PTC gets ‘green’ oil refinery
$60 million ‘upcycling’ plant to provide clean motor oil
When you pull into the bay for an oil change, you probably don’t think about where that dirty goo really ends up, much less what becomes of it.
It turns out that it ends up in Peachtree City, where Universal Environmental Services is building a $60 million [CORRECTED from print edition] expansion of its used motor oil refinery that will be not only profitable, but also environmentally-friendly.
Some 60 percent of the new refinery’s product will go back into the production of new motor oil, providing a sustainable source for the product in lieu of crude oil drilled from the ground, said Dr. Juan Fritschy, the president and CEO of United Environmental Services.
UES is installing new refining equipment that will produce new motor oil, clean fuel that will help power the refining plant and also a compound for use by asphalt plants, Fritschy said.
Even better, the new process will remove contaminants from the used motor oil such as sulfur and other metal particulates that break off from the engine. Those contaminants will be trucked off-site to an incinerator that will vaporize them at ultra-high temperatures, Fritschy said.
Any water remaining from the refining process will be trucked off-site for processing and will not enter the city’s sewer system, he added.
The new refinery facility is so unique that it will be the first of its kind in the southeastern United States. Parent company Avista already operates several such facilities in Europe, where traditional used motor-oil refineries are illegal, Fritschy said.
“It is fully proven: the benefit we are bringing to the environment with the reusability of a non-renewable resource, and to stop contaminating the atmosphere,” Fritschy said.
The refining process adds value to the used motor oil, so Fritschy calls it “upcycling” instead of recycling.
The benefit of the refined oil is that it will still contain some of the necessary additives that are put in motor oil when it is originally manufactured, Fritschy said. That means the motor oil manufacturers using refined oil won’t have to spend as much to add new additives, which are costly, he noted.
UES already re-refines some 30 million gallons of used motor oil each year. There are some seven trucks covering the metro Atlanta area, visiting quick oil change centers to claim the “dirty” motor oil. And there are four other off-site storage facilities in nearby southeastern states that are fed by other trucks in the UES network.
In addition to receiving used motor oil by the truckload, UES transports it to Peachtree City by rail.
The current refining process employed by UES results in processed fuel oil that is sold to paper mills, asphalt plants and other companies.
“The energy content is even higher than regular fuel oil, and it’s cheaper, so they love this stuff,” Fritschy said.
The $60 million project is being built by Tiernan and Patrylo construction of Peachtree City. Work began in August as older equipment was demolished and removed, and the site’s grade was flattened.
It’s worth noting that such a “dirty” operation is obscured from public view, as the refinery site is almost completely surrounded by trees.
Once the new refinery is operational next spring, it will employ about 22 people on a round-the-clock schedule, seven days a week.
Fritschy noted the investment is a big commitment from Avista, which has operated in Europe some 60 years. Avista is prepared to make the facility work from an economic standpoint, knowing that in its business “there are some good times and some bad times,” Fritschy said.
But, he added, the new facility is expected to have a lengthy shelf life:
“It may be around longer than you and me.”
[CORRECTION: Print edition gave the wrong cost of construction. The correct figure is $60 million.]