Onsite chemical recycling is rapidly becoming the preferred method for acquiring and managing petrochemicals. Cost savings, in the form of reduced chemical costs, reductions in hazardous waste and reduced downtime were the primary motivations for adopting onsite chemical recycling. However, another benefit – and perhaps an even greater reason for onsite chemical recycling – is the preservation of our oil reserves, one of Earth’s most precious resources.
The Volatility of Oil Prices
Volatility in oil prices are undoubtedly a frequent, if not every day, news topic. Oil prices rise as Americans pack up for that annual ritual known as the summer vacation. Auto manufacturers have become quite adept at developing new engines that get the most performance from each precious drop of fuel. Similarly, Americans are embracing new technologies in order to keep their monthly energy bills from becoming unmanageable – all in an effort to combat escalating oil prices.
However oil prices are a symptom. Not the cause.
The cause, of course, goes back to Economics 101: Supply and Demand. While demand remains high due to expanding global populations and the industrialization of third world countries, supply is actually the primary driver of rising oil prices. To explain this we must delve deeper into global economics, or more specifically, the Energy Return on Energy Investment (EROEI), also known as Energy Return on Investment (EROI).
EROEI, as defined by Investopedia, is the amount of energy that has to be expended in order to produce a certain amount of energy. The energy return on investment (EROI) is a key determinant of the price of energy, as sources of energy that can be tapped relatively cheaply will allow the price to remain low. The ratio decreases when energy becomes scarcer and more difficult to extract or produce.
So EROI is the ratio of the amount of usable energy acquired from a particular energy resource to the amount of energy expended to obtain that energy resource. In the case of oil, economists must consider how much energy is required to extract and produce one barrel of crude oil. When the EROEI of a resource is less than or equal to one, that energy source becomes an “energy sink,” and can no longer be used as a primary source of energy. An example of an energy sink is when the costs of extracting one barrel of crude oil exceeds one barrel. Currently the price of a barrel of crude is approximately $100 USD; which means as long as we spend less than $100 acquiring one barrel of we have a positive EROIE. When the cost to acquire that barrel of oil exceeds its value ($100) then an energy sink occurs and oil will no longer be a viable source of energy.
Oil’s 12-Step Program
In addition to acquisition costs, we must consider the costs connected to readying oil for consumption. In other words, true costs must factor in research, discovery, extraction, processing/refining, storage and transport. Once we understand the entire oil ecosystem then we can easily determine the value of recycling petrochemicals and see why it’s the preferred method for cutting costs and protecting our natural resources.
The image on the right represents a simplified view of the oil extended value chain from the point of extraction. In this example, the process begins with the extraction of oil (1). After constructing an oil well, iron horses (2) are used to pump oil into containers (3), which are stockpiled until distribution. Massive oil tankers (4) transport as much as 2M barrels of oil per shipment to the United States (as most of our oil still comes from overseas). The barrels are then unloaded into storage facilities (5) where they are later transported to a refinery (6). Next the refined petrochemicals are transported to distributors. Distributors then stock the barrels and fill orders (8) which are then shipped to end users (9).
End users consume the petrochemicals (10) in various processes and products. The remaining spent chemicals, which are typically hazardous waste streams, are transported to authorized disposal sites (11) where it is incinerated (12).
In this example the entire processes spans about 10,000 miles. It is also important to note that each step (1 – 12) requires additional energy in order to progress to the next link in the supply chain. Pumping the oil requires more oil. Transporting the oil requires oil. Even refining and incinerating the oil takes more oil. And each step decreases the amount of energy derived from the original barrel. In other words, each step further decreases the Energy Return on Energy Invested.
The Final Step is the Biggest Crime
In the example above, step 12 refers to incineration. This is where the spent petrochemicals are burned as an acceptable means for managing hazardous waste streams. While incineration is an effective means for disposal, it is the equivalent of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Once incinerated, that precious oil is gone. What took Mother Earth thousands of years to produce, and took man more than 10,000 miles to transport, is gone. Forever.
Game-Changing Reality Check
Companies choose incineration because, until recently, there have not been acceptable alternatives for managing spent petrochemicals. Additionally, most companies don’t understand that their oil-based waste streams are valuable.
Petrochemicals become contaminated when used in assorted production and cleaning processes. But being dirty does not deem the chemical unusable, no more than leaves falling into a swimming pool mean it’s no longer fit for swimming. In fact most petrochemicals are discarded despite being only marginally contaminated or dirty.
In reality, most spent petrochemicals can be recycled and returned to virgin quality – ready to be used again and again. In some instances recycled chemicals and solvents are returned to a higher quality than the original product.
CleanPlanet, committed to making onsite chemical recycling fiscally and environmentally responsible, enables companies to reduce chemical costs and eliminate hazardous waste streams, while preserving Earth’s oil reserves.
CleanPlanet’s onsite chemical recycling service transforms oil’s 10,000 mile journey into about 100 feet. As illustrated on the right, the process begins with virgin-quality, recycled solvent/chemicals (1) which are used in various processes (2). The spent chemicals are collected and taken to the recycling technology (3) where they are distilled; and the process begins again. And again. And again.
In addition to protecting Earth’s oil reserves, CleanPlanet guarantees a 20% reduction in chemical costs and as much as a 90% reduction in hazardous waste generation and associated disposal costs and liabilities.
CleanPlanet delivers, installs and configures the appropriate technology without any up-front investment, risk or obligation. Nor does the company charge for supplies or ongoing maintenance. Customers only pay for the clean, usable chemicals recovered from the machine, which on average is 20% less than virgin product. In other words, CleanPlanet earns its customers’ business day in and day out, one gallon at a time. There are no contracts or long-term obligations – just the constant supply of virgin-quality chemicals at significantly lower costs.
An Economically and Environmentally Sound Decision
We have adjusted to high gas prices and have been comforted by recent oil discoveries that have been made possible through new extraction technology. But the reality remains that our limited oil supply continues to diminish at higher rates with each passing day, which in turn proportionately dilutes future returns on energy invested. In fact, we have 64 years of proven oil reserves remaining at current consumption rates. Therefore the economics of supply and demand are requiring companies to find alternative methods for managing our dwindling oil reserves.
If you’re interested in our approach to on-site recycling, please click here to learn more.