March 29, 2018

Virgin, Recycled, Re-Refined Oil – How They Are Different

Virgin, Recycled, Re-Refined Oil

Virgin, Recycled, Re-Refined Oil

Virgin, Recycled, Re-Refined Oil 

Not all oil is created equal, and contrary to popular belief, recycled or re-refined oils are not “dirty,” or lesser in quality than pure, virgin or newly produced oil. It is also often assumed that recycled, refurbished and re-refined oils are the same product, so below we’ve outlined the differences between each type of oil and their various applications.

Virgin – The Most Commonly Used Oil

Crude oil that has gone through the process of refining is referred to as virgin and is the mostly commonly used oil found within a wide spectrum of lubricant products on the market. Virgin oil is newly refined, meaning that it has not been previously used and it sets the bar for oil quality. Once used in any way, virgin oil is then referred to as “used oil” and can then go through further refinement to be considered recycled or re-refined.

Recycled – Used Oil Filtered for Further Use

Recycled oil is used oil that has been run through a process of filtration that removes particulate and insoluble impurities. Although filtration removes physical impurities in the form of particulate matter from the oil, it does not remove chemical impurities and contaminants. This allows the oil to be reused in the form of fuel or as lubrication in non-critical systems. Reconditioned oil is a subset of recycled oil that is produced by mixing recycled oil with key additives to prolong the oil’s usage. Reconditioned oil is generally one-time-use and is not high enough in purity to be used in cars or trucks. Motor oils and hydraulic oils are commonly recycled and can be combusted as fuel for a variety of heating applications such as for boilers, space heaters and for industrial purposes such as for cement kilns or blast furnaces. Recycled motor oil can also be distilled into diesel fuel or marine fuel. Motor oil retains its lubrication ability and properties ongoingly and can be recycled again and again for a wide variety of different purposes. For this reason, recycled oil is positive for the environment, keeping lubricant products within circulation rather than being wasted through disposal or through environmentally detrimental dumping into soil or waterways.

Re-Refined – The Removal of Soluble and Insoluble Impurities

Unlike recycled oil, where only soluble impurities such as heavy metals and dirt are removed, re-refined oil goes through extensive processing, filtration, distillation and dehydration to remove both soluble and insoluble contaminants. With re-refined oils, additives are removed through chemical processing, which creates an un-additized base oil that can then be distilled to remove any remaining water or additional impurities. A dehydrating process removes residual light fuel, ethylene glycol, and a vacuum distillation step removes the fraction of oil suitable for reuse as lubricating oil. This fraction of oil undergoes hydro treating that further removes remaining polymers and chemicals. From here the oil is fractionated into grades: light viscosity, low viscosity and high viscosity for various applications. The re-refined base oils (RRBL) are then blended with additives to produce final products with optimal detergent and anti-friction capabilities. Re-refined oil must be qualified by the American Petroleum Institute (API) to maintain the same base oil ratings as oil that is virgin. If the re-refined product’s base oil ratings are substandard to virgin it will not be API approved and released for sale to the public. Because re-refined oil goes through the same refining and distillation process as the crude oil that later becomes virgin, it can be as high of quality if not higher than virgin. Re-refining waste oil is environmentally friendly and requires significantly less energy to produce than virgin. Re-refined motor oils can be refined again and again, keeping them in circulation versus becoming waste products.

Contact an SCL Consultant Today

Understanding the difference between virgin, recycled, re-refined oil and how they are connected may ultimately save your fleet money if a more economical non-virgin option is available to meet your specific needs and applications. Taking optimal care of your fleet and machinery is our job at SCL, and we are here to educate you and support you in making the best choice possible by understanding the differences between virgin, recycled, re-refined oil and how they are each connected. In a wide range of industrial sectors, SCL is committed to being the number one logistics and solutions provider for the products that protect and optimize the machines that keep our country moving. We pride ourselves on remaining at the forefront of industry trends and technological innovations, and as the market continues to evolve, we are committed to providing extensive product and industry knowledge and total performance satisfaction for our customers. For information on how we can assist your fleet in choosing the optimal products at a competitive price, contact an SCL consultant today.