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Apparatus and method for collecting and treating waste

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Apparatus and method for collecting and treating waste


Devices and methods for collecting and treating waste materials. One implementation of the present invention includes a mobile apparatus that continuously collects a waste material and continuously treats the waste material so that it is suitable for disposal, transportation, or reuse at a desired location. Such an apparatus may include a delivery mechanism that delivers a waste material to a motor driven mixing unit at a selectable rate. This delivery mechanism may include a pump or a motor driven blower and separator. The mixing unit may be configured to receive a treating material and to mix the waste material with the treating material. Advantageously, the delivery mechanism and the mixing unit are positioned together on a portable unit (e.g., a trailer, a barge, a railroad car, etc.) so that the apparatus is mobile and portable.

Inventor: Dwight Hartley
USPTO Applicaton #: #20120292257 - Class: 210709 (USPTO) - 11/22/12 - Class 210 
Liquid Purification Or Separation > Processes >Making An Insoluble Substance Or Accreting Suspended Constituents >Controlling Process In Response To Stream Condition

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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20120292257, Apparatus and method for collecting and treating waste.

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CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

N/A.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

I. The Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to methods and devices for collecting and treating waste materials.

II. Background and Relevant Art

In drilling operations, a fluid commonly referred to as “mud” is circulated from the surface, downward through a drill pipe and out openings in the drill bit at the bottom of a borehole. The mud may include hydrocarbons, lubricants and other chemicals that assist in the drilling process. After exiting the drill bit at the bottom of the borehole, the mud along with other material from the borehole (often referred to collectively as “cuttings”), are pushed back upward through the borehole to the surface.

Once at the surface, the cuttings that are extracted from the borehole may be processed in order to separate the mud from the other material. The mud may then be recycled and sent back down the drill pipe, and the material that is separated from the mud may be collected into a separate area. Depending on the depth of the borehole and the location of the drill site, the material that is separated from the mud, which is commonly referred to as “sludge,” may include a mixture of different solids, such as stone, dirt, clay, and salt. Sludge may also include toxic materials like hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and naturally occurring radioactive material. Despite the separating process, it is also common for sludge to include nonsolid components, such as water, oil, mud, and other fluids. Sludge can be very difficult to handle with conventional equipment.

Untreated sludge should not be introduced directly back into the environment for a variety of reasons. For example, if the discarded sludge contains salt, plant life at or around an area where sludge is dumped may die. Further, if the sludge contains hydrocarbons, heavy metals or other toxic materials, these materials may leach into the ground and contaminate ground water. Many states have regulations that make it illegal to dump untreated sludge from a drill site into the environment. Sludge from a drill site can be treated at the drill site. Conventional techniques for treating sludge near a drill site include digging a large pit into the ground near the drill site. The bottom and side walls of the pit may be lined with a thick plastic liner to prevent environmental contamination from the sludge. The sludge may then be deposited into the pit. A chemical that treats the sludge may then be added to the sludge pit and mixed into the sludge. Due to the size of the pits, trackhoe excavators are often used to mix the chemical into the sludge. The chemical mixed into the pool of sludge may convert the mixture into a solid, thereby rendering inert any potentially hazardous materials within the sludge.

This method for treating sludge is problematic for a number of different reasons. First, the space around a drill site is often limited. Depending on the depth and size of a borehole, there may not be sufficient space available in the immediate vicinity of a drill site to dig a pit large enough to deposit and treat sludge. Second, there is a significant potential for environmental contamination. It is not uncommon for a trackhoe operator to tear the plastic lining within a pit during the mixing process. If the plastic lining within the pit is torn, there is no barrier to keep the sludge from seeping into the ground. Third, mixing the chemical thoroughly into the sludge can be difficult. If not mixed thoroughly, some of the sludge may not be treated and may remain potentially hazardous to the environment. Further, if the sludge is not mixed completely or if an insufficient amount of or ineffective chemical is used to treat the sludge, the treated mixture may not solidify properly. There is a potential that a vehicle traveling over or a person walking across such a sludge pit may sink into the pit.

Finally, a pit containing untreated sludge can be a danger to birds and other animals that land on or wander into it. As untreated sludge sits in a pit, the solids may separate from the fluids. The solids settle to the bottom of the pit and the fluid collects at the surface. This fluid is often oily, containing hydrocarbons. Any bird or other animal that comes into contact with this fluid is likely to be harmed. Recognizing the significance of this problem, federal regulations exist that impose a fine on operators of drill sites for each animal that dies in a sludge pit.

Alternatively, sludge may be treated off-site. To treat sludge at an off-site location, the sludge may be collected into transportable containers. Often these containers are then taken by truck to a facility where the sludge is treated. Once treated, the sludge may be used as fill material back at the drill site or it can be discarded at a landfill.

