Have you ever wondered what happens to your used motor oil when it goes to be recycled? Used motor oil is such an awful mess, can it ever be really cleaned? The answer is yes. It can be cleaned up and it can be reused. Here’s how it’s done.
Industrial and automotive used oils are recycled at what are called “re-refineries”. Re-refineries receive the used oil in bulk, usually via large tanker trucks. After it is received, the oil is tested to determine suitability for re-refining. Once a shipment of used oil is deemed suitable, it is unloaded into tanks at the re-refinery.
The first step is removing any water. This dehydrating process also removes light fuels from the oil and these light fuels are actually used to power the refinery.
Next step is to remove any ethylene glycol for re-use in recycled antifreeze. Then vacuum distillation is used to remove the “fraction” suitable for reuse as lubricating oil. This is referred to as the “Lube Cut”. This leaves other heavier oils and other combustion by-products for use in road paving. The lube cut next undergoes hydro treating to remove residual polymers and other chemical compounds, and to saturate carbon chains with hydrogen for greater stability.
The final oil separation, or “fractionating”, separates the oil into three different oil grades. The first are light viscosity lubricants suitable for general lubricant applications, then low viscosity lubricants for automotive and industrial applications, and finally high viscosity lubricants for heavy-duty applications.
The final production step involves blending detergent and other additives into the three grades of oil products. Then each product is tested again for quality and purity before putting it into containers for retail sale.
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