United Kingdom-based used oil collector and rerefiner Slicker Recycling Ltd. on Nov. 19 announced its acquisition of transformer oil recycler Hydrodec, including its rerefinery in the United States. Hydrodec’s financial fortunes soured in recent years, while several plans for partnerships and new plants were canceled or failed to materialize.
Hydrodec first began commercial production at its transformer oil rerefinery in Canton, Ohio, in October 2008. It uses a proprietary catalyst to remove impurities and produce a rerefined product the company describes as hydrogenation-refined naphthenic mineral transformer oil. The rerefinery also treats used naphthenic oils. The facility was temporarily shut down after a December 2013 fire but resumed operations in 2015. Although Hydrodec was considered United Kingdom-based as a corporate entity for most of its years in operation, Slicker’s announcement referred to Hydrodec as “Ohio-based.”
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“We are recognized as a leader in sustainable waste management in the U.K. and Europe, so the deal allows us to broaden our network, build on the success we’ve seen both in the U.K. and at our rerefinery in Denmark, and ultimately accelerate our pursuit of doing the right things for our planet on a larger scale,” Mark Olpin, managing director for Slicker, said in a news release. “As the world moves towards a carbon-neutral footprint the potential to put even more recycled oils back into the market is huge.”
Olpin noted that rerefined transformer oil the company produces is essential to run electric grids and the carbon credits the process generates is a global first for this type of activity, Olpin said. “That’s a really exciting opportunity for us and not only does the acquisition allow us to enter the north American market for the first time, but it is a perfect fit in terms of our future plans and green credentials,” he added.
A team of 19 Hydrodec employees will join Slicker, which said it sees the acquisition as increasing its global footprint and buildings circular economy credentials after the opening last year of its joint venture rerefinery in Denmark. The company noted that Hydrodec has customers across the United States and global energy sector.
In mid-2018, Slicker and German rerefiner Avista Oil AG entered into a partnership to a build an API Group I base oil rerefinery in Denmark. In August 2020, their joint venture – Avista Green – announced the refinery was operational. The facility replaced an Avista rerefinery that halted production in July 2017 after a fire. According to Slicker, the Denmark JV rerefinery has processed over 110 million liters (99,000 metric tons) of base oil for the international market, with 75 million liters supplied from the U.K.
Hydrodec’s financial fortunes seemed on the upswing in 2017, when it posted its first positive full-year profits in the group’s history, with $450,000 in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization. That was a rebound from a nearly $1.3 million EBITDA loss for 2016.
However, Hydrodec’s financial struggles came to a head earlier this year. In April, AIM, the London Stock Exchange’s market for small and medium growth companies, issued a notice cancelling trading of Hydrodec’s shares because of its failure to meet a deadline for concluding a company audit. Trading of Hydrodec’s stock had been suspended since Oct. 1, 2020. Although Hydrodec confirmed in a March 2020 press release it had reached agreement on a $6.8 million refinancing package for its Ohio transformer oil rerefinery and assets, the company said it remained unable to conclude its audit for the 18-month period since June 2020. Factors cited including the ongoing impact of the pandemic and the company’s financial constraints.
In February this year, the company expressed optimism about signing an operating agreement for a proposed joint venture with a U.S. industrial recycling company. The JV was to use part of Hydrodec’s existing site in Canton to establish a facility for dismantling and recycling pole and pad-mount electrical transformers. The JV would have transferred all used transformer oil extracted at the facility to Hydrodec of North America at no cost, and the JV partner would have provided all the used oil it secures outside of the JV’s activities to Hydrodec of North America at no cost.
Hydrodec’s announced plans for rerefineries over the years that didn’t pan out included a joint venture project in Australia, a proposed rerefinery in the U.K. and a pilot plant that would have used the company’s technology to rerefine paraffinic base stocks.
The unraveling of the Australian project resulted in a lengthy court battle. In June this year an Australian court ordered that Hydrodec Group’s dormant Australian subsidiary be wound down to insolvency, calling it the best chance for creditors in Australia owed substantial amounts of money — including Southern Oil Rerefining — to get the money owed them.
In 2015, the two companies announced their partnership with much optimism. At that time, Southern Oil started a used oil rerefinery that it had relocated from Young to Bomen, a northern suburb of Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. Part of the facility was a joint venture with Hydrodec that included a hydrotreater that had a capacity to produce 20,000 liters per day and a footprint of about 120 square meters. Southern Oil operated the plant on a toll basis for Hydrodec.
At that time, Southern Oil had expressed optimism that operating the rerefinery with the hydrotreater would help it prepare the company to enter the API Group II and III base oil market. Southern Oil had two rerefineries that converted used engine oils to Group I base stocks. That optimism came to an abrupt halt in 2018, when Hydrodec decided to exit Australia following a 2018 business review.
In July 2015, Hydrodec leased a 9-acre site at Port Wirral, in northwest United Kingdom, for use in the first phase of a planned rerefinery. On its web site, the company said it wanted to develop the rerefinery by the end of 2017.
In March 2016, citing tough market conditions, Hydrodec Group sold its United Kingdom operations – including its waste oil collection business and the proposed rerefinery – to a substantial shareholder for 1 pound (then U.S. $1.43) and assumed debt. At the time, the company said in a news release that it conducted a detailed review of the operations following a significant deterioration in their outlook. The company further stated that the deterioration was driven predominantly by the rapid decline in global oil prices at the time and continued challenging market conditions, which resulted in Hydrodec (UK) Ltd. generating an increasing level of significant losses.
In 2013, Hydrodec acquired U.K.-based used lube oil collector OSS for 4.7 million (then U.S. $6.3 million), securing feedstock for a planned pilot plant that would rerefine used paraffinic base stocks to potentially produce API Group II and III base oils. Ultimately, that pilot plant ultimately was never built.