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New life for old oil

With its new, state-of-the-art re-refining plant, L&T Recoil is dedicated to giving used lubricants a new lease of life. Processing there results in high-quality re-refined base oil that conforms to the API Group II+ standard and requires 66% less energy to produce than base oil refined from crude.

Used lubricant oil represents a valuable resource, as its physical characteristics enable it to be re-refined virtually indefinitely, which explains why re-refining is given priority over incineration and energy recovery in the EU waste directive.

Looking ahead, recycled oil could ultimately become a mandatory component in new lubricants for the same reason.

Drawing on the environmental management and logistics expertise of Lassila & Tikanoja and EcoStream’s international petroleum products experience, L&T Recoil has recently launched a new base oil initiative based on re-refining used lubricants and marketing them to an international customer base.

Hamina on the Gulf of Finland in South-East Finland, with its excellent logistics connections, was chosen as the site for the company’s high-tech plant, which is the only one in the field in Northern Europe utilising advanced hydrotreating technology.

An energy-efficient, low-emission process

High-quality feedstock is sourced from across North-West Europe and around the Baltic Rim, and consists mainly of automotive, industrial, and hydraulic oil: around a third comes from Finland. Under a five-year agreement with hazardous waste management company, Ekokem, which is responsible for collecting waste oil nationally, L&T Recoil processes virtually all of Finland’s waste motor lubricants.

To maintain quality standards and ensure a high base oil yield, only lubricants that are segregated from other types of used oils, with a maximum water content of 10%, a maximum sulphur content of 1% by weight, and a minimum flash point of 100 °C are accepted.

L&T Recoil’s advanced hydro-treating facility is capable of processing 60,000 t/a of used lubricants and producing 45,000 t/a of ultra highquality N150 API Group II+ base oil for use by the lubricant industry. Various middle distillates, including heating oil, together with bitumen, are produced as by-products, as well as a small quantity of water. With the exception of the latter, all the plant’s by-products can be sold on.

The re-refining process – based on a series of dehydration and fuel removal, thin film evaporation, hydrotreating, and fractionation stages – removes all the impurities and contaminants that build up in lubricants during usage. Compared to primary refining, the process requires 66% less energy per tonne of output and generates approximately 40% less CO2 emissions. Re-refining also significantly improves the level of waste oil recovery in Finland.

The resulting Group II+ base oil has a sulphur content of less than 0.03% by weight and a viscosity of 30 (N150) and 100 (N500) at 40 °C, and is completely odour-free – and is supplied to lubricant manufacturers, industrial end-users, and trading companies. Around 80% of output is exported, by ship or rail. Domestic customers are supplied by road.

L&T Recoil’s facility is capable of processing 60,000 t/a of used lubricants and producing 45,000 t/a of ultra high-quality base oil.
> Juha Kokko
(Published in HighTech Finland 2011)