Tag Archives: waste oil

Out of the frying pan: How to turn waste oil into gold

From heating the premises to powering the works van, waste oil is no longer waste, but a valuable resource companies can use or sell to reduce their carbon footprint and become more cost effective. But maximising the benefit from ‘second-hand’ oil requires careful and diligent storage. Spill Control Centre explains what to look for.

Every Yorkshireman is no doubt familiar with the expression:

‘where there’s muck, there’s brass’.

The thought suggests there’s money to be made where there are dirty jobs to be done, and it has been the case for centuries – author John Ray first coined it in 1678 in a small book called “A Collection of English Proverbs’. Doubtless there was more reason for its use in Victorian Britain, driven by the money-making aspirations of the owners of industrial processes.

But 21st-century Britain offers a new layer of meaning for the old phrase; a combination of securing another income stream whilst simultaneously making sure that England’s ‘green and pleasant land’ stays, well, green and pleasant.

This is the environmental dimension involved in waste oil. Immediately of course, ‘waste’ becomes a misnomer; because what was once seen as waste in one industry now becomes a valuable raw material for another. All kinds of oil and oil-bearing products have ‘after-market’ values depending on what they are, but all have one thing in common – the need for careful handling and storage once their primary function is over.

Any kind of spillage not only threatens the environment, but also reduces the potential financial return from the material’s resale. And that can be considerable. It’s possible to recycle used cooking oil into fuel for diesel-powered cars and vans; fuel which can cost just pennies a litre, rather then the conventional £1-plus pump price.

Used motor oil – from just about any engine – can be cleaned and used again as a fuel oil. Oil giant Mobil says a gallon of used oil provides a gallon of fuel oil, but, with more specialist processing, can be re-refined back into lubricants, delivering a 60% yield.

Cooking Oil

Why the right storage solution is important

It’s really important to pick the right storage solution, as Defra points out in this guide on our Advice pages. Finding something to keep the oil in is child’s play; it can go back into the same drums it came in, so long as there’s no cross-contamination caused my mixing the contents. However, storing the drums is another matter. They can’t go on open ground; any spillages could leach into watercourses, and they can’t safely be stored on concrete or other impermeable surfaces, because spillages will make the area slippery and unsafe.

Even the most careful and environmentally-conscious of employees can make a mistake from time to time, and cause a spill. With luck, it will be a small one. However, the right option is to contain any spill with spill containment products which have built-in spill collection capacity, negating the risk from any kind of spill.

Appropriate storage includes spill pallets that have integral drip trays, sealable cabinets to

protect drums from the elements, and some come equipped with wheels to make manual handling completely trouble-free. The permutations available are numerous, but the right option will have a certain number of features, no matter what its design or size.

Ten key points to look out for when buying an oil storage system

1. Does it have integral spill containment capacity?
2. Is the construction durable, using oil-resistant materials such as polyethylene?
3. How strong is it? Drums full of oil can be very heavy, of course!
4. If it’s going to live outdoors, does it have UV inhibitors to ensure the maximum service life?
5. Is it weather resistant?
6. If necessary, does it have flexible shelving arrangement for drums and bottles of different sizes?
7. Is it built with ease of manual or forklift truck handling in mind?
8. How quickly can it be delivered?
9. What will delivery cost, bearing in mind the sizes of some of these solutions? Pick the right supplier, and delivery can not only happen in two or three days, but could also be free.
10. Will the supplier also be able to provide ancillary spill containment equipment such as a range of absorbents that I might need too?

Visit the advice pages from www.spillcontrolcentre.co.uk for more advice on oil storage solutions.

Picture: Bat09mar via Dreamstime.

How to Remove Oil Spills and Stains.

With the first snows of winter forecast for this week I decided to stock up my log store. I had some large boughs on the drying rack ready for cutting. Trying to burn fresh cut “green” wood on an open fire is hopeless so I always have logs seasoning for at least 3 months prior to winters arrival.

The chain saw needed a quick sharpen and I topped up the saws chain oil container. Believe me the saw cuts far better and stays sharp longer if chain oil is used. I don’t quite know how but I clearly forgot to replace the oil cap. The first I knew of it was when my wife pointed out the sinuous trail of oil snaking across the paved drive between the garage and the wood store. It was probably less than 100ml in total but what an unsightly mess it looked.

