ORS Plasma Tube Process - A New Era of Waste Oil Recycling Technology

OIL RECYCLING SOLUTIONS, the effective and robust method for optimal recycling of waste oil back to high quality base oils.

During the development and continuous improvement of our ORS re-refining process, we have assumed that the environment has a legitimate future, because without environmental protection there is no future.

Starting with Europe and beyond, environmental protection has grown into a firstclass job, to serve with the goal of natural resource conservation, the protection of human health and the preservation, protection and improvement of the quality of the environment.

All of the above objectives should be achievable while lowering costs compared with conventional refinery processes. This is exactly where this presentation starts with: Today's presentation will show the audience a first impression, and important information on a very economical and effective method of recycling waste oils that occur continuously in the automotive industry.

The emphasis of this presentation is to explain this method in more detail, and the opportunities to be identified that might arise for any potential investors.

Should there be a fundamental interest, of course we are available for individual and detailed consultations and happy to share information at any time.

17 years ago, the German based company SÜDÖL Petroleum Refinery Ltd. (Eislingen/Germany) installed the first plasma tubular reactor waste oil treatment plant.

Over a long period of time up to date this unique process has been optimized by the engineers and technicians of this company leading to a commercially viable and robust concept enabling SÜDÖL to operate this process with great success.
About 10 years ago a second facility in Saudi Arabia was built following the same principles of this process.

At this time the joint venture called ORS (OIL RECYCLING SOLUTIONS GmbH in Hamburg, Germany) has been founded by SÜDÖL and FLUID SOLUTIONS aiming to spread this technology throughout the world targeting potential investors worldwide.

Fortunately ORS were able to get Prof. Dr. Ing. Niemeyer on board who is known as an engineering expert on Process Development from the Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg and he played a significant role in further developing this process up to a point where we are today: A complete turn-key solution ready-to-start.

Currently, the company ORS OIL RECYCLING SOLUTIONS GmbH in Hamburg, Germany is in the process to prepare the groundwork for a private investor based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to put steel into the ground for a third plant of this kind.

Basically, in Germany, all available waste oil including any imported volume deriving from the entire automotive industry but also from other areas is being collected through independent centralized systems controlled by the government.
Here, nearly 100% of all waste oils are recycled and reprocessed as base oils market in the lubricant industry.

Only a tiny proportion today is still incinerated and burned in cement factories. In most other parts of the world a very large part of the waste oil is still just burned to satisfy short-term energy consumption.

From an ecological point of view there is no doubt that this really doesn’t make any sense at all and even more to the point what happened during the recent years is that due to permanently rising crude oil prices any used oil re-recycle technology is becoming more and more attractive to investors but also politicians.

The fact that collecting procedures but also if being urged to pay for waste oil costing a lot of money it is correct to say that an investment into this novel technology is truly justifiable.

The key question is as to whether it is the political environment or just a desire for environmentally friendly solutions in public minds that drives investors to make such an investment provided enough waste oil is available.

Please note that a simple economic approach constitutes any investment in this plasma-tube process as goes hand in hand with an outstanding short Return On Investment (ROI) timeframe.

The currently planned new facility for Emirates is calculated with a maximum period of 1.5 years t for the ROI of a € 10 million plant with a total capacity of 20,000 / year.
The essential steps that are applied in the most effective and optimized working plasma tubular reactor oil recycling plant at SÜDÖL, are characterized by three main features:

  • The technology is designed relatively simple and strong and thus also low priced in the capital cost during operation.
  • The system provides a high yield of base oils in a high purity with regard to the processing of new lubricants.
  • The recovery of high-quality components to be recycled from the waste oil (i.e. PAO) with a high viscosity index by simultaneously decomposing of undesirable by-products (i.e. olefins, S-containing components) leads to a base oil quality that is close to API Group III performance criteria (VI = 116).

In this brief presentation, of course I cannot go into all the technical details, but I would still describe the three important steps as follows.

