Africa Lags in Rerefining

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Africa Lags in Rerefining

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Africa recycles less of its used lubricants into base oils than other regions, and several obstacles stand in the way of increasing that amount, industry officials said at a conference here last month.

Waste oil recycling activities vary across the continent, Bubele Nyiba, CEO of South Africa-based Rose Foundation, said at the ICIS African Base Oils and Lubricant Conference. Rose Foundation is an independent collector of used oils in Africa.

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South Africa and Egypt are the only countries with rerefining capacity, according to Nyiba. Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia all export used lube oils to South Africa. Algeria exports its used oils to Europe, but construction of a rerefinery within the country did begin in 2018. Meanwhile, Namibia uses all of its used oils for smelting. Little information is available on used oil collection in the rest of the continent.

Africa produces only around 20,000 metric tons per year of rerefined base oils. That amounts to less than 1 percent of the continents lubricant consumption, compared to 9 percent globally. Eastern Europe has the second lowest ratio at 4 percent, while Western Europe leads all regions with 17 percent. And even though South Africa leads the continent in rerefining, it severely lags behind in rerefined base oil production compared to Australia, which ranks 10th globally in that category.

Nyiba blamed Africas poor showing on a lack of incentives to encourage rerefining.

Rerefineries are expensive to set up because most of the technology is imported from Europe, China and India, he told Lube Report during a subsequent telephone call. This is the reason why certain countries have incentives for rerefineries. Serious rerefining practices seldom ever happen without government intervention to regulate the collection, storage, transportation and recycling of used oil.

He added that rerefining will become a major source of base oils in Africa if recycling and cleaner environment becomes an agenda at forums like the African Union and intergovernmental forums.”

Taiye Williams, managing director of Lubcon International Nigeria said used oil collection is one of the biggest challenges to rerefining in the country.

The collection system of used oils is the issue, Williams told Lube Report by phone. We were trying to follow the South African model, where a separate body is actually responsible for the collection of used oils, but it did not work out well in the long run. Rami Al-Kinanny, general manager for Hitech Oils and Greases in Egypt, said much of the regions used oil is burnt as fuel and that this reduces the amount available for rerefining.

Other challenges include the scarcity of used oil in South Africa and the cost to invest in rerefining businesses.

Nyiba said the globe produces 2.4 million t/y of rerefined base oil, which amounts to 6 percent of the 40 million tons of worldwide lubricant consumption. Eighty percent of that rerefined oil is produced in North America, Asia and Western Europe. China has by far the largest number of processors at more than 400. Italy leads all other countries in converting 88 percent of used oils to base oils. South Africa, the highest-ranking African country, transforms 13 percent of used oils into base oils.

Photo courtesy of Rose Foundation