Spill Aid
Having written extensively on oil spills in the past I knew that the quicker the stain gets attention the better the outcome. There are loads of oil stain removal products on the market but I doubt anyone would be lucky enough to have a bottle on the shelf for such an event. I certainly did not.

So what to do. The first step is to remove as much of the fresh wet oil as possible. Use an absorbent wipe or absorbent pad preferably commercial grade. I have a roll of the Eez Off Heavy duty wipes that I find the best all-rounder for the workshop and garage. Lay it over the oil and dab rather than scrub as this just spreads the stain. The next step is to sprinkle over absorbent granules to draw out the oil. You will be surprised how many common household products can be applied.

Cat litter is often used (if you have a cat as we do) but I find it too coarse and suggest putting some in a plastic bag and crushing it with a rolling pin to a finer consistency before applying to maximise the surface contact area. You will need to leave it for a day or two and unfortunately if it rains the resultant slush makes an even bigger mess than the oil and on a windy day it will just blow away. I have also heard of people using dry cement, baking soda, talcum powder, oven cleaner and even salt but have never tried them myself.

Once the oil is dry you can also use a laundry powder detergent. Sprinkle the detergent onto the stain, add a small amount of water to make paste, scrub it into the stain using a stiff brush and leave it overnight. Wipe off the excess and hose down. I have also heard that pouring Cola on the stain is effective but it seems unlikely unless you know different.

Lastly check the type of oil being used. Increasingly modern oils including Chain oils are biodegradable so if you are still left will a faint stain over time the elements will work on the oil until it disappears naturally, although think months rather than days.

5 Worst Spills of all time

I am sure it’s happened to most of us. There you are sat at the computer when you absent mindedly reach out for the half cup of coffee without taking your eyes off the screen and over the cup goes. It always amazes me how disruptive such a few milliliters of liquid can be.

Oil Spill on Fire
Minor spills like these involving water, oil and chemicals happen in their tens of thousands every day and provided you have absorbent wipes or suitable spill control products to hand damage limitation is usually fast and effective. Some spills both natural and accidental are on a far larger scale and compared with a spilt cup of coffee are mind boggling in their scale. Here is a rundown of my top five spills in recorded times. You may have others you feel deserve a place in the countdown.

1. Worst deliberate Oil Spill
In January 1991, Iraqi forces released an estimated 240 million gallons of crude oil into the Persian Gulf in an attempt to disrupt an expected amphibious landing by the U.S. Marines. The resulting oil slick ravaged the Gulf’s marine ecosystem, killed thousands of seabirds and endangering other wildlife. To date, it remains the worst disaster of its kind.
2. Worst accidental chemical spill
The worst industrial chemical spill occurred suddenly in the early morning of December 3, 1984, at Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, India a chemical leak released a cloud of lethal methyl isocyanate into the air over the sleeping city. Some two thousand people died immediately and at least another eight thousand died later with many thousands still seriously affected to this day.
The term accidental is relative as human error and carelessness played a part in the disaster.

3. Worst Accidental Oil Spill
The much publicised Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico makes my top five not least because in addition to the devastation caused to the marine environment and coastal communities 11 men lost their lives and 17 more were injured. The oil spill estimated at over 200 million gallons eclipses the previous record held by the oil well Ixtoc 1 which also exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on June 3, 1979, spewing 140 million gallons of oil into the open sea.
4. Worst natural land spill
A volcanic fissure connected to the Laki volcano in Iceland began erupting in June 1783 and continued for 8 months. It produced the largest lava flow in historic times when a fissure 16 miles long sent a flow of fast-moving lava more than 40 miles. Over 3 cubic miles of lava poured out covering an area of 220square miles. More devasting still were the clouds of poisonous hydrofluoric acid and sulphur dioxide released that killed half of Iceland’s livestock population causing a famine that killed a quarter of the island’s human population. The atmospheric pollution caused crop failures across Europe is attributed to contributing to the deaths of over six million people globally.
5. Worst natural atmospheric spill
The biggest volcanic eruption in recorded human history occurred when Mount Tambora on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa erupted in 1815. The sound of the initial eruption was heard over 1000 miles away and the volume of the ejected gas and debris cloud was put at 400 million tons or 38 cubic miles. Under the cloud of gas the volcano created, the earth cooled and 1816 became known as “The Year Without Summer” because of the low temperatures, which killed crops and led to mass starvation.

