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Many industries focus more on waste treatment thanks to the global sensitivity towards environmental issues of our time. Authorities implement more laws and regulations to ensure industrial organizations treat hazardous waste with minimum impact on nature.
Some industries produce more harmful waste than others. Without a doubt, utilizing the full potential of the modern-day industry is crucial to provide the world with its unprecedented need for products and energy. However, neglecting environmental damage proves to be destructive to our planet. Industries must consider sustainable processes to ensure the utilization of natural resources without causing irreversible damage.
As mentioned earlier, one of the most decisive practices for nature-friendly industries is appropriate waste treatment. Used machine oils and oil sludges are two of the most commonly encountered waste materials in various industries. In this article, we will talk about oil sludge treatment and maintenance.
What Is Oil Sludge?
Oil sludge is a semi-solid build-up inside an engine or a motor. It’s commonly due to contaminated oil or the introduction of moisture and heat. Other common causes of oil sludge are; neglected oil changes, inadequate levels of lubricant, and poor design.
Why can oil sludge be dangerous?
Oil sludge can block the moving parts, creating resistance or haltering rotation entirely. In addition, it covers the surfaces in a thick layer, acting as insulation and preventing cooling. If the sludge has formed from a petroleum-based material, it can clog transfer lines, stopping the liquid flow. This situation can create an overflow in oil lines, producing a dangerous fire hazard.
Oil sludge solidifies if left untreated. A fully dried-up block of oil sludge is exceedingly difficult to remove. Therefore, in extreme cases of solidification, the entire motor is thrown out since the residue is impossible to clear.
Damage to dynamic parts is not the only threat caused by oil sludge. Due to the content of the oil itself, oil sludge can be seriously harmful to the environment. In addition, oil picks up other contaminants from the system it works in, like cadmium, arsenic, dioxins, and benzene. Even a small amount of contaminated oil can render thousands of gallons of freshwater unusable. The oil soaks into the soil and gets mixed with underground freshwater sources. Freshwater sources are a vital ingredient of agriculture. Crops watered with toxic water and cattle fed with said plants pose a serious health hazard. Finally, the fertile soil contaminated by oil loses its nutritional value, decreasing farming efficiency.
With all things considered, appropriate treatment of oil and oil sludge is profoundly critical for preventing irreversible environmental damage.
How to Recycle Oil Sludge
Oil sludge and used oil are highly recyclable. Various methods exist to clear oil from contaminants and use it in energy recovery processes. Decontamination allows oil to be reused as a lubricant, while energy recovery utilizes the oil as a fuel. Let’s take a look at different methods of recycling oil sludge.
Solvent extraction separates volatile and non-volatile organic materials from the oil sludge through distillation. The yield of recovered oil is highly dependent on the solvent used. Studies show that solvents such as hexane and xylene have the highest oil yield at %67.
The extracted organic compounds consist of a high amount of calorific content therefore, it is suitable to be used as fuel.
Centrifugation is putting the pre-treated sludge through a fast-spinning sleeve to separate the ingredients with different densities. A phase difference between the unwanted ingredients and the oil is required for the centrifuge. The pre-treatment process allows the density difference by reducing the viscosity of the oil with additives such as organic solvents, demulsifying agents, tension active chemicals, the injection of steam, and direct heating.
Centrifugation treatment works best at separating the sludge from water due to the natural phase difference between the two materials. According to the studies, the centrifuge can be %90 efficient at separating oil from water.
Surfactant-Enhanced Oil Recovery
Surfactant-enhanced oil recovery or EOR for short is recovering oil from solid media. Surfactants are amphiphilic substances with the capacity to lower the surface tension and the interfacial tension between liquids and solids. After the chemical and physical bonds between materials the phase difference allows substances to separate.
How to Use Recycled Sludge?
As mentioned earlier, recycled oil has a high calorific content, meaning it can be enriched and repurposed as fuel. In addition, the oil can be recycled to be used as a lubricant or a coolant.
However, the best way to deal with oil sludge is to prevent it from forming in the first place.
How to Maintain Against Oil Sludge?
Oil sludge buildup can be easily countered through preventative maintenance. In-time oil changes, regular clean-ups, and periodic inspections.
Industries focus more on environmental ways of disposing of waste. Recycling is a great option for waste material that still holds economical value. The reusability of oil and sludge makes repurposing a great option as an environmentalist way of disposal.