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Have you ever wondered how your used motor oil gets recycled?  Used motor oil is such an awful mess that it seems unbelievable that it can really be cleaned up. But it can and millions of gallons of it are every year. Here’s how it works.

Used oils are recycled at special chemical processing facilities called “Re-refineries.”

The first step in the recycling process is removing any water. This heat-based, dehydrating process also pulls out light fuels from the oil and these are actually used to power the refinery.

The next step is to remove any ethylene glycol.  This contaminated ethylene glycol is then cleaned up and processed for re-use in recycled antifreeze.

Then vacuum distillation is used to remove the portion of the oil suitable for reuse as lubricating oil.  This leaves other heavier oils and other combustion by-products for use in road paving. The extracted lubricating oil next undergoes hydro-treating to remove residual polymers and other chemical compounds, and to saturate carbon chains with hydrogen.

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 oil use, and finally high viscosity lubricants for heavy-duty applications such as grease and thick oils.

The final production step involves blending detergent and many other additives into the three grades of oil products. Each product is finally tested for quality and purity before putting it into containers for retail sale.

The original “hopelessly” contaminated oil is indeed cleaned up and reused.  This is a win-win for everyone.  Not only is it not necessary to pump out new oil from the ground, old oil isn’t discarded haphazardly.



Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter Wallet.