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The Dangers of Hydrocarbons in Water by Andrew Stratton

The Dangers of Hydrocarbons in Water by
Article Posted: 05/22/2015
Article Views: 166
Articles Written: 5522
Word Count: 569
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The Dangers of Hydrocarbons in Water

You've likely heard the phrase "oil and water don't mix" at least once in your life. While commonly used to describe two people who don't get along, the saying gets its heft from a truth of chemistry. Certain compounds, known as hydrocarbons, do not dissolve in water due to their chemical makeup; hydrocarbons in water quite literally do not mix! When these two compounds are placed in the same container, the two chemicals will form a series of layers instead of mixing. This interaction can lead to a number of potential hazards that can damage both the environment and your mechanical equipment; therefore it's important to proceed with caution when you find hydrocarbons in water.

Engine Damage

A hydrocarbon engine needs to be constantly lubricated with pure oil. In this instance, it is actually the water that is the contaminant. While engines are closed systems, H2O can still find its way in through rainwater leakage, condensation caused by rapidly changing temperature, and steam leakage from another part of the system. Once water is in the system, it is impossible to remove it without either using a proper filter or changing the oil. If neither process is rapidly implemented, it can lead to the following problems: stalled engines, enhanced bacteria growth, loss of additives, reduced conductivity, and enhanced abrasive wear in the hydraulic components. A small amount of the wrong liquid can do serious damage over time to this very expensive piece of equipment.

Storage Tank Sludge

Storage tanks remain in one place for a long period of time. While this may not seem like a cause for concern, their immobility makes it easy to miss a regular inspection; this is a serious issue if the tanks contain flammable chemicals or hydrocarbons. No tank remains perfectly sealed forever, and wear and tear will eventually allow water to seep in. As previously stated, these two liquids do not mix, and so a "rag layer" forms between them. This moist, dark layer is a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria. When bacteria can grow unimpeded, it degrades the quality of the tank's contents and corrodes the tank's structure, eventually creating disgusting, unusable sludge.

While invasive liquids can be manually drained, there is no perfect system for doing so. There is always the inherent risk of spilling the chemicals. This can be a safety hazard, particularly when flammable chemicals are being drained. Therefore, an automatic tank-dewatering system is recommended. This device will automatically dewater the storage tank on a regular basis, depositing the unwanted liquid in a separate container that can then be disposed of at a proper treatment facility.


Hydrocarbons in water never dissolve. They never dissipate in the ocean, let alone in a lake or river. They will sit on top of waves and remain a constant source of pollution until they are removed by an outside source. These two chemical compounds cannot mix under any circumstances. Therefore, whether you are someone who needs to use hydrocarbons or just someone who enjoys pure water, the presence of hydrocarbons in water is devastating and life threatening. Whenever you're in a situation where the two can interact, it is important to take steps ensuring proper prevention and cleanup, as well as confirming that treatment protocols are followed.

When looking for information on how to check the level of hydrocarbons in water, you can find monitoring equipment at

Related Articles - hydrocarbons, in, water,

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