Silent Oil Spills™
In 1989, an accidental oil tanker spill resulted in 11 million gallons of crude oil being spilled into the sea along the coast of Alaska. The recent accidental explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform off of the Gulf Coast resulted in the release of over 150 million gallons of oil into the ocean.
These incidents caused tens of billions of dollars in damage, great environmental harm and unprecedented outcry from journalists, environmental groups and the public, all of whom strongly condemned anyone involved.
However, according to a DOE commissioned study, an estimated 348 million to 426 million gallons of used motor oils and industrial lubricants are improperly disposed of or illegally dumped into the environment in the United States each year. The EPA also estimates the amount of used oil illegally dumped each year in the United States in the hundreds of millions of gallons. This is the equivalent of two to three oil tanker-sized spills every month… just in the U.S.
If you expand this to the amount of used oil that is illegally dumped globally, it’s easy to see that this is a catastrophic problem that could run as high as one billion gallons per year.
Studies estimate that approximately 18% of used lubricant oil is illegally dumped on the ground or down the drain into the rivers and oceans. However the environmental damage does not end there. Around 42% of motor oils and industrial lubricants are “lost in use” meaning they leak into the fuel and are burned, or they leak out onto the ground, and are eventually washed away into the waterways. Only about 40% of used lubricant oils are properly collected, and the vast majority of that is burned at coal fired electricity plants as a fuel, releasing more petroleum carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Of this 40% of lubricant oil that is properly collected, only about 8% of this is recycled into new lubricant oils.
Unfortunately, the greatest tragedy from this crisis is the remarkable lack of knowledge society has of this ongoing environmental disaster, and the limited effort going into curbing this ongoing economic and environmental disaster.
Motor oils and other industrial lubricants are vital to our economy and standard of living. In fact, our modern society would literally grind to a halt without them. The United States alone uses over 2.5 billion gallons of lubricants each year with over 1 billion gallons just in passenger car motor oil.
Because of the high performance demands required of lubricants, in the harsh environment of engines and heavy machinery, there has not been competitively priced environmentally friendly oil that could endure these harsh conditions over an extended time period.
Biosynthetic Technologies has developed a revolutionary new class of high performance, nontoxic, sustainable oils that achieve premium functional performance with less damage to the environment. This is a great step in the right direction.
What Can Be Done?
According to the Argonne National Laboratory within the United States DOE, “Significant environmental benefits would result from the adoption by lubrication oil manufacturers of a “design for environment” philosophy in formulating their products.”
Lubricants are produced by combining petroleum “base oil” (base ingredient) with small amounts of key chemical additives to achieve the desired performance for a particular application. Petroleum base oils alone are not sufficient to lubricate and protect metal surfaces in automobiles and equipment.
Lubricant manufacturers often struggle to meet the ever increasing demands of higher performance engines and equipment, while also satisfying environmental regulations and meeting their own goals of being environmentally responsible citizens.
Environmentally friendly and cost competitive base oils that can meet the exacting performance requirements of motor oil have been essentially nonexistent.
The breakthrough development of Biosynthetic Technologies’ oils has changed all that. We start with renewable plant based oils. By altering the molecular structure of that oil, we are able to achieve a base oil that not only outperforms most petroleum base oils, it also meets and often exceeds the high performance, fully synthetic petroleum base oils on the market today.
The environmental benefits of our base oils are exceptionally high as well. Formulators using our oils are able to achieve higher performance while using substantially fewer toxic chemical additives. The base oil is not only from a renewable source, it is biodegradable and completely nontoxic. Additionally, motor oils and other lubricants formulated from our products can be dropped into existing motors and equipment without any modification, and can seamlessly fit into the existing recycling streams and collection infrastructures once used.
From both a performance and environmental perspective, Biosynthethic Technologies’ oils are truly revolutionary.
Opportunities for Petroleum Displacement
A barrel of crude oil contains only 0.4 gallons of lubricant. So, to meet the lubrication demands of the United States, you need to start with 6.25 billion barrels of crude oil each year. Clean natural gas, shale oil, and other alternative fuel sources lack the lubricant fraction so, as we move toward alternative energy, we should be moving to alternative lubricants as well. Using non-petroleum transportation technologies can substantially reduce dependence on crude oil and reduce vulnerability to oil supply disruptions or price fluctuations.
Fuel efficiencies – indications show that biosynthetic oils can increase automotive fuel efficiencies and help engines burn cleaner. This will reduce foreign oil imports as well as GHG emissions. Increased fuel efficiency also saves consumers billions of dollars and achieves other important policy objectives.
On average it can take about 15-20 years for a vehicle technology to reach maximum market penetration. Replacing the existing fleet of vehicles with higher efficiency vehicles could take 20 years. Lubricant technology and the associated benefits can be deployed rapidly through the existing market channels.
The use of our biodegradable, renewable and not-toxic oil will greatly reduce the environmental impact and risk to public health of petroleum based products. The substitution of these safer, cleaner chemicals will reduce dependence on petroleum oil and promote resource conservation.
The Clean Cities Coalition, a DOE program has been successful in the displacement or reduction of over 600 million gallons of petroleum in its history. By encouraging a switch to bio-based motor oil, that number could easily be doubled at no cost.
Used Petroleum Oil Pollution is Ubiquitous
Clean Water is the public’s number one environmental concern.
