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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;

FIG. 3 illustrates a flow diagram identifying steps that may be involved in a second method for collecting and treating a waste material according to the present invention

FIG. 4 illustrates a block diagram of a second exemplary apparatus according to the present invention

FIG. 5 illustrates an exemplary mobile waste treatment apparatus on a trailer;

FIG. 6 illustrates a top plan view of the apparatus of FIG. 3;

FIG. 7A illustrates more detailed view of a mixing auger of the present invention at a first angle; and

FIG. 7B illustrates a more detailed view of a mixing auger of the present invention at a second angle.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS I. Introduction and Definitions

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.

Waste material, as that term is used herein, can include any material that requires some form of treatment before it can be disposed of at a landfill, used as a construction fill material, or otherwise discarded. A waste material can include a variety of materials in various forms. For example, a waste material can be wet or dry. A waste material may be a liquid, a solid, a slurry, or a gelatinous substance. A waste material may or may not be toxic or include elements that are harmful to the environment. By way of example only, waste materials can include, but are not limited to, sludge from a drilling site, sewage, mud, dirt, dust, ash, and any type of sediment from a pit, pond, lagoon, tank bottom, or other enclosure.

A waste material can be treated by mixing it with a treating material. The way in which a treating material treats a waste material can vary. For example, a treating material can simply solidify a waste material that is too wet to be discarded at a landfill. A treating material can also bind or render inert any toxic elements in a waste material, such as hydrocarbons or heavy metals. As with the waste material, a treating material can include a variety of materials in various forms. A treating material can be wet or dry. By way of example only, treating materials can include, but are not limited to, saw dust, wood chips, cement kiln dust, lime kiln dust, ash, sulphuric acid, portland cement slurry, bentonite clay slurry, peat moss or other growing media, absorbent polymers, or any hydroscopic or cementitious material.

A waste material can be collected from a number of different sites that produce a waste material. These waste production sites include but are not limited to drilling sites, manufacturing plants, mines, paint and other chemical factories, refineries, and power plants. The waste material from these sites can be delivered to a mobile collecting and treating apparatus as described in the present invention in a number of different ways.

FIG. 1 illustrates a flow diagram identifying steps of a first method that can be implemented in a method for collecting and treating a waste material. In a first step S1 of first method S100, a combination of a waste material and air is delivered to a separator. The waste material can be delivered to the separator through a pipe, conduit, or conveyor system. The waste material can also be delivered to the separator in batches or continuously. For example, a conduit attached at one end to a vacuum source can be used to continuously deliver waste material and air to a separator.

In a second step S2, the waste material is separated from the air. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that there are a variety of different devices and methods can be employed to separate a waste material from air. For example, a separator may use cyclonic separation or a filter or another device or method for separating a waste material from air.

In a third step S3, the waste material and a treating material are delivered to a mixing unit. The waste material and treating material can be delivered to the mixing unit in batches or continuously. For example, a metering auger can be used to continuously deliver a waste material to a mixing unit at desired rate. A metering auger can also be used to continuously deliver a treating material to a mixing unit at a desired rate.

In a fourth step S4, the waste material is mixed with the treating material. In one embodiment, a mixing auger can be used to mix the waste material with the treating material. In a final step S5, the treated material is removed from the mixing unit. The treated material can be removed in batches or continuously.

Each of the steps associated with first method S100 may advantageously be performed on a mobile, portable and integrated apparatus for collecting and treating a waste material (e.g., a trailer, a barge, a railroad car, etc.). Further, these steps can be performed in a closed system, which can assist in avoiding spills and leaks.

FIG. 2 illustrates a block diagram of an apparatus according to the present invention, which can implement the steps of first method S100. Apparatus 10 includes a delivery mechanism, which can be any mechanism that delivers a waste material to a mixing unit. The delivery mechanism in apparatus 10 comprises a motor driven blower 20 and a separator 40. Blower 20 creates an area of low pressure within a conduit portions 30a and 30b. Conduit portion 30a delivers a waste material and air to the separator 40. Conduit portion 30b delivers air and a residual amount of waste material to blower 20. Preferably, conduit portion 30b includes one or more additional separators in order to reduce the amount of residual waste to blower 20. However, additional separators are not necessary. Separator 40 is in fluid communication with a mixing unit 50. Separator 40 delivers the waste material to the mixing unit 50 through an outlet 42. Mixing unit 50 receives the waste material through an inlet 54. Mixing unit 50 can be powered by a motor (not shown). Mixing unit 50 mixes the waste material with a treating material. Once mixed, the treated material can exit mixing unit 50 through an outlet 56. Each of the devices associated with apparatus 10 can be advantageously positioned on a portable unit 60.

