Whelan Reoils U.K. Rerefinery


Whelan Refining Ltd. said it plans to reopen a refurbished base oil rerefinery in May 2007 in northwest England.

The Whelan rerefinerywill process an estimated 50,000 metric tons of waste oil to produce about 35,000 metric tons annually of Group I base oils for sale to the lubricant manufacturing industry.

Managing Director John Whelan told Lube Report the rerefinery will use a three-stage distillation process that doesnt use proprietary technology. Its just the application of well-proven chemical engineering techniques, he said.

Whelan said that the rerefinerys estimated 70 percent base oil yield is based on the fact that waste oil is not pure base oil. If you start off with straightforward automotive lubricant, youve got about 90 percent base oil and about 10 percent additive pack, he explained. The first thing we have to do is extract that additive pack, and its not possible to extract the additive pack in its entirety without some inefficiency. Some of the base oil is lost to that. So you get about 10 percent of additive pack and lose about five percent of the base oil there.

Beyond that, he added, there is usually about five to eight percent water, two to three percent gasoline and about seven to eight percent diesel fuel that must also be removed. A total of about 30 percent of the waste oil is typically lost from the base oil yield, he said.

The extracted water will be treated and then discharged to sewer in accordance with consent discharge from the local water company, which will then treat it in their sewage treatment works. The other extracted elements of gasoline/light hydrocarbons, diesel and distillation bottoms can be sold as fuel or, potentially, used as fuel to power the refinery itself, Whelan said. We dont intend to use any of those waste products or byproducts in the first stage of refinery operations. They will all be shipped off site for sale.

Whelan explained that in the United Kingdom, small to medium sizeenterprises will collect waste oil, process it to whats called reclaimed fuel oil and then sell it as fuel. We will purchase that waste oil from the waste oil collectors as our feedstock, he said. Whelan noted that environmental legislation in the U.K., introduced as a result of the EU Waste Incineration Directive passed in December 2005, renders it more and more difficult to burn waste oil as fuel.

He said the rerefinerys location in the northwest part of England, about halfway between Birmingham and Manchester, is ideal from the standpoint that waste oil generation is a function of motor cars and of large populations. According to Whelan, about 50 percent of the waste oil generation in the U.K. is within about a 100-mile radius of the refinery.

The company – of Stoke on Trent, England – would like to produce Group II base oils at the plant eventually, Whelan said. That is something we want to do, though not immediately. At the moment, our primary objective is to get the refinery up and running, Whelan said. Hopefully from the cash flow that that generates, for the long term, we would then wish to make further investment in new equipment in order to be able to upgrade. Group II is definitely achievable, and other people are doing it. The technology, or the engineering techniques required, are well-proven.

He said Whelan Refining itself is the primary investor in the project. According to Whelan, the cost of reengineering and refurbishing the rerefinery to reestablish the business is about 2 million (U.S. $3.9 million). The plant, originally built 10 years ago, was out of commission for about the last five years, he added. The company plans to employ about 25 people at the refinery.

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