Oil refining gets more … refined

Sensemaking / Oil refining gets more … refined

Scotland is known for its distilleries, but a plant is taking the nation’s prowess to a whole new level with innovations to clean up and re-use old sump.  

03 Apr 2012

Scotland is known for its distilleries, but a plant is taking the nation’s prowess to a whole new level with innovations to clean up and re-use old sump.

Strict control of waste incineration – that’s a good thing, right? And the recycling of old sump oil – that’s good too, isn’t it? But what if the one gets in the way of the other? You need a solution – which is where vacuum distillation comes in.

Scottish recyclers Northern Industrial Services (NIS) handles 80% of Scotland’s waste oil at its Coatbridge plant, and collects over 25,000 tonnes of used lubricant every year. De-watered and cleaned up, this used to be sold as recycled fuel oil (RFO).

The RFO market pretty much dried up, however, when its classification as a waste product was followed by tighter rules that banned power stations and others from burning it without special licence. Nobody in Scotland wants it any more. Now, the installation of a new vacuum distillation unit, a first for Scotland, enables NIS to re-refine waste lubricant into a processed fuel oil (PRO) instead. The process avoids the danger of pollutants escaping to the air. And it yields a cleaner product with a higher spec – meaning, crucially, that it’s no longer classed as waste, and there’s a much wider market for it.

Operating at lower temperatures than other treatments, vacuum distillation uses less energy and emits less carbon. It’s also cheap enough to be economically viable. All in all, it’s an eminently more sensible solution than exporting used sump oil from Scotland to England or Germany. – Roger East

Photo: Comstock / thinkstock

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