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New technology to clean oil sludges


Envorem, the UK-based technology business, has developed an innovative new technology that uses a little-known property of water to rapidly and inexpensively process oil production sludges

The technology, developed with assistance from the University of Brighton, uses very little energy to disassemble sludges, clean the solids and recover the entrained oil for recycling – all without using chemicals or generating emissions.

Crude and fuel oils contain contaminates comprising sediments and water that create an oily sludge. Every day, the equivalent of more than one million barrels of crude oil are discarded by the oil and maritime industries as hazardous waste at a huge environmental and financial cost.

Mark Batt-Rawden, CEO of Envorem,  commented, “The oil industry has been seeking a solution for decades but nothing has ever proved effective and viable. It has taken us over 10 years to get this technology right and the solution we have developed pushes the boundaries of technology in a number of areas.”

Envorem’s core technology combines established techniques with hydraulic shock and cavitation, where bubbles are created by the vaporisation of water, a phenomenon copied from the natural world. Cavitation can be generated ultrasonically, electrically, or physically and is widely known as a parasitic effect that destroys propellers on ships and the impellers of pumps.

Batt-Rawden said, “Dumping these wastes into open pits is really just procrastinating the problem as the sludge will not go away. It will eventually have to be incinerated generating colossal quantities of CO2.

“As the world transitions towards a low-carbon future, it is crucial that we continue to mitigate against the environmental impact of ongoing oil production and ensure the legacy pollution is addressed. Now, we can remove the barriers to act differently by providing a way to spend less and simultaneously reduce pollution.”

Envorem recently completed a highly successful pilot in Oman for Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) to treat sludge and oil-contaminated soil. The pilot proved the technology generates a fraction of the emissions of thermal treatment and is both cheaper and faster. 99% of the oil was removed from sludge as crude of usable quality, reducing the need for extraction and its associated carbon footprint, plus saving emissions from disposal by incineration. Furthermore, this demonstrated that if the value of recovered oil is included, costs are potentially net positive, providing a financial as well as environmental case for change in practice. With proven processing speeds of up to 200 cu/m per hour, Envorem’s Greentech provides a real opportunity for the industry to change practice and rapidly clear legacy deposits.