The Impact of Regeneration to Base Oil on Europe

Christian Hartmann President of GEIR

Innovative technologies, outstanding environmental performance, a high grade of acceptance within the independent lubricant industry on the one hand – raw material (waste oil) constraints on the other – can Europe benefit?

The answer is a clear YES. Currently, European legislation (Waste Framework Directive) is subject to revision. Within this process GEIR the European Re-Refining Industry Section of UEIL, has proposed to include a strategic target, suggesting that 85% of all collected waste oil in Europe should be regenerated. The impact of this target has been discussed in numerous stakeholder meetings and consultations in which GEIR has provided current data and information to support its case.

GEIR believes that a legally binding target would remove the uncertainty of waste oil supply. The existing non-binding waste hierarchy at one end and a discussed quota of admixing a mandatory percentage of regenerated base oil into lubricant formulations at the other end, are not practicable solutions.

Many decision makers within the European Parliament, Member States, NGOs and the industry have well acknowledged the achievable environmental, social and economic benefits.

Now, GEIR has emphasised the obvious environmental performance of regeneration by presenting the new Life Cycle Assessment (IFEU Institute, June 2017). The study clearly proves the advantages of regeneration in all environmental categories compared to the virgin production and versus the treatment of waste oil to fuel.

Treatment to fuel represents the main challenge for the regeneration industry, as it does not use appropriate technologies such as hydrogenation or solvent extraction. As a result, hazardous components of waste oil are not completely removed during the regeneration process. Moreover, they are diluted in commodity fuels e.g. in the bunker market. While taking benefit of the desired characteristics of treated waste oil (e.g. viscosity, low sulphur), unjustified profit is made by neglecting to treat the remaining hazardous components.

This market practice is highly non-transparent and difficult to monitor, including the origin, taxation and excise duty on these types of products. Regeneration to base oil is very transparent and subject to regular inspection.

1. The Industry Today Regeneration of base oils from used lubricants has become a significant business opportunity for SME´s. Attractive niches, proven technologies and well-established sourcing networks are creating an environment for growth.

24 LUBE MAGAZINE NO.141 OCTOBER 2017 EU Lubricant Consumption: 4.3 million tons in 2014

Regeneration offers an improved environmental profile rather than the virgin refining process in terms of resource consumption, global warming, acidification, nitrification, carcinogenic risk and fine particulates. Europe is the most advanced region and supplies regenerated base stock from 20+ regeneration plants. Using modern technologies such as solvent extraction or hydrogenation, the industry is able to produce Group I, II and III base oils that can replace virgin base oils.

Currently, regenerated base oils represent 17% of all base oil consumed in the EU. GEIR members play a major role in balancing the lubricant market in Europe, dominated by major global players producing virgin base oils (83%) mostly from imported crude oil. GEIR represents the important “second source” for the medium-sized lubricant manufacturing industry.

Major OEM´s, such as MB, VW, Volvo etc. have given their approvals to formulations containing up to 100% regenerated base oils plus additives.

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