In the lube oil industry, the term “recycling” is very different from “re-refining.” To help you understand the difference, here are the definitions:
The term “recycling” used oil generally means to take used motor oil and use it for a different purpose, most commonly to be burnt as fuel. In the lube oil industry, “recycling oil” or “reconditioning oil” is most commonly referring to using commercial filtration systems to remove insoluble impurities. This method, however, does not remove any of the soluble contaminants. This resulting oil has very limited uses. In some cases, reconditioned oil is mixed with additives in order to prolong its usage. This oil is generally used for fuel and is only good for one-time use. Reconditioned oil is not suitable for use in automobiles.
Re-refining is a process that has been developed over many years. It removes all impurities, both soluble and insoluble, and returns the oil to a quality suitable for automobiles. Re-refined oil has quality that is equal to or better than some virgin base oils. In fact, when re-refining using hydrotreating process, the product base oil can meet API group II specifications. In addition, the re-refining process is less severe than the refining of crude oil and uses less energy. Motor oils can be re-refined many times. The diagram below demonstrates the general scheme involving re-refining.