Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What is Used Oil? Am I a Used Oil Generator?

What is Used Oil?

According to the EPA's definition, Used oil (or waste oil) is "any oil that has been refined from crude oil or any synthetic oil that has been used and as a result of such use is contaminated by physical or chemical impurities".  This includes petroleum based and synthetic materials that are used for transmission fluid, crankcase oil, hydraulic fluid, heat transfer, or lubrication in vehicles and equipment.  The terms used oil and waste oil are used interchangeably in the industry. 

To meet EPA's definition of used oil, a substance must meet each of the following three criteria:

Origin — the first criterion for identifying used oil is based on the origin of the oil. Used oil must have been refined from crude oil or made from synthetic materials. Animal and vegetable oils are excluded from EPA's definition of used oil.

Use — the second criterion is based on whether and how the oil is used. Oils used as lubricants, hydraulic fluids, heat transfer fluids, buoyants, and for other similar purposes are considered used oil. Unused oil such as bottom clean-out waste from virgin fuel oil storage tanks or virgin fuel oil recovered from a spill, do not meet EPA's definition of used oil because these oils have never been "used." EPA's definition also excludes products used as cleaning agents or solely for their solvent properties, as well as certain petroleum-derived products like antifreeze and kerosene.

Contaminants — the third criterion is based on whether or not the oil is contaminated with either physical or chemical impurities. In other words, to meet EPA's definition, used oil must become contaminated as a result of being used. This aspect of EPA's definition includes residues and contaminants generated from handling, storing, and processing used oil. Physical contaminants could include metal shavings, sawdust, or dirt. Chemical contaminants could include solvents, halogens, or saltwater.

Your business generates used oil if you:  handle waste oil through commercial or industrial operations or from the maintenance of vehicles and equipment.  Farmers who produce less than 25 gallons/month of used oil are excluded from generator status, as are individuals who produce waste oil from the maintenance of their personal vehicles.

Source: Managing Used Oil: Advice for Small Businesses

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