OTS’s largest machine, the V20, can clean up to 210,000 US gallons of oily water per day. During its true test, on July 8, 2010, OTS reported it had 9 centrifuges deployed in the Gulf of Mexico, with 23 additional machines under construction and scheduled for shipment to Louisiana by the end of August 2010 to help with the clean-up of the Gulf spill. The machines developed by the company were of little commercial interest until the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, when BP took six of the machines for testing in late May 2010. On June 9, that order was expanded to 32 of the oil-water separation devices. These small but mighty machines represent a huge step forward in this arena. Here’s how they work.


A mix of oil and water is pumped constantly into a cone-shaped separating apparatus at an angle, which creates a spinning vortex. The separation is a result of the force balance that occurs on fluids in a vortex. High-density liquids will move to the outside, along with any contaminant, displacing the lower-density liquids to the inside (center of rotation). Water, being the more dense liquid, sits on the outside and is removed through a discharge outlet. Any segregated oil can now safely be recovered through a suction orifice at the center. The process will continue to function in this fashion as long as sufficient oil is added to maintain coverage of the suction orifice.

There are other types of separators that use gravitational forces to separate mixtures, but these other types of forces are not as strong as the centrifugal force in the centrifugal separator. Other types of separators are coalescing plate pack separators and petrol interceptor separators. Coalescing plate pack separators work very differently than centrifugal separators. With the plate packs, water is fed into the separator through gravity through the inlet pipe, then the mixture is spread evenly through the separation chamber where the coalescing plate packs are. In the plate packs the oil will rise because of their buoyancy and coalesce on the underside of the plates and form globules of oil that rise to the surface. From there the waste oil globules go into the clean water chamber and are discharged through the lower portion of the separator.

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