Reducing Waste from Blend Plant Flushing

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The United State Environmental Protection Agency awarded a $300,000 grant recently to a New Jersey university that will try to help ExxonMobil reduce waste oil flushed between the blending of different lubricants.

Researchers from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Rowan University will work with the company’s Paulsboro, New Jersey, blending plant for the next two years.

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“We’re finding ways to minimize the effects of lube oil downgrade and wastes on the environment and to use these resources judiciously,” Assistant Professor Kirti M. Yenkie said in an article published last week on the school’s news website, Rowan Today.

Rowan and EPA said the grant focuses on reducing the amount of waste oil generated when the blending plant’s pipes are flushed as production switches from one product to the next. The flushing process employs cleaning materials that mix with the oil, rendering it unusable.

Officials said the researchers will try to reduce the extent to which the flushed oil is downgraded, both by engineering the flushing process and by altering the chemistry of the cleaning materials. Yenkie, who started researching flushing processes a year ago, said she hopes that any advances could be employed in other plants as well as other types of facilities.

“We hope these solutions can be utilized in auto repair shops and oil-based paint industries that have historically used outmoded methods for cleaning and disposal,” she said. If so, she estimated that improvements could reduce the amount of waste oil generated by as much as 3 million pounds just in EPA’s Region 2, which encompasses New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico, and save businesses tens of millions of dollars in disposal costs.

The funding for Rowan was part of $9.3 million in grants that EPA awarded to organizations across the country to help prevent pollution.