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Overview

Solvent distillation, as a means of recycling, is a viable alternative to the single use/disposal of solvents. It is environmentally benign and reduces the amount of solvent purchased and disposed. Solvent distillation is best suited for processing waste solvents that are not excessively contaminated.

Used oils are by-products of oil use in various machineries and vehicles across industries. Lubricating oils must be replaced on a regular basis in all operating equipment due to contamination from dirt, water, salts, metals, incomplete products of combustion, antifreeze, or other materials. Additives to lubricating oils may also break down under use, adding contamination.

Once replaced by new lubricants, used oil becomes a significant management challenge. Without access to suitable recycling or waste-to-energy options, used oil tends to be disposed in ways that can degrade the environment: as “road oil” for dust control; illegally dumped into waterways; or disposed on land or in landfills where groundwater contamination can result.

Meeting fuel or lubrication performance specifications entails a higher level of processing than decanting, settling, or filtering. The large number of contaminants potentially contained in used oil complicates the selection of appropriate treatment methods. A number of technologies of varying complexity have been proposed, or are currently in use, throughout the used oil industry. These technologies include variations of acid/clay or other chemical treatments, various distillation processes, cracking, hydrotreating, solvent treatment, and blending/compounding. Combinations of these treatment technologies with decanting, settling, and filtering are required to produce higher value oils.

The degree and complexity of used oil treatment varies with the intended use of the end products. Producing a clear, light-colored lubrication stock that meets a variety of different machinery manufacturer’s service requirements generally requires more complex treatment and blending than producing a used oil fuel. Capital costs usually increase the more sophisticated the treatment technology, but may be offset to some degree by higher-valued end products.