FIG. 3 illustrates a flow diagram identifying steps of a second method that can be implemented in a method for collecting and treating a waste material. In a first step S11 of second method 5200, a waste material is delivered to a mixing unit via a pump. The pump may be selectively adjustable to deliver the waste material to the mixing unit at a desired rate. The waste material may be a liquid, slurry, or gelatinous substance.

In a second step S12, a treating material is delivered to the mixing unit. The treating material can be delivered to the mixing unit in batches or continuously. For example, a metering auger can also be used to continuously deliver the treating material to the mixing unit at a desired rate.

In a third step S13, the waste material is mixed with the treating material. In one embodiment, a mixing auger can be used to mix the waste material with the treating material. In a final step S14, the treated material is removed from the mixing unit. The treated material can be removed in batches or continuously

Each of the steps associated with second method 5200 may advantageously be performed on a mobile, portable and integrated apparatus for collecting and treating a waste material (e.g., a trailer, a barge, a railroad car, etc.). Further, these steps can be performed in a closed system, which can assist in avoiding spills and leaks

FIG. 4 illustrates a block diagram of an apparatus according to the present invention, which can implement the steps of second method S200. Apparatus 70 also includes delivery mechanism, which comprises a pump 80. Pump 80 forces waste material through conduit portions 72 and 74. Conduit portion 74 delivers a waste material a mixing unit 82. Mixing unit 82 can be powered by a motor (not shown). Mixing unit 82 mixes the waste material with a treating material. Once mixed, the treated material can exit mixing unit 82 through an outlet 84. Each of the devices associated with apparatus 70 can be advantageously positioned on a portable unit 90.

II. Exemplary Portable, Integrated Apparatus and Methods

FIG. 3 illustrates a side view of an exemplary embodiment of an apparatus for collecting and treating a waste material according to the present invention. FIG. 4 illustrates a top plan view of the same apparatus. Apparatus 100 continuously collects waste material through a conduit 107. Conduit 107 is connected at one end to a blower 110. The other end of conduit 107 is located at or near a waste source or a collection of waste material. Blower 110 is powered by motor 115. Motor 115 drives blower 110, which creates a decrease in pressure within conduit 107. The decrease in pressure within conduit 107 can be sufficiently strong to suction or pull a waste material through conduit 107 and toward blower 110. For example, a waste material may be pulled through approximately two-hundred or more feet of conduit before arriving at apparatus 100. An operator at the open end of conduit 107 (not shown) can maneuver the open end of the conduit such that waste material is continuously pulled into the conduit and toward the mobile apparatus.

Conduit 107 can be made out of any material that is sufficiently strong to hold the decrease in pressure created by the blower without collapsing, and maintain integrity as a result of wear caused by waste materials. For example, conduit 107 can be manufactured from rubber, plastic, or a metal. Conduit 107 can also have a wide variety of cross-sectional shapes and sizes. For example, conduit 107 can have a circular cross-sectional shape with a diameter of between about 2 inches and about 8 inches. In another embodiment, the conduit can have a cross-sectional diameter of between about 4 inches and about 6 inches.

Conduit 107 may proceed through one or more separators that are configured to remove waste material from conduit 107 as the waste travels toward blower 110. Illustrated apparatus 100 includes three separation devices: first separation device 120, second separation device 180, and third separation device 185. Different sections of conduit 107 that interconnect the waste source to the separation devices and the blower are identified. Specifically, conduit section 107a identifies the section of conduit 107 that is at a waste source at one end and that is secured to a first separator 120 at another end. Conduit section 107b identifies the section of conduit 107 that is secured to the top of first separator 120 at one end and to a second separator 180 at another end. Conduit section 107c identifies the section of conduit 107 that is secured to the top of second separator 180 at one end and to a third separator 185 at another end. Conduit section 107d identifies the section of conduit 107 that is secured to the bottom of third separator 185 at one end and to the blower 110 at another end. A separator, as used herein, can be any device that separates material from air within conduit 107 as the air within conduit 107 proceeds toward blower 110. A separator, according to the present invention, can further include an integrated bag for dust collection and 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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