|Why You Should Reclaim and Recycle Used Oil?
Going “green” by becoming ecologically and environmentally responsible is an excellent practice that does not always have to cost your organization money. In many cases, it can actually save money. A number of industries have begun reclaiming or recycling used oil because it makes good business sense. These include automotive manufacturers, steel mills, paper mills, sugar mills, process plants and power generation plants.
Unfortunately, some companies do not reclaim or recycle used oil because they think they don’t have the time to devote to these programs. The engineering/reliability managers of these plants are often so busy managing the day-to-day processes that little or no attention is paid to the total lubricant life cycle, which in most instances would make their process more reliable and less expensive to maintain, especially when it comes to reclaiming oils.
Reclaiming and recycling used oil offers many benefits, such as increased machine reliability, considerable cost savings on oils, less time spent on oil change-outs, reduced environmental contamination and decreased waste disposal costs. Re-refining used oil requires about one-third the energy of refining crude oil to lubricant quality. Also, consider that it takes 42 gallons of crude oil but only one gallon of used oil to produce 2½ quarts of new, high-quality lubricating oil.
Reclamation and recycling are related processes but with significant differences. Reclamation is the act of salvaging, recovering or reclaiming. In this context, the oil is rescued from normal degradation. It generally involves cleaning, drying and adsorption to remove water, acids, sludge and other contaminants. The reclaiming of oil is mostly a nonchemical process that restores an in-service lubricant to good health by removing impurities.
For the most part, reclamation can and should be done onsite to mitigate the chances of cross-contamination. Reclamation may also take place offsite where the vendor of the reclamation service drains the existing oil and replaces it with previously reclaimed oil. Keep in mind that if the oil is removed from the plant and reclaimed at an offsite location, the potential for cross-contamination increases tremendously. In addition, if an oil spill or accident occurs during transport to the facility, the owner of the oil is liable.
Recycling is the act of returning something or a part of something back to useful service, which may be different from the original application. Whether it is in an engine, gearbox, hydraulic system or turbine, all lubricant oil eventually reaches the end of its useful life and must be drained from the machine, sump or reservoir.
Some forms of oil recycling can be done onsite. If your plant produces large amounts of used oil that can’t be reclaimed, this used oil can be turned into lubricant oils or fuel for burning in boilers, industrial furnaces, etc. On the other hand, if your used oils must be sent offsite because they are too badly contaminated with different viscosity/base oils and chemicals, or your plant does not have the volume to justify onsite recycling, make certain that the used lubricants are handled and processed in an environmentally acceptable manner by a waste-removal/recycling company. A number of recycling organizations are available, but you must ensure that you are dealing with a reputable company that processes the oil correctly in compliance with your local laws and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.