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Aqua Technologies of Wyoming

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What is Organoclay?

 

The Nature of Organoclays

Organoclays are manufactured by modifying bentonite with quaternary amines, a type of surfactant that contains a nitrogen ion. The nitrogen end of the quaternary amine, the hydrophilic end, is positively charged, and ion exchanges onto the clay platelet for sodium or calcium. The amines used are of the long chain type with 12-18 carbon atoms. After some 30 per cent of the clay surface is coated with these amines it becomes hydrophobic and, with certain amines, organophilic.

The main component of organoclay is bentonite, a chemically altered volcanic ash that consists primarily of the clay mineral montmorillonite. The bentonite in its natural state can absorb up to seven times its weight in water, after treatment can absorb only 5 to 10 per cent of its weight in water, but 40 to 70 per cent in oil, grease, and other sparingly-soluble, hydrophobic chlorinated hydrocarbons.

As the organoclay is introduced into water, the quaternary amine is activated and extends perpendicularly off the clay platelets into the water. A chlorine or bromine ion is loosely attached to the carbon chain. Since the sodium ions that were replaced by the nitrogen are positively charged, they bond with the chlorine ion, resulting in sodium salt that is washed away. The result is a neutral surfactant with a solid base, which is the organoclay. The hydrophilic end of the amine dissolves into the oil droplet because "like dissolves like," thus removing that droplet from water. Because the partition reaction takes place "outside" of the clay particle (in contrast to adsorption of oil by carbon, which takes place inside its pores), the organoclay does not foul quickly.

Organophilic clay can function is as a prepolisher to activated carbon, ion exchange resins, and membranes (to prevent fouling), and as a post polisher to oil/water separators, dissolved air flotation (DAF) units, evaporators, membranes, and skimmers. Organophilic clay powder can be a component or the main staple of a flocculent clay powder. They are excellent adsorbers for the removal of oil, surfactants, and solvents, including methyl ethyl ketone, t-butyl alcohol (TBA), and others.

Application

By removing oil and greases at an extremely high volume/wieght ratio, organophilic clays can save an end user fifty per cent or more of operations costs. Organophilic clay may be disposed of through landfilling, fuel blending, asphalt plants, or stabilization. As long as the clay passes the liquid paint filtration test, it can be disposed of in the dumpster of a facility whose contents are landfilled.

Environmental applications of organophilic clays include groundwater cleanup at old disposal sites and underground storage tank sites as well as the treatment of landfill leachates. Industrial applications include air compressors, cooling water, deburring and metal finishing, gas compressors, boiler blow-down, boiler feed water, metal casting, general manufacturing process water, water produced at oil well drilling sites, and stormwater.

Most applications to date have been in groundwater remediation at US Superfund sites, underground storage tank sites, landfill leachate cleanup, and de-watering of contaminated sites during construction.

 
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