Oil-Contaminated Water Treatment System

Our laboratory scale column filter loaded with our adsorption media. The pump, lower right, recirculates the oil-in-water emulsion, upper right, through the column filter.

When treating water to remove oil products, removing small oil droplets is the most difficult. Current technologies are energy intensive or require disposable filters and are difficult to deploy in remote situations, such as an oil-spill clean up operation. There is a need for a technology that can effectively remove small oil droplets from water that has low energy requirements and can be used repeatedly.

This project aims to develop an oil-water filter that works on the principle of adsorbing the oil droplets to the surface of the filter media. Most filters operate by having a small pore size to physically block and trap the oil particles. Our filter media is purposely selected to have relatively large pores to maintain a low pressure drop and minimize the amount of energy required to operate the system. To remove the oil from the water, we are modifying the surface properties of the filter to enhance its affinity for oil products so that they stick to the filter surface while they are flowing through.

Samples of the starting oil-in-water emulsion (left), the treated emulsion after 90 minutes (centre), and a sample of clean saltwater (right) for comparison. Samples of filter effluent taken at intervals during the 90-minute filtration test.