Fresno Company Patents New Water Pollution Test

TDHI’s 500D Oil-in-Water Analyzer.
TDHI’s 500D Oil-in-Water Analyzer.

Fresno-based Turner Designs Hydrocarbon Instruments, Inc. (TDHI), a leader in the innovation and production of oil-in-water monitors and analyzers for the offshore oil production industry, has innovated a new system and method for the determination of water pollutants in water without the need to prepare a test sample. Known as “No-Solvent Oil-in-Water Analysis,” TDHI now makes it possible to perform oil-in-water analyses by making measurements directly on the produced water sample, including frac water and flowback water. No organic solvents are required.

Conventionally, most oil-in-water analysis methods for produced water require the oil to be extracted into an organic solvent prior to measurement. Many of the organic solvents used for extraction are either extremely flammable, hazardous to human health or both. The chlorinated hydrocarbons are very expensive and must be either recycled or disposed of as hazardous waste. Volatile hydrocarbon solvents such as pentane and hexane are extremely flammable and present a serious fire and explosion risk. All major airlines and many helicopter services consider the risk so serious that they will not transport these solvents.

The team of engineers at TDHI innovated their method based upon the addition of a detergent surfactant to a produced water sample. The surfactant converts the dispersed oil in the sample into an optically clear microemulsion that is ideal for direct fluorescence measurements using TDHI’s 500D Oil-in-Water Analyzer. The surfactant is safe to handle with a minimum of personal protective equipment and is only slightly flammable even under a direct flame. The U.S. Department of Transportation does not consider it to be a hazardous material. It can be shipped without hazardous identification labels and can be carried on commercial airlines and helicopters without declaration.

Gary Bartman, President of TDHI, is quite proud of his company’s home-grown innovation. “Our team of Fresno-based engineers on a daily basis solve the type of complex problems that would otherwise evade the minds of most of the engineers in our industry that are located elsewhere in the world. I look forward to seeing more innovation like this from both TDHI and other companies in the San Joaquin Valley.”

Bartman credits his local legal counsel, Richard M. Aaron of San Joaquin Valley-based Dowling Aaron Incorporated, for the high-technology approach he provided to TDHI. Bartman also credits Silicon Valley-based patent counsel, Brian Bathurst, of Menlo Park law firm Carr & Ferrell LLP. Bathurst, who maintains an active connection to the San Joaquin Valley, counseled and provided the in-person support for TDHI to seek patent protection for its new technologies. According to Bartman, “protecting our investment in innovation by seeking patent protection is essential for our continued growth, including the funding of future innovations. It’s also how our economy grows.” For more information about TDHI, visit

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