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Oil Harbor at Port of Rotterdam with Oil Refinery and Oil Tanks.

Advancements in Oil Spill Clean-up and Floating Oil Recovery in Oil Ports and Harbors

Oily water contamination and oil spills in oil ports and harbors pose significant environmental threats with a high cost for clean-up. This article gives an overview of SurfCleaner technology for the management of petroleum water in ports, with a lens on solutions for unique challenges such as continuous recovery of floating oil from oil port wastewater and stormwater, oil spill clean-up in harbors, and remote oil spill clean-up.

Sources of oil-contaminated water in ports and harbors

In port operations, hydrocarbons in water occur from:

  • Petroleum wastewater
  • Stormwater contaminated by oil
  • Offloaded ship waste
  • Equipment leaks
  • Pipe leaks
  • Tank ruptures
  • Equipment cleaning
  • Fueling spills
  • Maintenance errors

One of the largest sources of oily water in oil ports comes from port wastewater. An estimated 6500 million liters of petroleum-contaminated water is generated every day by refineries and petrochemical plants. Many of these facilities are situated in ports and harbors because of their convenient access to land and marine transportation of crude and refined petroleum products.

Other significant sources of petroleum-contaminated water in ports include equipment rinse water, wastewater offloaded from ships at port reception facilities, oily stormwater, and oil leaks or spills. 

Most often, oil spills at marine oil terminals arise from operational accidents such as those that might occur during loading, discharging, and bunkering. Loading is a particularly dangerous time for an oil spill to happen, especially during the topping-off phase where the pressure must be very carefully monitored to avoid overfilling the tanks.  These oil spills might occur directly in the port waters or originate on port grounds and subsequently wash into nearby waters. 

Using SurfCleaner technology to recover oil from harbor water

SurfCleaner skimmer separator hybrids are a mechanical solution used by port operators to remove floating oil from oil ports and harbors.

Separate and remove oil from port wastewater 

Ports collect oil-contaminated water for treatment or disposal from sources like oil spills, oil leaks, oily wastewater, and stormwater.  Designed for use in oil ports and refinery wastewater treatment, the SCO 8000 is a type of oil-water separation equipment used in wastewater basins. It operates continuously to remove surface oil, diesel, petrol, and even very thin oil sheen and is capable of recovering up to 8000 liters of oil per hour. 

Reduce vacuum truck transport

By removing and concentrating the oil with a SurfCleaner, ports can reduce the amount of wastewater transported with vacuum trucks. Typically vacuum trucks take 80-90% water along with the wasted oil. This is inefficient, expensive, and damaging to the environment.  

SurfCleaner systems separate and capture floating oil with a water content of 0.5%. Since there is minimal volume of water with the oil, vacuum truck transport can be reduced by 99%. This means reduced emissions, lower environmental impact, and improved sustainability for oil ports. 

SCO 8000 removes hydrocarbons at the Ports of Stockholm

In the Ports of Stockholm, an SCO 8000 oil recovery system was installed in port stormwater basins and API separator tanks where it automatically and continuously removed floating pollutants, preventing hydrocarbon pollution in the discharged water. 

The recovered oil was able to be used as fuel for an energy plant. SurfCleaners can automatically handle fluctuating levels of contaminated water, for example after a storm when a surge of rainwater enters the wastewater treatment process. Manual intervention and costly pre-treatment processes are thus minimized.

Learn more about SurfCleaner oil capture systems for oil ports

Improve oil port spill response and reduce clean-up costs

SurfCleaner SCO 1000 is a lighter system for oil spill clean-up in ports with a smaller footprint than the SCO 8000. The SCO 1000 can be easily deployed under wharves, piers, jetties, and other areas that are difficult to reach with booms or other oil spill cleanup equipment. The SCO 1000 consumes very little power and only consumes 20W on average.

The SCO 1000 is very fast to install and easy to use, even for non-specialists – an unmissable feature for an emergency spill response. These skimmer separator hybrids collect different types of oils without any manual adjustments, even the thinnest sheens of 0.1 μm.  SurfCleaner SCO 1000 is used by the Swedish Coast Guard for small spills of diesel in ports and harbors. 

Floating oil and pollutants are separated from the water and collected in the device’s internal storage chamber, then expelled through a discharge pipe to a separate bag or tank. Meanwhile, the SCO 1000 efficiently cycles clean water back to the environment. This video shows SurfCleaner spill response equipment in use and how it works to recover floating oil.

Both SurfCleaner SCO 8000 and SCO 1000 remove and concentrate the oil with water content as low as 0.5%, reducing the cost of transport and disposal and making it possible for the recovered oil to be reused for fuel

Collect data about recovered oil volume and energy use

SurfCleaner devices are equipped with data collection features so operators can access real-time data on how much oil was removed and how much energy was used to support ESG reporting and sustainability initiatives. 

Remove nearly 100% of floating oil  Capture oil with water content as low as 0.5% Support ESG reporting with recovered oil and energy use data Reduce vacuum truck transport of oily wastewater by 99%

Protect worker safety and minimize man hours during oil spill response procedures

The SCO 1000 enables remote oil spill clean-up and removes the need for workers to be constantly present in the spill area. The device can be operated by a single person from another location far from the spill so that workers can stay at a safe distance. 

The SurfCleaner systems software is fully automatic and it collects, separates, and discharges when it needs to. 

Scale and impact of oil-contaminated water at ports 

More than 60% of oil and petroleum transportation is done by water. Oil tankers receive crude oil from the extraction point and carry it to one of 300 deepwater oil ports around the world situated along sea coasts, deepwater bays, large rivers, or offshore. There are also thousands of smaller ports along rivers, canals, and other inland water bodies that receive smaller liquid cargo barges carrying crude oil or product tankers containing refined petroleum products for distribution to consumer markets. 

Oil ports – also called oil terminals or oil docks – often have a tank farm nearby where oil is transferred for storage in silos or underground containers. Oil products may also be transferred directly from the oil port to a refinery for processing or transported inland by rail, road, or pipeline to oil depots. Oil ports are specially equipped to load oil onto tankers, offload oil into storage facilities such as oil caverns or other carriers, and offload oily ship wastewater. 

Each oil transfer and storage point presents the risk of leaks or spills. In addition, special wastewater treatment is needed to safely manage oil-contaminated water produced onsite through standard port operations. SurfCleaner systems provide an efficient and highly effective solution for separating and removing oil from contaminated water at oil ports. 

SurfCleaner systems help oil ports comply with environmental regulations

Oil ports employ contamination specialists, health and safety managers, environmental managers, terminal operators, and transportation operations managers to ensure compliance with water pollution protection and water quality regulations. In addition to oil spill response requirements, port operators must also comply with regulations for stormwater and wastewater management to remove any oil contamination. 

Generally, a facility should have a detailed plan that provides the procedures for oil spill cleanup and wastewater treatment and includes the use of SurfCleaners when they are available.

More resources related oily water management in oil ports

Readers who want to learn more may be interested in the following articles and resources.

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