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The Management of Used Oil

The Management of Used Oil

If you generate a waste oil as a by-product of your operations (ie. a Generator of Used Oil) you may be able to take advantage of the relaxed regulatory requirements of the US EPA for the management of this waste as a Used Oil.  In addition to less restrictions for on-site handling, the used oil regulations of the US EPA at 40 CFR 279 provide used oil generators with additional options for transportation and recycling.

Definition of Used Oil:

A used oil is defined by regulation (40 CFR 279.1) as, “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.”  It is worth some repetition in order to emphasize the most important conditions of this definition, a used oil must be…

  1. Refined from crude oil or any synthetic oil; it cannot be a vegetable or animal oil/grease,
  2. Used; it cannot be virgin or unused, and;
  3. Contaminated as a result of its use by physical or chemical impurities (ie. is too spent or too dirty for continued use).

Refer to Table 1 for further description of what can and cannot be regulated as a used oil.

Table 1:

A Used Oil may be…

A Used Oil Cannot be…

Motor oils

Fuel product storage tank bottoms

Greases

Fuel product spill cleanup material

Emulsions

Unused or virgin oil

Coolants

Animal and vegetable oils and grease

Heating media

Antifreeze

Brake fluids

Materials used as cleaning agents

Transmission fluids

Materials used only for their solvent properties

Other hydraulic fluids

 An oil containing >1,000 ppm total halogens

Electrical insulating oils

Metalworking fluids

Refrigeration oils

If your used oil meets the above definition, then it may be managed per the used oil regulations even if it meets the definition of a characteristic hazardous waste.  You may not, however, use the used oil option if it contains a listed hazardous waste.  Table 2 contains a summary of characteristic and listed hazardous waste.

Table 2:

Characteristic Hazardous Waste

Listed Hazardous Waste

Description

Waste Codes

Description

Waste Codes

Ignitable

D001

Non-Specific Sources

F001 – F039

Corrosive

D002

Specific Sources

K001 – K181

Reactive

D003

Discarded commercial chemical products, off-specification species, container residues, and spill residues thereof (Acute).

P001 – P205

Toxic

D004 – D043

Discarded commercial chemical products, off-specification species, container residues, and spill residues thereof (Toxic).

U001 – U411

Applicability of Used Oil Regulations:

Even if the above definition is met, there are some instances where you may not be able to take advantage of the used oil option.  The used oil regulations are designed to encourage recycling but also protect the environment; this requires the exclusion of some waste from management as a used oil.

First, it is assumed that all used oil generated will be recycled instead of disposed as a waste.  This allows you as the generator to comply with the used oil regulations regardless if a transporter, processor, or other handler down the line decides to dispose of it as a waste instead of recycle.  In that case the burden of complying with the applicable hazardous waste regulations lies with the handler who chooses disposal over recycling and does not impact your handling of it as a used oil.

One way your oil may be ineligible for management as a used oil is because of something known as the “Rebuttable Presumption”.  It works like this:  at some point prior to recycling your used oil must be sampled and analyzed to determine its total halogen content (fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine, or astatine) by the transporter, processor, re-refiner,transfer facility, or other handler – a generator may perform the analysis but it is not required.  If the results of this test indicate the total halogen content is >1,000 ppm, then the used oil is presumed to contain a spent chlorinated solvent and to be a listed hazardous waste from a non-specific source with the waste codes of either F001 or F002 (see Table 2).  This presumption, known as the “Rebuttable Presumption”, precludes the waste’s management as a used oil unless you as the generator are able to do one of the following:

  1. Find an exemption/exclusion from the “Rebuttable Presumption”.
  2. Rebut the presumption by demonstrating the oil does not contain a listed hazardous waste.

A second way your oil may be ineligible for the used oil option is if it has been mixed with a characteristic hazardous waste and the resulting mixture exhibits any of the characteristics of a hazardous waste; an exception to this exists for a waste that is hazardous solely for the characteristic of ignitability.  If an ignitable hazardous waste is mixed with a used oil the resulting mixture may be managed as a used oil as long as it doesn’t display the characteristic of ignitability.

And, of course, the mixture of an oil with any listed hazardous waste precludes its management as a used oil.

See Table 2 for a summary of characteristic and listed hazardous waste.

Requirements for Management of Used Oil:

The used oil regulations contain specific requirements for generators, they include:

  • Label containers, above-ground tanks, and underground tank fill pipes as “Used Oil”.  This is very important, labeling as “Waste Oil”, “Bad Oil”, “Oil for Recycling”, etc. is frequently cited as a violation by the US EPA.  Pennsylvania is the only State that identifies this waste as “Waste Oil”.
  • Maintain used oil containers and tanks in good condition with no leaking.
  • If a leak or spill occurs, promptly clean it up with dry methods and dispose of any waste properly.
  • Also, you should…
    • Comply with your State’s applicable requirements for the storage of flammable, combustible, and hazardous materials.
    • Comply with the US EPA Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations of the Clean Water Act if your on-site storage of all oil is above threshold amounts.

Transportation of Used Oil:

The used oil transporter you select must comply with the following:

  • Have a US EPA identification number.  It may also require a State solid waste transportation license, check with your State.
  • Meet all applicable regulations of the US DOT for the transportation of hazardous materials.
  • Comply with the used oil regulations (Federal and State) applicable to used oil transporters.

There is a special arrangement you may be able to make with your transporter known as the tolling arrangement that removes the requirement for the transporter to have a US EPA identification number.   To be eligible for the tolling arrangement the used oil must be reclaimed under a contractual agreement where the reclaimed oil is returned by the processor or re-refiner to the generator for use as a lubricant, cutting oil or coolant.

Management Options for Used Oil:

A used oil generator also has some options available that make the management and disposal of used oil even easier and possibly a net benefit:

  1. You may self-transport up to 55 gallons of your own used oil to a registered used oil collection center or between your facilities to a central aggregation point.  You may also transport used oil collected from household do-it-yourselfers or small farmers (those who generate an average of <25 gal/month of used oil in a calendar year) to your facility or an aggregation point.  In either case, the transportation must be in a company or employee-owned vehicle.
  2. You may filter, clean, or otherwise recondition used oil for reuse on-site.
  3. You may burn used oil on-site in a space heater if all of the following conditions are met:
    • Maximum design capacity of the heater is ≤500,000 BTU”s/hour.
    • Combustion gases are vented to the outside.
    • Sources of used oil are limited to:  on-site generation or other locations owned by the company (you can use self-transportation to aggregate volumes) or receive directly (without a middle-man or used oil marketer) from household do-it-yourselfers or small farmers.

Prohibitions on the Management of Used Oil:

Used oil may not be…

  • Managed in surface impoundments or waste piles unless permitted.
  • Used as a dust suppressant.
  • Burned in a non-exempt boiler or space heater (see above).

Conclusion:

Used oil is a type of waste the US EPA believes can be managed in a way that protects human health and the environment without resorting to full regulation as a hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  For this reason the used oil regulations were created.  Make certain that you comply with the relaxed regulatory requirements and take advantage of the options available to you as a generator of used oil.  To learn more about used oil, universal waste, hazardous waste, and more, attend one of my training workshops or contact me for a free consultation.