Car ?'s – What Happens to the Motor Oil removed from my vehicle?
Is Motor Oil Recycled or Even Recyclable?
It may not be the most well known industry, but there is a large industry built around recycling motor oil. There used to be a stigma attached to re-refined motor oil, but that was due to the antiques technologies used in the process that resulted in an inferior final product. Now that the technology has caught up with the times, the process has been updated to produce a final product very similar to virgin motor oil.
We deal with a company that recycles the oil that we collect, and they re-refine the used oil. What happens when oil is used in an engine is that several components of the oil are broken down into new forms that are not as efficient at their given job. Oil inefficiency causes engine wear which adds heavy metals into the oil. Oil additives that prevent water from mixing with the oil break down and allow water to mix in. All of these factors are the reason that there are recommended intervals to change the motor oil.
How is Motor Oil Recycled?
The process of refining oil has advanced and been tightened over the years into a close to perfect process for efficiently making crude oil usable. The same technologies are applied to recycling oil which have made the process much more streamlined and functional than previously.
Used oil generally has a small percentage of water content (less than 10%) which needs to be removed for it to be reused. A common process called vacuum distillation takes the water out of the oil. A process called wiped-film evaporation is then used to separate the original oil from all of the contaminants and additives that are added to passenger car motor oil. Next, a hydro-treating process is used to add hydrogen back onto hydrocarbon molecules and make it into very capable re-refined oil. The process is somewhat like a very advanced filtration operation for the oil.
A large amount of the oil used is put through this recycling process. There are other uses for the used oil that don’t require re-refinement though, like as a combustible material for boilers or power plants.