Waste Oil Reuse Can Help Balance Bottom Line

As manufacturers look for every cost advantage they can find in a sluggish economy, they may want to consider recycling waste oil for heat or selling it to an authorized recycler.

"If there were not enough environmental reasons to resell or reuse oil already, there's absolutely no reason you should not be reclaiming your oil," insisted Abanaki Corp.'s Tom Hobson in a Nov. 4 press release. "The oil you can recycle from your own plant can be reused in an industrial heater or an authorized recycler will buy it from you."

For some time, Hobson and those in his Cleveland-based company have been encouraging plants to recognize the financial advantages of turning waste oil into profit. With an oil skimmer, a company can collect up to 200 gallons per hour of oil or grease from wastewater. "Oil skimming cost-effectively reclaims oil from wastewater, and as heating bills climb during the winter, they can save energy costs by burning it," Hobson said. "In fact, burning spent oil in the proper furnace can often deliver a higher Btu [British thermal unit] value than new oil."

Since used oil usually has a thicker viscosity, it possesses more energy than #2 fuel oil and more than twice the energy value of LP gas or coal. Waste oils that can be burned for heat include almost any oil up to 50 S.A.E.: metal-cutting oils, lube oil, crankcase oil, transmission and hydraulic fluid, #1 and #2 diesel fuel, vegetable oils, and grease.

"The EPA supports the burning of used oil on site," Hobson explained, "because it prevents oil from entering the watershed and eliminates the risk of spills during transportation."

Those considering reselling their waste oil can turn to authorized recyclers such as David Charlton, chief executive officer of Akron-based Rice Environmental Services (RES), a 15-year veteran in the collection and recycling of used oils, as well as anti-freeze and oil filters, from commercial and industrial businesses.

"It comes down to this — one, you can sell the clean, dry used oil or, two, you can recycle it," said Charlton, whose company is part of the National Oil Recyclers Association (NORA). Established in 1985, NORA promotes "the primary mission of fighting the hazardous waste designation of used oil and [has] aided in the development of the EPA's used oil management standards."

"We're completely on board to remove oil from water," said Charlton, who pointed out that The Rice Companies not only recycle but also sell industrial and automotive lubricants. "It not just about reusing and recycling. It's about rethinking how things are done. It's the higher goal of sustainability."

Two years ago, an Abanaki-sponsored survey showed 78 percent of respondents were searching for ways to cut plant costs. Thirty-five percent said they would consider burning waste oils. Only eight percent said that their plants already burned waste oil for heat.