Motor oil doesn’t wear out, it just gets dirty. As it is used, the additives break down and dirt is introduced from the engine, causing it to need replacement. The re-refining process is able to remove the spent additives and contaminants and return the oil to its original state – lubricating base stocks.
An estimated 2.64 billion gallons of oil are sold in North America each year, but less than 50% of that is collected for processing. This leaves the possibility that the uncollected oil can make its way into the environment and pollute natural resources. Furthermore, 50% of “recycled” oil is actually used as fuel in industrial burners and ships. In addition to the environmental impacts of this practice, this represents the lowest value end use for used motor oil. Re-refining produces high quality end products that are indistinguishable from virgin crude products, while diverting a harmful waste stream and contributing to resource sustainability.
Oil re-refining has been around for decades, but it was the OPEC oil embargo in the 1970s that forced innovation in the sector. Before this time oil recycling technologies were not able to produce base oils that met the market’s quality standards. However, a tripling of crude prices incentivized technological development to meet the demand.
In the 1980s hydrotreating was introduced to the industry in the form of the Phillips Re-refined Oil Process. This first commercial scale re-refining technology demonstrated the viability of hydrotreating and was used by other companies in their emerging used oil management facilities. As more companies entered the market they began to improve on the technology, incorporating another refining technology called vacuum distillation and making further process improvements, resulting in a process that became industry standard for three decades.
From 1991-2008 there were no new re-refining projects in North America. However, the oil boom following this period, combined with a shift towards higher quality lubricants has caused the industry to innovate once again, and Gen III is leading the way with our breakthrough ReGen re-refining technology.
ReGen combines proven refining technologies into a proprietary process that is able to extract a higher quantity of high quality base lubricating oils than traditional re-refineries, including 50% Group III production.
Used motor oil will arrive at the Gen III facility where it will go through a series of refining processes to remove contaminants and restore the oil to its original state. As the used oils are processed, the highest quality base oils are separated from other petroleum by-products such as ultra-low sulphur diesel.
The end result is Group III and Group II base oils that meet the American Petroleum Institute’s standards. The base stocks are then sold to blenders and mixed with additives to create high quality finished motor oils.