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Intelligent Lubrication Solutions™

Intelligent Lubrication Solutions™


The Difference Between Virgin Oil, Recycled Oil, and Re-refined Oil

Posted by Jeff Muellenbach on May 24, 2016 8:26:00 AM

Difference-Between-Oils.jpgHave you ever heard of re-refined or recycled oil and immediately dropped it from consideration because you don’t have any interest in buying previously used oil? You wouldn’t be the only one. From used cars to used lubricants, we’re trained to believe that nothing will ever be as good as it was when it was brand new, so most people see the words refurbished, recycled, or re-refined and assume those products have seen better days (and that those words are all interchangeable). However, that’s not necessarily the case with lubricants. Re-refined oil is actually as good of quality or better than virgin oil, and recycled oil is a completely different category and purpose.

To help remove any confusion around the 3 types, I’ll breakdown the differences between each and share some usage applications as well.

Virgin Oil

Virgin oil is the most common type of oil used in lubrication products today, and sets the standard for oil quality. Virgin oil is crude oil that’s gone through the refining process, but hasn’t been used yet. Once you use it in your machines, it’s downgraded to used oil. 

Recycled Oil 

When it comes to recycling your oil, this refers to taking used oil and running it through a filtration system to remove any insoluble impurities. This won’t remove any chemical contaminants, but removing the physical ones can make it suitable to be burned as fuel or re-used in non-critical systems.

Reconditioned oil is a subcategory of recycled oil, where recycled oil is mixed with additives to help prolong its usable life. Reconditioned oil is typically only good for a one-time use however, and not suitable in automobiles.

If your plant has lots of hydraulic systems, you can use a commercial filtration system to filter out contaminants from your hydraulic fluids, re-charge the fluids, and re-use them on your non-critical hydraulic systems to save money. However, we only recommend recycling on site if you have the knowledge and equipment to do so properly, as you’ll need the proper fluid analysis to validate that your fluid is still in spec for use your machines. If you don’t have the tools or knowhow to conduct a proper analysis of your oil, your fluid supplier should be able to help you out.

Re-refined Oil

While recycled oil is oil that’s been filtered to remove soluble impurities, re-refined oil goes much further and removes both soluble and insoluble impurities. Additives are chemically stripped from the oil after filtration, leaving you with un-additized base oil. From here, the oil is sent off site back through the same distillation stack used to make virgin oil, where they remove water molecules and any other contaminants. When it comes out of the distillation stack, the oil has to be qualified by the API against the exact same base oil ratings as virgin oil, and if the oil doesn’t meet those standards, API won’t let it fly.

Because the re-refined oil has gone through the same refining process as crude oil does to become virgin oil, it is as good of quality as virgin oil (and sometimes better). In addition, re-refined oil is more environmentally friendly than virgin oil. Re-refining waste oil uses 3x less energy than it takes to refine crude oil into virgin oil. Some oils, such as motor oils, can be refined many times over for maximum savings.

Knowing that re-refined oils are only allowed on the market if they meet the same API standards as virgin oils, there’s no reason to doubt their quality. You’ll also be making a “green” decision that benefits the environment. 

Want to learn more about the different re-refined oils U.S. Lubricants has to offer? Contact Tony Springer today at TSpringer@uslube.com or by phone at (800) 490-4900 ext. 8823.


Topics: Fluid Formulations