Sunday, February 10, 2008

Journal #7: Environmental Assessment of Used Oil Management

I was referred to a paper written by one of the professors I will likely be working for next year, Arpad Horvath. It was a detailed Life Cycle Analysis of used oil management in California. The study focused on the three major management methods of combustion, rerefining, and distilling. The limits of the LCA were placed on the end-of-life phase to concentrate on generated wastes and emissions.

Used oil has significantly higher amounts of heavy metals, sulfur, and total halogens when compared to crude oil. It is generated by the transportation, construction, and industrial sectors, where it is then processed through one of the management methods and used as fuel, lubrication, or in other materials production such as asphalt.

Combustion is the most common method of management (75% of used oil). Combustion creates the least amount of waste, but results in much higher emissions of heavy metals when compared to the other management methods. This is the most hazardous risk to human health, and is not nearly as evident in rerefining and distilling. Still, combustion is the cheapest, easiest way to manage used oil which is reflected by its popularity.

The authors then advise that the best option is to take measures to increase management in rerefining and distilling. Already, California is planning to double its rerefining operations. Incentives could be created to reward alternate management methods (other than combustion).

This journal entry was more of a summary of a technical study than an analysis, and allowed me to get a chance to dissect a very detailed report by myself. It gave a better understanding of what goes into a full LCA, and its many applications in environmental engineering.

1 comment:

Deanna said...

funny how your father will likely become your "academic grandfather."

was this exercise useful to you? you note that it was a chance to do this "by yourself" but it is something I would hope students should be able to do before they graduate. would more practice at this be helpful?