Italian Rerefiner Set to Make Group II


Italian oil rerefiner Viscolube SpA plans to become the first European producer of Group II base stocks next month when it completes an upgrade of its plant in the northern city of Pieve Fissiraga.

Viscolube says the plant will make base oil of higher quality than other rerefineries thanks to a Euro 30 million hydrofinishing unit. Officials predicted strong demand for the new oil, especially in light of continuing upgrades of motor oil standards.

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Apart from a few small plants, most of the base oils produced in Europe – whether new or regenerated – still belong to Group I, Managing Director Renato Schieppati said. The fact that this plant will make oils with Group II characteristics is what makes it so innovative.

The Pieve Fissiraga facility is thelarger of two plants operated by Viscolube, the dominant rerefiner in Italy. The plant currently has capacity to produce 100,000 metric tons per year of Group I stocks. According to the company, the plant runs at approximately 80 percent of capacity.

The hydrofinishing unit, which operates at a pressure of 100 bar, will replace theplant’s clay bleaching process, lowering sulfur and aromatics levels and raising the percentage of saturates.

Group I still accounts for the bulk of base oil produced in Europe and the rest of the world, although demand for higher quality automotive and industrial lubes has raised consumption of premium grades. Group II oils – which have higher viscosity indices and lower levels of sulfur and aromatics – are produced only in North America, although some of that volume is exported to Europe. Europe and Asia, and to a lesser extent North America, produce Group III oils.

Viscolube said 80 percent of the output at Pieve Fissiraga will be Group II and that the company has contingency plans to expand capacity by 20 to 30 percent.

Currently Viscolube is effectively prevented from selling outside Italy because of a tax that the country imposes on producers of virgin and rerefined base oil. Viscolube said the tax is due to expire next year, though, and that it plans to begin exporting to other parts of Europe.

With new environmental regulations that will soon go into effect, it is reasonable to presume that European carmakers will impose higher standards for base oils, Schieppati said. Viscolube will be ready to face the new demands of the market.

Founded in 1963, Viscolube receives approximately 80 percent of the 185,000 tons of used oil collected in Italy each year. Including its second plant, in Ceccano, it is responsible for approximately 18 percent of the countrys total base oil production.

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