Oil-water separators play a crucial role in compressed air systems that use oil-injected compressors. In the process of generating compressed air, these compressors also produce a condensate that contains trace amounts of oil. In order to protect the environment, the condensate must be treated – and the oil removed – before it can be disposed of.
That is where the oil-water separator comes in. Like the name says, it separates the compressor condensate’s water and oil to prevent the latter from getting into the wastewater.
Naturally, there are differences between oil-water separator brands and types. However, most involve multi-stage filtration and the principle of adsorption. A first-stage filter will adsorb the free oil, while a second-stage filter will remove any remaining oil droplets and “polish” the condensate. The first filter typically consists of polypropylene fibers, which adsorb the oil, but not the water. This mean the oil will stick to the surface of the fibers. Second-stage filtration often relies on activated carbon (or organoclay for stronger emulsions) to purify the condensate.
At the end of this process, the remaining water is sufficiently free from contaminants and can be safely disposed of into the sewer system. The oil-water separator has done its job. And in the end, everybody benefits: The company that does the right thing and avoids fines and, most of all, the environment.
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