Water in Oil – How does the Laboratory determine this?

Feb 3, 2014 | condition monitoring, Failure Analysis, Filtration, oil analysis, oil sampling

In our last blog we spoke about what to do when we find water in our Oil sample. Today let’s talk about the process the laboratories use to determine water in oil.

Some samples are quite easy to tell when there is water in the oil, they tend to be milky, cloudy or you can visually see water in the bottom of the sample, but what if there is such a small amount you simply can’t tell? how does the laboratory determine or even find this small amount of water?

When the lab receives samples, they are all booked into a database and given a specific laboratory number, this number allows the sample a unique identifier that is used throughout the entire sample process, these numbers are normally located on your Oil Analysis Report.

All samples are first screened by pouring a small amount of oil onto a hot plate, the water reacts to the heat of the hot plate and  causes it to bubble, the amount of bubbles can provide an estimation of how much water is in the oil.

The result of the crackle is recorded and the sample is prep for further testing.

A few other things amongst the testing that can identify water is a change in viscosity, the samples viscosity may have increased due to the contaminant effecting the shear rate of the oil. Depending on the type of oil and grade of oil, it may also decrease so further testing is always required.


Another way of testing of finding oil in water is via FTIR (Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy) An FTIR can determine an approximate amount of oil in water and in some cases is used by Laboratories to help report the amount of water found in the sample.

The most appropriate and accurate method of determining exactly how much water is in the oil is by Karl Fisher Titration. Coulometric and Volumetric titration can both report trace amounts of water in a sample. Water can be reported in both % and ppm, depending on the laboratory practices and the reporting method, you should see one or the other in your Oil Analysis Report.

Techenomics are committed to their clients, after the amount of water has been determined, you will be notified immediately and results will be uploaded to the Online Blue Oceans software, you will then need to act upon these findings and ensure the issues are rectified. Resampling after the repair is always recommended and should be a part of your standard maintenance practices.

That’s basically it, not rocket science, simple testing can determine the amount of water in oil. Once you receive your report or phone call due to the urgency of the contaminant, ensure you act upon it immediately.


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