Separating oil from water is easier when it’s done earlier. As simple as that sounds—operationally it’s not always so easy or convenient as it should be to minimize the problems now that certainly will show up a bit later on. In the oil skimmer and oil water separator business we run into all types of recovery problems that can be avoided to begin with if the process is just started sooner than later.
Rule #1 is get the oil off of or out of the water soonest, before it has a chance to age or deteriorate or start collecting debris. The aged oils that we see, especially in outdoor areas often has allowed the lighter fractions to gas off, leaving the heavier oils that don’t flow or act as well on the water surface as they would have when they were first introduced to the water, wherever they are. Sunlight only exacerbates the problem by even further by accelerating this evaporation even further.
Leaving oil on the water surface only adds to the separation problem because that is of course where all the junk or debris collects, giving you oily stuff floating around on the surface, which can then give you a gunky material handling problem as well as an oil removal problem. And it can get worse. Oil is usually highly attracted to metals and plastic and will coat them whenever possible, giving you another surface you need to remove the oil from. See where this is going?
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