Scale Hampers Rerefining in China


CHENGDU, China – China has over 400 facilities capable of recycling used lubricants, but many are small and dont produce base oils, as over 70 percent of the countrys spent lubricants are still squandered, according to a Chinese rerefiner who said Chinas waste oil management system needs standardization.

Chinas reclaimed oil industry is at an early stage of development and waste oil management mechanisms are not yet mature, according to Chen Yipeng, general manager of Shanxi Xinhai Chemical Co.

Theres no shortage of enterprises engaged in reclaiming used oil for various purposes, Chen said at the 2015 Base Oil Summit held here last week by Enmore (formerly known as CBI). Chen counts 410 facilities capable of recycling oil and noted that Chinas oil reclamation levels are impressive compared to some countries.

The most notable flaw in Chinas industry, however, is that many operations are small, Chen continued, pointing out that 180 facilities process less than 5,000 metric tons per year. Just over 100 more process less than 10,000 t/y. Only 14 can handle more than 100,000 t/y.

Operating on such a small scale means wasting valuable renewable resources, he contended, noting that over 70 percent of used lubricating oil isnt being recycled and rerefined.

Geographic distribution is another concern. A large portion of facilities are concentrated in the east near Shanghai, with a very sparse assortment in Southern and Western China.

Chen said there are limited base oil resources where his company is located in Shanxi province, in the central part of the country, and that its necessary to recycle oil to reduce the volume of virgin base oil that must be procured. In China, if you do not recycle, you need to transport lots of oil to your province.

Recycling also cuts down on imported base oils, which currently make up around 14 percent of the nations market, according to several other speakers.

Chinas oil recycling sites are also inefficient and dont make quality products. The production facilities are crude and are engaged in refining diesel and other products. They are also prone to technical bottlenecks.

To improve performance, Chinese oil recyclers would benefit from cooperation with foreign companies. They want to learn, and they welcome the introduction of foreign advanced management experience and techniques, he added. More companies need to consider hydrogenation technology and molecular distillation techniques, for example.

The nation demands high-quality finished lubricants, and oil recyclers should capitalize on this, he continued. [Chinas] rerefining industry should produce high-grade base oils to meet the needs of the market, which requires technology upgrades.

The recycled oil market also needs better oversight, he said. There needs to be standardized, long-term development… encouraging appropriate scale and better technology. Shanxi Xinhai is a member of Chinas oil recycling association, but many recyclers are not, he noted.

Incorporated in 2005, the company processes around 60,000 t/y of waste oil and produces around 50,000 t/y of products such as 150 solvent, 250SN and 350SN base oils, diesel and bitumen. The company is focusing on developing higher-quality products and establishing more original equipment manufacturer relationships with customers in central, northern and northwestern markets.

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