More specialised and effective cleaning products and processes are needed now more than ever due to increasingly stringent health, safety and environmental regulations. Using products and processes like this could reduce the volume of waste produced from tank cleaning and dramatically cut project completion times. So, where can we find them?
A way to achieve a more effective process is by using more environmentally sound biobased chemistry, instead of partly biobased or petroleum-based. Unlike in the past, there is now a range of fully biobased products available primarily from suppliers in North America, Europe and China. However, the definition of what is actually a "fully" biobased product is not entirely certain. This definition is important to get right in order to establish the true environmental credentials of the chemicals industry in this field, effectively countering any accusations of greenwash.
The development and use of biosurfactants and biochemicals is aiding the implementation of fully biobased chemicals that can be used in developing new cleaning products. These surfactants are manufactured by bacteria and are subsequently harvested and purified. There are some biosurfactants on the market however, their high cost inhibits the uptake of this technology on a wider scale. Their performance is also not yet comparable to other components to be used in microemulsion formulations.
Here at SAS-ES we want to improve this, which is why we have an active research programme in the development and commercialisation of new biosurfactants with higher effectiveness. This process is called microemulsification and it has proven particularly effective in hard surface cleaning applications in the oil and gas industry.
A microemulsion forming surfactant system can absorb oil from a bulk oil phase, forming a microemulsion. The same solution absorbs oil from an oil coated surface or fine solid particulates with the same result without forming stable emulsion waste as a result. In the microemulsion environment, any oil is effectively encapsulated within the surfactant monolayer and is therefore no longer in direct contact with the original surface or solid. Oil contaminated surfaces may therefore be rendered completely oil free as a result of the microemulsification process.
The mode of action of these cleaning systems is threefold:
- The penetration of the contaminating oil layer through the solvent/microemulsion mechanism
- The microemulsification of the oil components into the water phase
- The water-wetting of the underlying solid surfaces through the surfactant action
Learn more about microemulsions by downloading our free Whitepaper!