resources are conserved along with the water, and energy may be conserved and uptime may be improved, all of which contributes to improved profit and competitiveness.
In addition to providing a viable new means for industry to relieve its pressure on the limited supply of fresh water, dynamic separation also fundamentally changes the focus on water treatment. Instead of remediation of the most contaminated industrial pollution, the new focus is on in-house pre-treatment and reuse to save costs and preserve water in the same way that any other industrial process component would be preserved and maintained. IWW
About the Author: John Scambos is president of Aqueous Recovery Resources Inc. (ARR), based in Bedford Hill, NY. Contact: 914-241-2827, [email protected] or www.suparator.com

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