Recycling in industry lubricants
Once a material or finished product has served its intended use and has been diverted or recovered from waste destined for disposal, it is then considered ‘post-consumer’. Many industrial companies recycle their materials but do not see the benefit of where they go. Regenerated oil is one example of waste that can be recycled from an industrial setting and utilised in other places.
The potential for recycled oil
Oil recycling makes environmental and economic sense. The manufacture of lubricating oil is the most energy-intensive process in a crude oil refinery, and used lubricating oils are often burned in industrial or commercial boilers, releasing multiple pollutants including carbon dioxide. However, new technology means that the base oil of a lubricant – the part of the lubricant that does not break down during use – can be re-refined to remove water, contaminants and additives.
Regenerated oil and re-refined oil are two different things;
- Re-refined oil is oil that can be re-used as a virgin base oil to create lubricants.
- Regenerated oil, however, can be taken untreated and reused for other purposes.
Regenerated oil can be turned into a number of things:
- Industrial burner oil (where the used oil is dewatered, filtered and demineralised for use in industrial burners)
- Mould oil to help release products from their moulds (e.g. pressed metal products, concrete)
- Hydraulic oil
- Bitumen based products
- An additive in manufactured products
- Incorporated into other products or refined back into new lubricating oil
Recycling to support business
Steel and aluminium stand out as industries that have successfully developed their manufacturing processes to incorporate large quantities of post-consumer recycled materials. Aluminium cans can contain a high percentage of recycled content, while many products made with steel contain at least a quarter reclaimed and recycled steel. The value of steel and aluminium to industry consistently guarantees that they are worthwhile components of curb side recycling programs.
Other companies, including Shell, are utilising plastic waste by turning it back into the chemicals it is made up from. In fact, Shell’s own ambition is to use one million tons of plastic waste in our chemicals plants by 2025.1 The technique, known as pyrolysis, is considered a breakthrough for hard-to-recycle plastics and several companies are hoping to scale this solution to industrial and profitable quantities.
How can companies balance business performance and emissions reduction?
Discover more about the Shell Lubricant Solutions products and services designed to help organisations embed sustainability into business strategy.
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