Abanaki promotes reusing waste oil
Waste oil can heat facilities that produce it

As manufacturers look for every cost advantage they can find in a sluggish economy, Abanaki Corporation is renewing its call for plants to recycle waste oil for heat or for resale to an authorized recycler. According to the owner and president of Abanaki, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, recycling and reselling waste oil can help strengthen the balance sheet.

“If there were not enough environmental reasons to resell or reuse oil already, there’s absolutely no reason you should not be reclaiming your oil,” insisted Abanaki’s Tom Hobson. “The oil you can recycle from your own plant can be reused in an industrial heater or an authorized recycler will buy it from you.”

Burning waste oil is preferred over storing it or transporting it.

For some time, Hobson and those in his Cleveland-based company have been encouraging plants to recognize the financial advantages in turning waste oil into profit. With an oil skimmer, a company can collect up to 200 gallons per hour of oil or grease from wastewater. “Oil skimming cost-effectively reclaims oil from wastewater, and as heating bills climb during the winter, they can save energy costs by burning it,” Hobson said. “In fact, burning spent oil in the proper furnace can often deliver a higher Btu value than new oil.”

Since used oil usually has a thicker viscosity, it possesses more energy than #2 fuel oil and more than twice the energy value of LP gas or coal. Waste oils that can be burned for heat include almost any oil up to 50 S.A.E.: metal-cutting oils, lube oil, crankcase oil, transmission and hydraulic fluid, #1 and #2 diesel fuel, vegetable oils and grease.

Much to the surprise of many in industry, the process of a plant burning its own used oil gets good marks from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Hobson said. “The EPA supports the burning of used oil on site,” he explained, “because it prevents oil from entering the watershed and eliminates the risk of spills during transportation.”

“The EPA is not going to hassle you,” Hobson added. “From what I understand a used-oil furnace is just as clean-burning as a standard furnace. Without question, there’s more money in your pocket if you can burn waste oil.”

Meanwhile, others are opting to sell their waste oil to authorized recyclers such as David Charlton, CEO of Akron-based Rice Environmental Services (RES), a 15-year veteran in the collection and recycling of used oils, as well as anti-freeze and oil filters, from commercial and industrial businesses. Like Abanaki, RES promotes a very public commitment to keeping the environment clean and to treating oil as a limited natural resource.

“It comes down to this — one, you can sell the clean, dry used oil or, two, you can recycle it,” said Charlton, whose company is part of the National Oil Recyclers Association (NORA). Established in 1985, NORA promotes “the primary mission of fighting the hazardous waste designation of used oil and [has] aided in the development of the EPA’s used oil management standards.”

“We’re completely on board to remove oil from water,” said Charlton, who pointed out that The Rice Companies not only recycle but also sell industrial and automotive lubricants. “It not just about reusing and recycling. It’s about rethinking how things are done. It’s the higher goal of sustainability.”

Whether waste oil is used for heating the plant or used for putting some dollars back into the plant’s operation through reselling or on-site recycling, it is a resource, Abanaki’s Hobson said. “If a plant has oil it’s not doing anything with,” he said, “the oil may get discharged unintentionally in the plant. That’s a regulatory fine right there. Considering the alternative of reusing or reselling, the fine is a double-whammy. So why not profit from it?”

Hobson believes more and more plant managers will look to recycling or reselling waste oil to help the bottom line. Only two years ago, an Abanaki-sponsored survey showed 78 percent of respondents were searching for ways to cut plant costs. Thirty-five percent said they would consider burning waste oils. Only eight percent said that their plants already burned waste oil for heat.