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oil-absorbing pad instead of skimming?

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CLamb
CLamb Member Posts: 281
Has anyone tried using oil-absorbing pads to remove oils from the surface of boiler water instead of skimming? These are usually made of blown polypropylene which is rated well above the boiling temperature of water. I'm imagining a piece inserted through the skim tapping but anchored outside so that it can be retrieved. Not only would it absorb oils when first installed but could do so for many years.

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  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,626
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    I would think it would absorb more water than oil, but maybe you're thinking about something different than what I'm picturing.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,676
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    ratio said:

    I would think it would absorb more water than oil, but maybe you're thinking about something different than what I'm picturing.

    No, I'm pretty sure you're right.
    It's just a big sponge often used in place of clay type products like "Speedy Dry".

    It's just going to absorb water and become a huge heavy nightmare to get out.

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,286
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    Well, there are pads which absorb oil preferentially (they're made for hazmat work), but... I can't see any way to get a pad of any significant size into a skim port, never mind get it out -- and one mustn't think of the surface of the water in a boiler as being something like a big teapot -- it's broken up.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,676
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    Well, there are pads which absorb oil preferentially (they're made for hazmat work), but... I can't see any way to get a pad of any significant size into a skim port, never mind get it out -- and one mustn't think of the surface of the water in a boiler as being something like a big teapot -- it's broken up.

    You know of absorbent pads that absorb oil, but not water?

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • bmma
    bmma Member Posts: 32
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    ChrisJ said:

    Well, there are pads which absorb oil preferentially (they're made for hazmat work), but... I can't see any way to get a pad of any significant size into a skim port, never mind get it out -- and one mustn't think of the surface of the water in a boiler as being something like a big teapot -- it's broken up.

    You know of absorbent pads that absorb oil, but not water?

    There are oil sorbent pads that are commonly used for oil spill cleanups. They will absorb oils but not water. However, I can't imagine sticking one of these in a boiler is a good idea. They tear easily and I can't see a practical way to get on into, or out of a boiler, very easily.
    ChrisJ
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,286
    edited November 2021
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    ChrisJ said:

    Well, there are pads which absorb oil preferentially (they're made for hazmat work), but... I can't see any way to get a pad of any significant size into a skim port, never mind get it out -- and one mustn't think of the surface of the water in a boiler as being something like a big teapot -- it's broken up.

    You know of absorbent pads that absorb oil, but not water?

    Yes -- Uline has them, and so does Northern Tool. Grainger probably does, haven't looked.Carried on trucks and emergency equipment and the like to pick up if there is a fuel spill. Most factories should have them too... come in various sizes and shapes.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    ChrisJ
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,676
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    Interesting.

    I had no idea.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,639
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    You make the absorbent material out of something nonpolar like certain plastic formulas that the oil binds to but not the water. Not sure where the technology is in a practical form but that is the general theory.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,061
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    Years ago I was involved in several sites that had leaking USTs.
    Old gas stations with numerous leakers that after over 50+ years had a layer of oil/gas product floating on top of the shallow water table.

    One item that would collect the product was the QED Ezy Skimmer.
    It is about 4-5' long, maybe an 1 1/4" in diameter.
    The bottom 3' was a clear plastic tube with a cap/drain port on the bottom.
    The top 16" was PVC pipe with slots cut in it.
    This would be lowered into 2" monitor wells.
    The lower tube gave it buoyancy to float.
    The top portion with the cut slots was about in the center of the top of the water.
    The petroleum product would flow into the slots and pass thru some special membrane that filtered out the water.
    Depending upon how thick the oil skim on the water the lower tube would fill with what looked to be clear gasoline or nasty oil.
    It all smelled terrible. The simplest disposal was to empty it into a bucket and let it evaporate. (all of these sites traded water pollution for air pollution...even when the 1 million dollar systems worked correctly with an air stripper).
    When full it would sink, you could feel how much you collected by pulling on the chain secured to the top plug.

