Green Operations

Safety-Kleen Demystifies Re-Refined Oil

March 2013, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Chris Wolski - Also by this author

Safety-Kleen operates a national fleet of 450 vehicles, which it uses to collect used oil from a variety of automotive and fleet sources.
Safety-Kleen operates a national fleet of 450 vehicles, which it uses to collect used oil from a variety of automotive and fleet sources.

Re-refined oil may be one of the best-kept secrets in the fleet industry. This isn’t because there is a conspiracy of silence; it just hasn’t entered the consciousness of many fleet managers.

But, with the emphasis on sustainability in many of today’s corporations, re-refined oil is perfectly positioned to become “the next big thing” in making fleets greener. At least, that’s the way Safety-Kleen sees it.

In November 2012, the company, which operates re-refineries in Canada and the U.S., gave Green Fleet and a dozen other automotive journalists the opportunity to learn firsthand about re-refined oil.

No Waste, All-Win
In the U.S., there is the opportunity to capture and re-refine approximately 1.3 billion gallons of motor oil annually. Surprisingly — and encouragingly — about 1 billion gallons are recycled nationwide every year.

Mike Ebert, VP – Oil Engineering and Business Development for Safety-Kleen, noted the company hopes to capture more of the 300 million gallons annually that are known to be generated, but not collected, an endeavor that will take the re-refining industry from five to 10 years to accomplish. He added that 1.3 billion gallons are probably the cap on the market.

Still, the company collects approximately 20 percent of the used oil suitable for re-refining in North America. Its facilities — including the 30 acre re-refinery in East Chicago, Ind., the site of the November tour — account for about 60 percent of the North American re-refining capacity.

In 2011, this translated into 200 million gallons of used motor oil collected from a variety of sources, including automobile and truck dealers, automotive garages, oil-change outlets, fleet service locations, and industrial plants. Of these 200 million gallons, 160 million were used to produce high-quality base and blended lubricating oils, which were sold to third-party distributors, retailers, government agencies, fleets, railroads, and industrial customers.

From an environmental perspective, Safety-Kleen’s process has a number of advantages. “The waste is very limited and it’s very efficient to produce,” Ebert said. “It takes about 85-percent less energy to re-refine oil than crude.”

According to Ebert, oil can be re-refined eight to 10 times.

In addition to re-refined oil, the used oil also yields asphalt extender, which is used by the road building and roofing industries.

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