Combined Centrifugal Separator/Membrane Ultrafiltration System for Shipboard Treatment of Bilge and Ballast Water

EPA Contract Number: 68D02055
Title: Combined Centrifugal Separator/Membrane Ultrafiltration System for Shipboard Treatment of Bilge and Ballast Water
Investigators: Mairal, Anurag
Small Business: Membrane Technology and Research Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: II
Project Period: June 1, 2002 through June 1, 2004
Project Amount: $225,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2002) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water and Watersheds , SBIR - Water and Wastewater , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


Ships generate large volumes of bilge and ballast water that contain high concentrations of emulsified and free-phase oil as well as suspended solids. To meet new environmental regulations, this water will require treatment to reduce the oil content to less than 15 ppm before overboard discharge. Treatment by ultrafiltration can produce dischargeable water, but currently available membranes are subject to severe fouling by oil and particulates.

The objective of this project is to develop a bilge water treatment process by combining a centrifugal separator pretreatment step to remove solids and large oil droplets, and a novel, fouling-resistant composite ultrafiltration membrane-polishing step to remove the remaining emulsified and dissolved oil and produce dischargeable water that meets the new regulations. In Phase I, Membrane Technology and Research, Inc., demonstrated the technical feasibility of the process. The system removed all of the free-phase oil and some of the dissolved organic compounds from the waste stream to produce dischargeable water. Fouling resistance of the new membrane was considerably better than that of commercial ultrafiltration membranes. An economic analysis showed that the capital and operating costs of the process are substantially lower than alternatives. Discussions were held with potential partners for Phase II field tests and Phase III commercialization activities.

The Phase II objectives are to demonstrate the technology in the field and develop a commercialization plan for Phase III. A centrifugation-ultrafiltration unit will be tested in the laboratory, then at a pier-side bilge water treatment site, and finally on board a naval or commercial vessel. The test program will provide permeation and contaminant removal data as a function of bilge water type and operating time, evidence of fouling resistance, and the engineering and operational experience required to design commercial systems. Membrane Technology and Research, Inc.'s goal is to form a marketing partnership by the end of the Phase II project to allow continuation of Phase III commercialization work without interruption.

Successful development of this technology will produce better quality discharge from ships and reduce operating costs by as much as 40 percent compared to existing membrane systems. The technology also will be suitable for other oily wastewater applications, such as the treatment of produced water at oilfields and wastewater treatment in the food processing, dairy, textile, and automotive industries.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, bilge water, ballast water, wastewater treatment, water, ultrafiltration membrane, free-phase oil, particulates, engineering, EPA, centrifugal separator, Water, Engineering, Chemistry

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final

  • SBIR Phase I:

    Combined Centrifugal Separator/Membrane Ultrafiltration System for Shipboard Treatment of Bilge and Ballast Water