As with on-site treatment of sludge, transporting sludge to an off-site facility for treatment is problematic for a number of different reasons. First, there is a significant potential for environmental contamination. Sludge can be spilled while being transferred from the drill site to the transportable container. In addition, there is a potential that the sludge can leak from the container while in transit to the treatment facility. Second, transporting sludge to an off-site facility requires significant resources, including fuel, time, and manpower. Sludge must be loaded into a container and unloaded at a treatment facility. Once treated, the material must be reloaded back onto a truck to either be returned to the drill site or taken to a landfill. Because of these dangers, there are federal regulations that limit the weight, volume, and physical condition of sludge that can be transported in one load by a single truck. There are also federal regulations that limit the amount of time that a licensed driver can drive in a single day. Compliance with these regulations often makes the transportation of sludge even more expensive. Finally, because the space around a drill site is limited, it can be difficult to get trucks into and away from the drill site. As the distance between the drill site and the trucks increases, the potential for a spill between the drill site and the truck also increases.

The aforementioned problems relating to sludge that are encountered in the drilling industry are also encountered in a number of other industries. Indeed, waste material (including sludge) is a common byproduct that exists in many different industries. As in drilling operations, waste material in other industries is often in need of treatment before it can be discarded. Large vacuum trucks are often used to collect waste material. Because vacuum trucks are not generally equipped to treat the waste material, once the vacuum truck is full, the truck must transport the waste material to a specialized facility for treatment. The waste material may be removed from the vacuum truck and treated by the facility. Once the waste material has been treated, it may be loaded into another truck or trailer for final disposal. As explained previously, this method for collecting and treating waste materials is problematic.

BRIEF

SUMMARY

OF THE INVENTION

Implementations of the present invention solve one or more of the problems in the art with an apparatus for collecting and treating waste materials. In particular, one implementation of the present invention includes a mobile and integrated apparatus for continuously collecting and treating a waste material with a portable unit that can be stationed at a waste production site. The present invention also provides methods for collecting and treating waste material with a portable apparatus that continuously collects and treats a waste material.

One implementation of the present invention includes a mobile and integrated apparatus for continuously collecting and treating a waste material. The apparatus comprises a delivery mechanism that is configured to continuously move a waste material at a selectable rate through a conduit from a waste site to a motor driven mixing unit. The motor driven mixing unit is configured to mix the waste material with a treating material that can also be introduced to the mixing unit at a selectable rate. The delivery mechanism and the motor driven mixing unit are positioned together on a portable unit so that the mobile and integrated apparatus can be portably stationed at a desired site.

Another implementation of the present invention includes a mobile and integrated apparatus for continuously collecting and treating a waste material that comprises a motor driven blower that is in fluid communication with a conduit. The blower is configured to decrease the air pressure within the conduit. A separator that is in fluid communication with the conduit is configured to receive a combination of a waste material and air from the conduit and separate the waste material from the air. A motor driven mixing unit that is in fluid communication with the separator continuously receives the waste material from the separator at a selectable rate, along with a treating material that can also be introduced to the mixing unit at a selectable rate. The motor driven blower, the separator, and the motor driven mixing unit are positioned and integrated together on a portable unit (e.g., a trailer or barge) so that the apparatus can be portably stationed at a desired site.

In one embodiment, the distance that the waste material travels between the separator and the point at which the waste material is deposited into the mixing unit and converted into treated material is not more than about 30 feet.

Another implementation of the present invention includes a method for continuously collecting and treating waste with an integrated and portable waste collection and treatment apparatus. The method comprises delivering a combination of a waste material and air through a conduit to a separator that is positioned on a portable unit; separating the waste material from the air; continuously delivering the waste material at a selectable rate from the separator to a motor driven mixing unit that is positioned on the portable unit; continuously delivering a treating material at a selectable rate to the mixing unit; mixing the waste material with the treating material such that the treating material treats the waste material and converts the waste material into a treated material that is suitable for disposal at a landfill or for use as a construction fill material; and continuously removing the treated material from the mixing unit.

Additional features and advantages of exemplary embodiments of the invention will be set forth in the description which follows, and in part will be obvious from the description, or may be learned by the practice of such exemplary embodiments. The features and advantages of such embodiments may be realized and obtained by means of the instruments and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims. These and other features will become more fully apparent from the following description and appended claims, or may be learned by the practice of such exemplary embodiments as set forth hereinafter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In order to describe the manner in which the above-recited and other advantages and features of the invention can be obtained, a more particular description of the invention briefly described above will be rendered by reference to specific embodiments thereof which are illustrated in the appended drawings. Understanding that these drawings depict only typical embodiments of the invention and are not therefore to be considered to be limiting of its scope, the invention will be described and explained with additional specificity and detail through the use of the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 illustrates a flow diagram identifying steps that may be involved in a first method for collecting and treating a waste material according to the present invention;

FIG. 2 illustrates a block diagram of a first exemplary apparatus according to the present invention;



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Previous Patent Application:
Hydrophobic materials made by vapor deposition coating and applications thereof
Next Patent Application:
Treatment apparatus and methods
Industry Class:
Liquid purification or separation
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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20120292257 A1
Publish Date
11/22/2012
Document #
13110767
File Date
05/18/2011
USPTO Class
210709
Other USPTO Classes
210 87, 210 88
International Class
02F1/66
Drawings
8



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