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

Cleanawater on 24 July 2017

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

An oil water separator is a significant financial investment, and a critical piece of equipment in terms of regulatory compliance with local water authorities.

Companies which use oil water separators absolutely must maintain and schedule routine services. By doing so, they'll be reducing the risk of expensive repairs, and ensure the machinery is performing to specification by local water authority by-laws.

Servicing your car can save you from an expensive repair. In the same way, industrial equipment needs regular servicing too. Cleanawater specialises in oil water separators — find out more about the different types of oil water separators, and how to service them.

hydrocyclone water separator main support

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.

If you're still unsure, ask a specialist in oil water separators to help you with your service and maintenance schedule.

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.

If you have a hydrocyclone oil water separator, you'll need to check the:

  • Floating skimmer is working properly, and there is no damage to the interconnecting hose, as well as no obstructions to the skimmer port
  • Automatic operation of pump and level switches
  • Debris strainer, cyclone, waste oil tank, and oil separator liner itself
  • Valves and pressure gauges

For a coalescing separator, you'll need to check:

  • Water flow and build-up of oil
  • Operation of pump including level switches

You'll need to check and clean the waste oil tank and separator to remove sludge and waste. You'll also need to drain the separator and remove the media packs before cleaning these with a high-pressure washer.

Find out moreCleanawater Servicing and Maintenance

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 potentially affect your unit:

  • 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.
  • 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. That's why it's so important for strainers to be in place and cleaned regularly.
  • The float may become snagged on debris, submerged in sludge, or clogged with oil and stop working. This can cause a pump to fail until the correct parts of the pump are changed.

Maintenance between services

Many sites create standard operating procedures and checklists to ensure that a regular inspection is done on the oil water separator, and its performance.

This way, 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 Support

Using the common issues named above may be a useful starting point to create a checklist. Name some of the parts you should check, and note any 'danger' signs of overflow or performance failure. Some of the parts you should include in your checklist are:

  • Sludge levels
  • Pipes and pump seals
  • Waste oil drum levels
  • The float
  • The oil skimmer
  • Strainers

Regular and routine performance checks 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 stormwater 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 — and saved the company a lot of money.

Contact Cleanawater for more information about oil separators

Cleanawater's servicing and maintenance guarantee will ensure your equipment achieves increased efficiency, reduced running costs, and (most importantly) meets water authority standards. We know that hassle-free equipment maintenance is valuable to your operation.

Contact our expert team to arrange a service for your oil water separator to keep compliant with regulations, or find out more about the different oil water separator devices.