    They held maybe a pint or two of product. Some filled in 2 hours, some filled in 24 hours.

    Don't know how this would work with hi temp water...just throwing it out there.
  • Jellis
    Jellis Member Posts: 228
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    I used "Oil only" absorbent mats when in the field, used them a few times to catch oil that had mixed with some water. they would repel the water decently while grabbing the oil.
    not sure if it would remove enough oil to skim a boiler properly.
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,835
    edited November 2021
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    The idea of skimming is to make the surface of the water blockage free, so the water can boil evenly across the entire surface. This lowers the chance of surging resulting from something other than water on the surface of the water preventing the water from boiling.

    One of the early comments gave me the impression that the OP was thinking of leaving the "oil absorber" in place for an extended time. I'm thinking during boiler operation. "Maybe I misunderstood." If the "oil absorber" pad was left in the boiler during operation, I would think the pad would be a greater surface blockage for boiling off the water into steam.

    I don't see the logic. Unless the OP was thinking of the extended time being the "off season"

    Just thinking out loud.

    Mr. Ed
    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,676
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    The idea of skimming is to make the surface of the water blockage free, so the water can boil evenly across the entire surface. This lowers the chance of surging resulting from something other than water on the surface of the water preventing the water from boiling.

    One of the early comments gave me the impression that the OP was thinking of leaving the "oil absorber" in place for an extended time. I'm thinking during boiler operation. "Maybe I misunderstood." If the "oil absorber" pad was left in the boiler during operation, I would think the pad would be a greater surface blockage for boiling off the water into steam.

    I don't see the logic. Unless the OP was thinking of the extended time being the "off season"

    Just thinking out loud.

    Mr. Ed

    I think they were picturing a small strip off to the side or something.

    I've found no need to skim once all of the oils are gone. They do not magically come back.

    Though after washing out with a wand I do follow that with a quick 4 gallon skim just in case something broke free etc.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,247
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    mattmia2 said:

    You make the absorbent material out of something nonpolar like certain plastic formulas that the oil binds to but not the water. Not sure where the technology is in a practical form but that is the general theory.

    There are water purifying filters that pass water because it is made of polar molecules but stops non polar oils. So perhaps some sort of side stream filter machine will keep eliminate oil?

    Steam engine oil is not supposed to get into steam or water but I've read about operators using cotton or wood shavings to clean condensate. Guess that was before that filter material was invented. Even a little oil is very bad. I think that remaining steamboats use fresh water once through. Operators claim that oil does not get into water so dumped condensate does not pollute.

    A little bit off topic is that water in oil is also very bad and there are ways to dry oil as well.

  • CLamb
    CLamb Member Posts: 281
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    Thanks to all for the useful comments. Yes, I would use only a small piece. I assume that would be enough to capture all the oil from the surface. If not, it can be replaced when it becomes saturated. EdTheHeaterMan, thanks for pointing out that it's not a good idea to let it float inside the boiler. Assuming the skim tapping is at about the same height as the normal water level it could be contained in a nipple in the skim tapping. I do not think it is needed (or a good idea) to leave it in place forever but it could be left in place for a couple of weeks use after an installation to ensure that all floating oils are absorbed.
  • motoguy128
    motoguy128 Member Posts: 393
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    Rather than do that, I would think a device that you could set, allow to run fora day and return an remove would be best. Could be as simple as a 5 gallon bucket with a small submersible pump, then use a aquastat to fire the boiler to keep it around 110F, warm enough to aid oil removal but not so much ir kills the pump or bucket.

    Pipe the skim port to the water line on the bucket using a flexible rubber hose. Have an adjustable stand to set the bucket at he right height, then have a very very small aquarium pump return the water to a boiler drain. Include a small aquastat on the bucket.
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,247
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    Still say side stream filter is easiest if you can find a small enough pump.
    You'll need a modest condensate receiver. Eventually water will be as clean as can be.