We are trained to believe that nothing will ever be as good as it was when it was brand new, so most people see the words recycled, re-refined, or refurbished and assume those products are of lesser quality. However, that is not the case with lubricants. Re-refined oil is actually as good of quality or even better than virgin oil, and recycled oil is a completely different category and purpose.
Re-refining is a process that has been developed over many years. While recycled oil is oil that’s been filtered to remove soluble impurities, re-refined oil goes much further and removes all impurities, both soluble and insoluble. Additives are chemically stripped from the oil after filtration, leaving you with un-additized base oil. From here, the oil is sent off site back through the same distillation stack used to make virgin oil, where they remove water molecules and any other contaminants. When it comes out of the distillation stack, the oil has to be qualified by the API against the exact same base oil ratings as virgin oil, and if the oil doesn’t meet those standards, API won’t let it fly.
Because the re-refined oil has gone through the same refining process as crude oil does to become virgin oil, it is as good of quality as virgin oil (and sometimes better). In addition, re-refined oil is more environmentally friendly than virgin oil. Re-refining waste oil uses 3x less energy than it takes to refine crude oil into virgin oil. Some oils, such as motor oils, can be refined many times over for maximum savings.
Knowing that re-refined oils are only allowed on the market if they meet the same API standards as virgin oils, there’s no reason to doubt their quality. You’ll also be making a “green” decision that benefits the environment.
The term “recycling used oil” mostly refers to taking used motor oil and running it through a filtration system to remove any insoluble impurities. This method won’t remove any of the chemical or soluble contaminants, but removing the physical cones can make it suitable to be burned as fuel.
Technological advancements for re-refining used oil since the mid-1990’s, have resulted in superior quality base oils and lubricants in the market today that can meet the most stringent standards for automotive engine oil specifications. Re-refined base oils meet the American Petroleum Institute (API) and Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) specifications, and they are equivalent to the performance standards of base oils produced from crude oil.
The International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC) and the American Petroleum Institute (API) have both certified that re-refined motor oil is approved for use by most major auto manufacturers and will not void engine or transmission warranties.
The most common end use for the waste oils collected in the U.S. is to utilize the oil as a boiler fuel, which releases harmful emissions, and the possibility of using the used oil again is lost.
Burning used oil as a boiler fuel potentially releases the following into the atmosphere:
– From study conducted by the California EPA and University of California at Berkley
10 million barrels of used oil is improperly disposed each year, which is two times the estimated amount of crude oil released during the BP Macondo well blowout in April 2010 in the Gulf Coast.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that re-refining used oil to produce base oil requires 50 – 80% less energy than refining crude oil.
Re-Refining used oil rather than extracting additional crude oil from diminishing domestic supplies, or importing additional crude oil from foreign countries, helps conserve the overall oil supply as well as reduces our dependency on foreign oil.