Storm Drains Need Special Attention

Despite the continuing hosepipe bans in force across great swathes of the country the great British weather has delivered what may prove to be the wettest three months on record if June continues as it has started. In many areas surface water from rainfall is not channelled into the main foul water sewers but piped into soak ways or directly into ditches and water courses. This practice is encouraged by the water companies who now levy a price surcharge on surface water discharge into sewer pipes.

As a consequence the potential for environmental contamination through accidental or deliberate disposal of toxic chemicals into surface water drains cannot be ignored. Whereas many quite wrongly, give no thought to what they tip down the main sewer drain adopting the same cavalier attitude to storm drains is to court environmental disaster and possible legal prosecution.

Drain Mat

This was brought home in a recent experience where an aggressive agricultural strength weedkiller was used to spray a large block paved area and orchard. In normal circumstances when applied responsibly a litre of the stuff would treat an acre or more but mixed by hand in a DIY back pack sprayer the concentration was probably 10 to 20 times the recommended dose. Heavy rains in the days following spraying washed the chemical into a surface water drain which discharged into a nearby dyke. Within days the surface of the dyke water was littered with dead pond life of all types.

The rain has not stopped since so hopefully the continued dilution will avert any spread of contamination into primary water courses. Whether it is chemicals, oils, detergents or fuels users should always check if they have open drains on their premises and take the simple precaution of purchasing a drain cover that can be quickly deployed in the event of a spill. It is worth noting that if by your actions either accidentally or deliberately, a spill on your premises causes environmental pollution you may well have to foot the bill for the environmental clean-up operation in addition to a fine.

How much will an oil spill cost your business?

What we’re about to do now is by nature of a scientific experiment;  a word association test.

There are no catches. I’m going to give you a simple phrase, and I’d like you to see what image it instantly calls to mind. Ready? Here we go: ‘oil spill’.

What do you see in your mind’s eye? I have no way of knowing, and I’m neither a betting man nor Derren Brown. However, I’d be very surprised if the list of mental images brought to mind didn’t involve BP in the Gulf of Mexico, the Amoco Cadiz, the Exxon Valdez, or, perhaps if you’re a little older, the Torrey Canyon, or maybe an oiled seabird or two.

English WaterwaysSee the common factor? (and there’s a clue I didn’t see until I wrote it down). They’re all at sea, and they’re all verging on the scarily large. But it’s a sad fact that oil spills don’t all happen at sea. In fact they’re more likely to happen inland, and there are far more of them than you might imagine, even in the UK.

The Environment Agency acknowledges that there are far fewer than there were a decade ago, but they’re nevertheless the second most frequent type of pollutant of inland waters reported in England and Wales. The introduction of England’s Oil Storage Regulations cut the number, but there are still getting on for 3,000 pollution incidents every year – in the order of eight a day. Although some of these affect land, the vast majority affect the country’s lakes and rivers – and they cost a typical business up to £30,000 in fines, clean-up charges and production losses to put right.

Of course, oil is everywhere, and it’s in large quantities. We use it in engines, hydraulic systems and fryers. It needs an extensive distribution and storage system, so there’s great potential for spills. The principal causes of oil pollution are loss from storage facilities, spills during delivery or dispensing and deliberate, illegal, disposal of waste oil to drains.

The Environment Agency has specific responsibility for a number of regulations related to storing and disposing of oil in a range of industrial settings, and the storage of agricultural fuel oils, and is responsible for enforcing the OSR England. Failure to comply is a criminal offence, and could land you with a fine of up to £5,000. Of course the Agency would prefer to work with you, and close the stable door before the horse bolts. It will provide advice and guidance, and help you to comply voluntarily, but has the power to make you toe the line.

So, we started with a word association test. Now let me paint another picture in your mind. In July this year a food processing company in Evesham had to pay £31,500 in fines and costs (quite apart from lost production and raw materials) when 5,000 litres of rapeseed oil spilled from a tank at its factory. The bund around the tank hadn’t contained the leak, and 800 litres of oil ran into the River Avon through surface water drains. In spite of the Environment Agency putting out a pollution control absorbent boom, two miles of the river were affected. Why was there a leak in the first place? A jubilee clip had come undone. Why did it turn into such a nightmare? The company didn’t understand its site drainage, and had no emergency action plan in place, so wasn’t able to deploy drain covers…

To help businesses avoid and deal with pollution incidents we have collected a range of advice within our advice centre.