Rerefining Takes a Turn in Central Asia


Recycling and sustainability are buzzwords often heard in the West, but how much traction are they gaining in Central Asia? Boris Kamchev looks at two waste oil rerefining projects in the Central Asian republics that are putting these ideas in the public consciousness.

Modern rerefineries remove chemicals and contaminants from waste oil and then treat it with hydroprocessing and other processes to make base oils. Often these oils meet API standards similar to the virgin base stocks used to make lubricants in the first place.

Kazakh lubricant marketer Hill Corp. and Bulgarias Prista Oil are pioneers for sustainability in a regional industry that until now has had virtually no waste oil collection or rerefining capacity.

Quick Off the Blocks

In mid-2018, less than two years after it announced it would build a rerefinery in the southern Kazakh city of Shymkent, Hill launched a plant that, for the time being, feeds a small grease unit, which also opened recently. Both facilities are located at its 70,000 metric tons per year lubricant blending plant.

The Group I base oil rerefinery was designed by Fluid Solutions, a German engineering company, and has capacity to process 30,000 t/y of waste oils.

These base oils are used internally only for [the] production of greases that we sell in the domestic market, Nurshat Maratov, Hills marketing director, told LubesnGreases.

The grease plant, also designed by Fluid Solutions, has capacity to produce 1,500 t/y of lithium grease.

Hills blending and grease plants produce engine oils, transmission fluids, industrial lubricants and greases sold under the Hill and Fastoil brand names. The blending facility was launched in 2010 as part of a state-sponsored program to develop local industry and promote innovation in Kazakhstan. The plants technological design would allow for expansion to 100,000 t/y, and since its startup has produced 90,000 tons of finished products, according to the company.

Hill, with help of local partners, is now establishing collection points in five regions of Kazakhstan, but it faces many challenges to get its plan underway.

There has to be improvement in the collection culture in Kazakhstan [which sometimes leads to] supply of inhomogeneous used oils. The presence of water and mechanical impurities requires preliminary preparation, Aleksei Kutsev, head of the companys technical support department, said at the RPI International Lubricants Week in October in Moscow.

Hill believes Kazakhstan is ripe for the recycling of used oils. The country consumes roughly 140,000 t/y of finished lubricants, about 60 percent of which are imported, predominately from Russia, according to the company. Recycling could allow the domestic market to reduce reliance on foreign products.

Standard Bearer

Last year, Kazakhstans legislature introduced a regulation controlling waste oils, which stipulates three types of waste oil that must be collected separately: engine oils, industrial lubricants and mixtures of used petrochemicals. The bill is based on earlier regulations for environmental protection and management of waste, such as the 2007 Ecological Code of Republic of Kazakhstan (Article 292-1) and the Technical Regulation of the Customs Union 030/2012.

Under the 2018 regulation, used engine and industrial oils should be recycled into base oils and may not be burned for fuel, which has long been a practice in former Soviet Union countries, including Russia.

The regulation aims for a collection rate of 70 percent, or about 98,000 t/y, of all used finished lubricants, and for 49 percent of that total, or 68,600 t/y, to be fully processed back into base oil.

Additionally, it specifies the stages of processing of used lubes and requires documentation of storage, transportation, delivery to and acceptance by rerefiners, and establishes the requirements for specialized equipment for the processing of used oil.

The regulation and existing legislation have had doubtful environmental results so far. Dumping waste oils in landfills has been prohibited since 2016, yet there are slightly more than 3,800 landfills in Kazakhstan, and only 16 of them comply with environmental requirements and sanitary standards, according to Kazakh state news agency Khabar 24.

Uzbek Competitor

Across the Uzbekistan border is another base oil rerefinery located in Angren, an industrial town an hours drive southeast from the capital Tashkent. Prista Oil, a Bulgarian lubricant marketer, established a waste oil processing and base oil rerefining joint venture there with Uznefteprodukt, a division of the state-owned energy company Uzbekneftegaz. The plant came online in May 2016. The JV consists of two companies: Uz-Ecoprotect collects, stores and transports used oils, while Uz-Prista Recycling operates the plant and produces base oil. Uznefteprodukt has a 49 percent stake in the enterprise, while Prista Oil has the controlling 51 percent stake.

The U.S. $19 million investment has waste oil throughput capacity of 40,000 t/y and can produce 30,000 tons of base oils, 6,000 tons of diesel and 4,000 tons of asphalt fractions.

The Uzbekistan lubricant market is large enough to provide feedstock for our used oil rerefinery, Plamen Bobokov, the co-founder of Prista Oil Group, said. It is an important step for Uzbekistan, where waste [oil] dumping is unregulated, and there are no [serious] efforts to protect the environment. The rerefinery will help to decrease used oil dumping in the environment.

Through its 2011 acquisition of a 51 percent stake in the Texaco-Uzbekneftegaz JV Uz-Texaco, Prista established itself as a leading local lubricants marketer in Uzbekistan. That JV operates a 60,000 t/y lubricant blending plant located at Uzbekneftegazs refinery in Fergana. It uses the refinerys Group I base oils for lubricants production at the site.

Uz-Pristas sights are set on the domestic market, as well as neighboring Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Those four countries consume a combined 380,000 t/y of lubes and therefore have potential to generate substantial volumes of waste oil. The company has already established an extensive network of collection points in Uzbekistan.

The rerefinery uses vacuum distillation and hydrofinishing technology licensed from India-based Sequoia Global Inc. Sixty percent of the produced base oils meets Prista Oils production needs in Ukraine and areas of Central Asia outside of Uzbekistan, and the rest will be used by the Uz-Prista blending plant, the company said.

Pristas plan is to expand in Central Asia and Russia, as well as in North and Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and East Asia, according to Bobokov.

In most of these markets, we plan to export finished lubricants. We are also in negotiations with several local companies on different forms of cooperation, including construction of a modern blending plant, using our newest proprietary blending technology.

Hill is also expanding abroad. People familiar with the rerefining industry in Europe told LubesnGreases that the company and partners are planning another rerefining project in Lithuania. The source asked not to be identified because the rerefinery is in the early phase of development.

While collecting and processing waste oil for base oil production is a well-established industry in Europe, albeit with mixed levels of success, Hill and Prista, backed by government incentives and foreign investments, are eagerly seizing the opportunity to develop this industry in Central Asia, as well.

Both companies believe that this approach to the collection, transportation and storage of waste oils to be reused as base oil, and not landfilled, incinerated or burned as fuel will have a direct positive impact on the environment in the region.

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