Which oil skimmer is best for your situation?

SpillPro on 8 September 2017

Oil skimmers are used to remove oil that is floating on the surface of water. They are often used in circumstances where oil has been spilled and is threatening the environment, but they can be used in industrial operations too.

Different types of oil skimmers are available for different applications. Which one you choose depends on the recovery rate required, the thickness of the oil on the surface and the context of still or flowing water.

In brief

Type of oil skimmer

Technology used



Oleophilic drums

Harbours and inland water bodies


Weir and hopper

Open sea and rivers


Grooved discs

Open sea


Suction head

Shallow water


Drum Skimmers

Drum skimmers are made of polyethylene drums, which are oleophilic (meaning they attract oil). As the drum rotates in the water, oil sticks to the surface of the drum. This oil is then scraped off into a collection trough, from which it is pumped away. Drum skimmers are extremely efficient removing only 3% entrained water with the oil.

Drum skimmers can be used in a wide variety of applications. They can operate in as little as 75 millimeters of water and can be sized for skimming rates from 5,000 to 180,000 litres per hour. Steam coils can be fitted to drum skimmers to improve the viscosity of the recovered oil for pumping.

drum skimmer support image

Weir Skimmers

Weir skimmers consist of a weir with a storage hopper, and are designed to remove the surface layer of water and oil. The removed oil/water mixture is pumped away from the hopper, and the pumping rate determines the depth of the cut into the surface.

Weir skimmers are affordable, high capacity skimmers and can be deployed in rivers, lakes, tanks, pits, and lagoons, as well as the open ocean. They can achieve recovery rates as high as 300,000 litres per hour and are thus well suited to quick recovery after a large spill. Thick layers of oil on the water are easily processed using weir skimmers. They are often used as a first response to make a large impact in a short time.

weir skimmer support image

Self-launching Skimmers

Self-launching skimmers use a grooved disc technology along with a specially designed launch system to deploy in open water. The discs pick up the oil from the water surface at an efficiency of over 95% and a recovery rate up to 150,000 litres per hour. The combination of high efficiency and high recovery rates make them ideal to clean up large spills in offshore conditions.

The self-launching system enables operators to hydraulically lift the skimmer and place it in the water behind a boat. Two booms are attached to the skimmer to direct the flow of oil into the opening. One boom is attached to the towing vessel, and the other is attached to a BoomVane, which takes the place of a second towing vessel. In this way, oil is directed at maximum rates into the skimmer, but costs and response time are minimised by the use of only one vessel.

launching skimmer support image

Suction Skimmers

suction skimmer operates like a vacuum cleaner on the surface of the water. A float keeps the head on the surface and the power of the vacuum or pump attached to the skimmer determines the recovery rate. The recovered material is either pumped to a tank onshore or on a vessel.

The advantage of suction skimmers is their ability to operate in extremely shallow water. They are often used on the edge of dams or lakes or in bunded areas.

Suction skimmers are extremely light weight and have standard hose fittings. They can thus easily be connected to any standard vacuum system or pump suction. Their flexibility makes them easy to deploy.

suction skimmer support image

Want more information about oil skimmers?

SpillPro has extensive experience in oil skimmers. Our trained technical experts can support you to customise, supply, and replenish spill kits as well as train your team.

Call our expert team on 1800 368 450 today to discuss the best oil skimmer solution for your business.