Japan Explores Base Oil Rerefining


Japan Explores Base Oil Rerefining
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In an effort to reduce reliance on virgin base oils and to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, the Japanese government has commissioned the Japan Lubricating Oil Society to conduct a study on waste oil recycling and how to encourage rerefining.

The study was done from April 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022, and “a report on the study will be released later,” an official from Jalos told Lube Report.

Jalos’ report will include interviews, survey findings and analysis of measures being taken by lubricant companies in Japan to reduce carbon footprints. It will also discuss how European lube companies source different types of base oils – including virgin mineral oils and rerefined base oils, current waste oil rerefining practices and the latest technology for recycling.

As part of the study, Jalos analyzed the viscosity, kinematic viscosity, composition and sulfur content of about 13 types of rerefined base oil produced outside of Japan and compared with two types of virgin base oil or base oils derived from crude oil. The association did not disclose further details.

Japan does not currently produce rerefined base oils. The country generates approximately 1.68 million kiloliters (1.5 million metric tons) per year of used lubricants, of which about 600,000 kL are collected and used as fuel, releasing about 1.65 million tons of carbon dioxide, according to the association.

Last year, the government commissioned Jalos to do a study on “Diversification in raw materials to ensure stable supply of lubricants.” Its directive concluded that “in the United States, approximately 3.6 million kL of used lubricants are collected annually, and 940,000 kL are rerefined and used as recycled base oil. This rerefining is carried out at 13 plants belonging to 12 companies. With about 600,000 kL of used lubricants collected annually in Japan, the production of recycled base oil from used lubricants can be a viable business in Japan.”

However, it listed three main challenges to the recycling of lubricants in Japan:

  • a lack of an environmentally friendly recycling processes;
  • consumer skepticism about recycled lubricants;
  • a lack of supporting regulation and government encouragement. 

“Lubricants are used in various mechanical fields, such as automobiles and machine tools, and are essential to supporting the industrial base of our country,” the directive said. “The base oil used in the production of these lubricants are mainly produced from crude oil. In recent years, increasing political tension in the Middle East, where Japan imports about 90% of its crude oil, coupled with the global spread of coronavirus infections and others, it is necessary to plan for the diversification of base oils to ensure a steady supply of lubricants for the future.”

The creation of a circular economy based on waste reduction, reuse and recycling is one of the main pillars of Japan’s strategy to reduce carbon emissions and achieve its carbon neutral target by 2050. In 1999, Japan announced its Circular Economy Vision with laws and industry-specific measures, including the Law for the Recycling of End-of-Life Vehicles introduced in 2002 under which manufacturers and importers are obliged to collect and recycle vehicles.