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Used Oil Re-Refining
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Used Oil Re-Refining

New motor oil that is put into your vehicle engine doesn’t wear out – it just gets dirty. That’s the idea behind re-refining. Today, our industry can use advanced technical processes to remove the contaminants that build up in the used oil and restore it to good-as-new condition.

The following is from an EPA report entitled "Managing Used Motor Oil.” ¹

"Used oil is a valuable resource because it has lubrication value and heat value. Although motor oil becomes contaminated during use with materials that reduce its ability to adequately lubricate engine parts, it still maintains its basic lubricating properties. When specially treated to remove contaminants, the used oil can be used as a base stock to produce new lubricating oil. This keeps the lubricating value of the used oil from being wasted. In addition, reusing the used oil as a base stock for lubricating oil saves the virgin oil that would otherwise be used as the lubricating oil base stock.”

When you buy a quart of new motor oil, approximately 90% of the content is what is called lubricating base oil. The base oil is usually made by refining virgin crude oil. Major refineries take in crude oil and process it to make gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, asphalt – and in some cases, lube base oil. Not all refineries have the equipment to extract and purify the lube base oil from crude, but there are many that do.

Re-Refined Lubricating Base Oil

Many years ago, it was not uncommon for lube base oil to be used directly as lubricating oil. But over the years, the demands imposed by modern high performance engines have led to new formulas that require supplemental chemicals to be added to the base oil. That’s why today, around 10% of typical motor oil is made up of different chemical additives that improve the performance of the lubricant. These additives may help the oil maintain its lubricating quality at very high or low temperatures. Some of the additives help to bond to water molecules to prevent the formation of rust. As the lubricating oil is used in an engine, the additives break down, and the oil becomes contaminated by components such as carbon and fuel. Eventually you change your oil to make sure that the lubricant has the capability to continuously protect the engine. The base oil component of the used oil is still valuable. Our challenge is to remove the contaminants and recover and purify the lube base oil. A generation ago, this wasn’t easy to do, but through the hard work of innovators in our industry, today there are many recyclers that are able to accomplish this task consistently and reliably.

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