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Petroleum Recycling


This Industry Profile Fact Sheet is presented by the EPA Region 3 to assist state, local, and municipal agencies, and private groups in the initial planning and evaluation of sites being considered for remediation, redevelopment or reuse. It is intended to provide a general description of site conditions and contaminants which may be encountered at specific industrial facilities. This fact sheet is presented for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as a federal policy or directive.


Recycling is the recovery for reuse of materials and energy from wastes that are usually destined for disposal. Recyclable oils can be obtained from a variety of sources, including automotive garages, service stations, truck and taxi fleets, military installations, individuals, manufacturing facilities, and wastewater treatment plants. The primary types of used petroleum oil that are being recycled are motor, hydraulic and industrial lubricating oils. The additives and contaminants typically found in these oils may cause environmental problems associated with the recycling process.

Generally, used oil recycling facilities have three kinds of processes: recycling used oil as a fuel, reclaiming and re-refining. In many cases, an oil recycler may be involved with more of these processes.


Chemical analysis, primarily for inorganic constituents, is performed on used oils and waste oils when they are received at the recycling facility. Many organic contaminants contained in such oils have not been analyzed. At older facilities, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were often not detected in used or waste oils, despite the strict regulations concerning PCB containing oil. These regulations on PCBs are established by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) with additional regulations based on hazardous waste provisions in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).


The primary waste streams from a petroleum oil recycling facility include oily sludges and wastewater containing metals (sulfur, zinc, calcium, barium, phosphorus, lead, aluminum, iron) and PCBs. These contaminants are frequently found in surface and subsurface soils as well as groundwater due to poor facility housekeeping, repetitive spills and undetected releases from bulk storage tanks. These contaminants may also become airborne as dust particles during demolition and construction operations.


Surface and subsurface soils and groundwater should be sampled at the site at handling, processing and bulk storage areas, to identify sources of contamination. Additional sampling may be conducted to determine the extent of the contamination. If floating product is anticipated above the water table, monitoring wells should be drilled in the suspected contaminant locations and water samples at depths should be collected. Air pollution is not anticipated if the site is not undergoing major construction activities.


PCBs Analysis

Target Analyte List (TAL) Metals Analysis

Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) Analysis

Region 3 | Mid-Atlantic Cleanup | Mid-Atlantic Brownfields & Land Revitalization

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