  1. The waste oil, which is stored in an appropriately sized oil tank, is being extracted from volatile and water containing components (de-hydration step) that will also deliver necessary energy to be fed back into the process.
    Thereafter it should be free of all low-boiling and volatile components. At this stage the to be processed oil has reached a temperature of about 150 ° C.
  2. In the second step, the key feature of this process comes into play: The oil now goes into an improved plasma reactor tube with a capacity of between 2 and 6 t/h which will heat up the oil to approximately 380 ° C whilst being under a vacuum of about 20 mbar.
    These are the essential requirements to achieve the ultimate goal, namely, the total evaporation of the waste oil.
    On top of everything just being said now the most crucial feature happens that distinguishes the ORS plasma tubular reactor process from all other methods that are available today which is the acceleration of molecular gas-phase up to supersonic speed, which is, significantly more than 1000 km / h.
    Those ‘high speed gas molecules’ starting to exchange high kinetic energy among each other leading to a highly reactive gas phase where re-recycling and cleaning processes can run better and faster.
    By adding auxiliary substances it will be ensured that the subsequent fractional condensation stage will lead to products having the highest possible degree of purity.
    The yield of different types of base oil having different viscosity grades (base oil and spindle oil) is in the range of 90% and further North.
  3. In the third step it is now primarily the color improvement of all deriving base oils that could be realized thru a subsequent absorption/filtration process in order to optimize color of the base oil as this is fundamentally required if being used to formulate engine oils.

Finally this base oil can be processed directly on-site ready to be used for further blending activities to produce ready-to-sell engine oils SÜDÖL is doing today. SÜDÖL not only supplies many leading lubricant manufacturers directly with base oil. SÜDÖL also produces in cooperation with its parent company Zeller + Gmelin an engine oil labeled DIVINOL which fulfills classification requirements of all major automotive manufacturers such as BMW, MERCEDES, AUDI, VW, Porsche, etc.
The question as to whether a potential investor should decide to exclusively produce base oils to be sold on the world market or even is becoming interested in manufacturing its own engine oil truly depends on local conditions.

The required area for such a plant corresponds to a net construction area of 100m x 100m = 10 000 m² also taking into account any local restrictions.

It should be ensured adequate infrastructure, perhaps the connection to water and transport routes both for the delivery of waste oils as well as for the removal of the base oils is present.

Also, the consideration should be included to install the plant in the vicinity of an industrial environment that allows processing this base oil for other applications The offer, which ORS can make to any potential investor, is as follows:

  • ORS provides a possible investor a first conceptual design study in which all fundamental issues, starting with the logistics planning and the optimal design of the facility, which can be used as a basis for the necessary procedures.
    Estimating costs and cost-effectiveness studies are also included.
  • After successful completion of this study, in the second stage a complete engineering package will be delivered describes all key parameters for the plant including needed buildings tailored into the customer’s demand.
  • In the 3rd stage the company ORS provides his customer a so-called core package, which includes in addition to the engineering also the supply of core technology.

That is the plasma tube reactor and all associated peripherals such as Vacuum technology and the entire heating. In addition a fully developed control system with associated software packages for an optimal control of the plant comes with it.

ORS fully supports customers in the commissioning phase and early operation stages of the plant by means of a comprehensive service package.

This service package can then be extended to a long term agreement ensuring the operator will always be granted to have full access to the support provided by ORS engineering staff making sure latest updates will become available in order to participate in ORS’ continuous optimization processes The other part of the investment that financially constitutes the biggest portion of the total investment costs shall be delegated to local operating companies.

This applies to premises and/or real estate costs such as the entire construction work, tank building and pipeline construction costs as well as steel construction and costs associated with the electrical periphery.

The total costs of the investment are dependent on many factors and should be discussed seriously and in detail during discussions. 

As a Golden Rule Of Thumb I can give you a rough number which for a 20,000 t plant without having factored in any corresponding estate and building costs are in the range of approximately 10 Million Euro.

A plant with 50,000 tons per year is about 30% more expensive.

Example: By taking the current prices for raw materials and base oils and the logistics costs incurred for the collection of waste oil into consideration an approximate margin of around € 400 per ton could be achieved; however, depending on the country where the plant sits. This number could act as an indicative basis for any upcoming profitability study of any investment.

Overall this robust and mature process guarantees the investor high profit margins based on his investment in a short timeframe – a process that has also high visibility from a positive ecological point of view. Keyword: Carbon footprint to protect the environment meaning caring for key raw materials but also a reduction in CO2 emissions.

In summary we can say:

  1. The process is very environment-friendly
  2. All residual materials can be recovered economically reasonable