by John Wesley, CEO of Universal Lubricants
Every summer, it’s the same story—soaring gas prices strike a national nerve as time at the pump pinches our wallets. And every summer, Americans more intensely question our reliance on finite petroleum fuel and the many undemocratic regimes that control its reserves. “Is there an alternative?” we wonder, “Is there a better option for our financial system, for the planet?”
To that end, consider another, often forgotten, petroleum-based product that every car requires—motor oil. Every year, U.S. drivers depend on approximately 1.3 billion gallons of the substance to promote healthy engine life, but far too much of it—the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 200 million gallons—is dumped illegally each year. Such consumer behavior is environmentally and economically regrettable, especially as recent technological advancements, the culmination of incredible R&D efforts, have transformed motor oil into a veritable renewable resource.
With state-of-the-art machinery and facilities, Universal Lubricants’ re-refinery in Wichita, KS, empowers auto enthusiasts everywhere to recycle used motor oil, restoring it to “good as new” quality. The result, ECO ULTRA green motor oil, can be resold at about the same price per quart as conventional motor oil.
As a product, motor oil is approximately 85% oil and 15% additives (detergent, anti-foaming stabilizers, etc.) and it is the latter 15% which breaks down by design as contaminants accumulate over time, necessitating oil changes. As the oil molecules themselves retain their chemical compositions, spent motor oil simply needs to be cleaned (stripping away contaminants and the worn out additives), re-refined into API approved base oil, and then infused with a fresh additive package, to transform what was once thought of as a waste into a top-grade product.
The concept of re-refining motor oil is not a new one; for years, manufacturers toyed with an “Acid/Clay Process” in which used motor oil was treated with sulfuric acid to dissolve contaminants by forming sludge, subsequently drawn out for disposal. Followed by a clay filtration, the motor oil was cleaned relatively well, but failed to meet the exacting standards of many. Again, American environmentalists, scientists and car lovers asked, “can’t we do better?”
Universal Lubricants, pioneering the green motor oil revolution, endeavored to design a more sophisticated re-refining process, actually treating used motor oil in the same manner as crude. The company does so by implementing a sequence of four steps: (1) flash distillation, removing water, fuel and other contaminants; (2) wiped film evaporation, eliminating metals and heavier particles; (3) hydro treatment, refreshing the oil molecules; and (4) a final distillation, eradicating any trace contaminants lingering in the stock and separating the base II oil into separate grades, ready for blending with a fresh additive package and re-bottling. With the science of re-refining improved multifold, so too the quality of the end product, ECO ULTRA motor oils. ECO ULTRA’s become the trusted choice for optimal engine performance, but also environmental stewardship—the entire process of re-refining motor oil uses 89% less energy than refining oil from virgin crude.
Such advancements have revved the green motor oil revolution to full force, and across America green motor oils are beginning to line the shelves of auto garages, dealerships and commercial retailers. Yet again, one company takes its commitment to sustainability above and beyond, distinguishing itself as the only “close-loop” manufacturer of recycled oil in the U.S. Universal Lubricants collects, re-refines, blends, packages and redistributes its own oil—never losing guardianship within the chain. This cycle is infinitely repeatable and as such, is the most sustainable car care practice in existence.
However, in such a swiftly changing industry with rapidly progressing technology capabilities, we shouldn’t be surprised that the threats to our advancements adapt an equally rapid pace. Recently, bio-based motor oils have been touted as a “green-er” alternative to recycled petroleum based products. Upon closer examination however, that claim comes into question.
Made in part from the animal fat of beef slaughter byproducts, bio-based motor oils have the potential to derail elegant re-refining processes, in much the same manner as a cooking oil clogs a kitchen sink. Except this time, much more is at stake—expensive capital, jobs, and car performance, and a commitment to truly, not superficially, bettering America’s environmental and economic futures. What’s more, in an increasingly interconnected world, it’s not only the motor oil industry which will be affected by the entry of bio-based products into the oil inventory. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted that as of January 2011, food prices around the globe had risen to historic highs, without signs of abatement in sight. With increasing stress on global food supplies, social and political dilemmas abound from implementing potential food sources in industrial applications.
At present and realistically for the foreseeable future, America is a gas-fueled society. Yet, everyday American citizens are actively taking steps to reduce our dependency on foreign reserves; scientists and environmentalists cooperating to develop green technology and processes, companies building sustainability practices into their corporate objectives, and you, the American driver, by choosing ECO ULTRA, at every oil change. The average five-quart oil change using ECO ULTRA helps preserve our natural resources while reducing America’s need for foreign oil by two barrels. So as you visit the gas pump this summer, remember, each and every one of us can already do better. We can all choose ECO ULTRA.