How often should you do it, and how should you maintain it between services?

Cleanawater on 24 July 2017

Servicing your oil water separator

  • Services should typically take place every three to six months
  • Ensure you keep your oil water separator serviced to stay regulation-compliant
  • Keep a maintenance checklist for your oil water separator between services

Servicing your car can save you from an expensive repair when something fails prematurely and being without your vehicle for the duration of the repair adds further inconvenience to your life. In the same way, industrial equipment needs regular servicing too.

An oil water separator is a significant financial investment and a critical piece of equipment in terms of regulatory compliance with local water authorities. It is vital for companies relying on their oil water separator performance to adequately maintain and service their equipment to reduce the need for costly repairs and to ensure continuous in-spec effluent water.

How often should I service my oil water separator?

Most water authorities require a written service contract to be in place when an oil separator is installed onsite. Typical service intervals are between three and six months depending on the type of separator, the volume of water being processed and the amount of oil and sludge being removed. Best practice is to ask an expert service provider for advice about what frequency to adopt for servicing your specific unit.

How do I service my oil water separator?

Although it is advisable to have specialised contractors service your oil water separator, it is possible to service the equipment in house by following the manufacturers manual. These manuals normally contain principles of operation, and detailed instructions including drawings of parts and connections.

hydrocyclone water separator main support

Some of the major checks required for servicing a hydrocyclone oil water separator are:

  • Check the floating skimmer is working properly, and there is no damage to the interconnecting hose and no obstructions to the skimmer port
  • Check automatic operation of pump and level switches
  • Check and clean the debris strainer, cyclone, waste oil tank, and oil separator liner itself
  • Check valves and pressure gauges

For a coalescing separator, major checks required include:

  • Inspection of water flow and build up of oil
  • Check operation of pump including level switches
  • Check and clean waste oil tank and separator to remove sludge and waste
  • Drain separator and remove media packs to clean with high-pressure washer

Common issues

Based on years of experience with oil water separators in many diverse applications, these are some of the things that can go wrong and the potential effect on your unit:

  • A build up of sludge in the separator can eventually extend into the oleophilic plates or cones and block the flow of water. This reduces the efficiency of the separator and can eventually plug it up completely
  • Similarly, if the waste oil drum becomes full, the oil can no longer be skimmed off the surface of the separator and the high levels of oil inside the separator will eventually migrate out with the effluent water causing environmental incidents
  • Skimmers can become blocked with solid waste that enters with the water, therefore it is important for strainers to be in place and cleaned regularly
  • As the pump is operating in “dirty” service, damage to seals and diaphragms can happen over time, leading to leaks or loss of pumping capacity
  • The float may become snagged on debris, submerged in sludge, or clogged with oil and stop working. This can cause a pump to fail and cause your operation to be offline until parts of the pump are able to be changed

Maintenance between services

Many sites develop standard operating procedures and check lists to ensure that a regular inspection is done on the oil water separator and its performance. A potential problem can be picked up early and repairs actioned or preventative measures put in place to prevent an environmental incident.

Create a maintenance checklist

Maintenence Checklist Industrial Main SupportUsing the common issues named above may be a useful starting point to create a checklist, with some simple examples including:

  • Check the level of sludge and clean out if necessary
  • Check for leaking pipes, pump seals etc. and action repairs if necessary.
  • Check waste oil drum level and clean out if necessary
  • Check that the float is moving freely
  • Check that the oil skimmer is not blocked
  • Clean strainers of debris

A simple series of checks like this can keep an oil water separator operating as per design between services. This keeps effluent water clean and reputations intact.

What happens when things go wrong?

The Australian Environmental Protection Authority issued a fine to a rail based coal haulage company in Wollongong for a spill of 500 litres of oily water into a wetland area. The magnitude of the fine, which totalled $100,000 is a stark reality check for the implications of environmental incidents. In this case, an obsolete oil water separator, which had been out of service for some time released the effluent via a storm water connection. Regular cleaning and emptying of the waste oil tank and the separator itself as well as a formal decommissioning procedure to remove all liquid from the equipment could have prevented this incident.

Contact Cleanawater for more information about oil separators

Cleanawater's servicing and maintenance guarantee means you'll see increased efficiency, reduce running costs, and meet water authority standards. We know that hassle-free equipment maintenance is valuable to your operation.

Call our expert team on 1800 353 788 today to arrange a service for your oil water separator to keep compliant with regulations.