Used lubricant oil accounts for 40% of pollution found in American waterways, and is the single largest source of pollution in lakes, streams and rivers in the U.S.
The EPA reports 1 gallon of used motor oil can contaminate 1 million gallons of fresh water.
All the fresh water in the world amounts to about 3 percent of the total water, and more than 2 percent of that is locked up in polar ice caps and glaciers. In the U.S. enough used petroleum oil is illegally dumped every year to contaminate about 200 Trillion gallons of this scarce and precious resource.
A huge quantity of used petroleum motor oil finds its way into sewage treatment plants. The Coast Guard estimates that sewage treatment plants discharge twice as much oil into coastal waters as do tanker accidents.
Sewage treatment plants are equipped to deal with human waste, but are not effective at removing chemicals. In fact, petroleum actually kills the good bacteria that a treatment plant uses to purify sewage.
The sewage treatment process can be fouled by concentrations of petroleum oil as low as 50 to 100 parts per million (ppm).
Petroleum fouled sewage treatment processes can potentially double the cost of waste water treatment for municipalities, and all of this increased cost is passed on to consumers.
The cost of municipal waste water treatment due to diminished water quality represents an important component of the societal costs of water pollution. When petroleum contamination is present the cost can negatively impact the nation’s 75,000 community and not-for-profit water systems.
Shouldn’t society find and promote safer alternatives to petroleum based products?
According to the National Research Council, almost 500 million gallons of used, petroleum based lubricating oil reaches the world’s oceans each year, through routine ship maintenance and improper disposal of used oils. That is the equivalent of nearly one oil tanker-sized spill every week. The strain this puts on marine life, the fishing industry, and the world’s coral reefs, that sustain much of the animal life on our plant, is immeasurable.
One gallon of petroleum oil can cause an 8 acre oil slick, killing aquatic plants and animals.
Lubricants actually create GHG pollutants at the same rate per gallon as transportation fuels. Approximately 42% of lubricants are “consumed in use” meaning they either seep into the engine’s combustion chamber and are burned with the gasoline, creating immediate GHG’s, or they leak out of the engine or equipment into the environment, causing storm-water pollution of land and waterways for years, before eventually biodegrading into GHGs.
Approximately 18% of lubricant oils are illegally dumped on the ground or down the drain, which again causes extensive environmental damage to land and water before eventually degrading into GHG’s and ending up in the atmosphere.
Of the approximately 40% of lube oils that are properly collected once used, around 32% are burned at coal fired power plants as fuel, creating GHGs along with the coal that is burned. Only 8% (Without further research, right now I can only source 7%) of lubricants used in the U.S. are eventually collected and re-refined into new lubricants.
Used lubricant oil burned in the U.S. releases approximately 19 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. Replacing petroleum based lubricating oil with a renewable alternative would eliminate this release, the equivalent of taking 3.3 million cars off the road.
Lubricants are an important component in the relationship between fuel properties, engine performance and emissions. For example, all motor oils require phosphorus additives in order make them functional. Unfortunately, if any of this phosphorus leaks into the combustion chamber and is burned, it can poison the car’s catalytic converter system, which can dramatically increase to the level of harmful emissions leaving the vehicle and polluting the air. Biosynthetic Technologies’ oils have a lower evaporative loss than all petroleum oils (standard or synthetic), this catalytic poisoning is reduced, reducing the level of toxic emissions as the vehicle ages.
Another important factor affecting the level of emissions in automobiles is the actual fuel efficiency (miles per gallon). Motor oils tend to thicken over time (increase in viscosity) as they are used in engines. This viscosity increase causes engines to have to work harder, which lowers the fuel efficiency of the engine. Engine tests conducted by several global motor oil manufacturers have shown Biosynthetic Technologies’ advanced biobased lubricants have far lower viscosity increase over time than almost all petroleum based oils. This decreases the amount of petroleum fuel consumed, while saving consumers money. It also allows for longer drain intervals on par with other full synthetic motor oils.
Finally, these biosynthetic oils have proven much more efficient than petroleum at keeping engine surfaces clean from carbon sludge deposits. This allows the engine to run smother, last longer and burn fuel more efficiently.
Industry and Government have expended vast resources evaluating and promoting the benefits of bio derived fuels. However, very little has been done to develop and promote biobased alternative to the billions of gallons of lubricants used in the U.S. every year.
One gallon of used oil can render 4 acres of land unsuitable for planting for a decade. Oil that has migrated through soil or has reached ground water is subject only to anaerobic degradation, which can take as long as 100 years.
Landfills receive over 500 million used oil filters each year which can contain up to 11 oz. of used oil each, potentially resulting in 43 million gallons of petroleum base motor oil being dumped in the nation’s municipal landfills. The oils in these filters damage liners and leach into valuable groundwater sources.
Landfills also receive well over 3 billion “used” quart motor oil bottles each having an average residual 1.5 ounces of oil left inside. This alone equates to approximately 37.5 million gallons of petroleum oil entering landfills. Because of the petroleum in the bottles, most recycling programs cannot accept motor oil bottles creating about 150,000 tons of HDPE waste each year.
Federal, state and local governments spend millions of hours and billions of dollars per year attempting to prevent the damage used oils inflict on the nation’s precious natural resources including waterways, soils, air and wildlife; and to deal with the damage already done.
Harm caused by the unnecessary use of petroleum products can be severe, widespread and long lasting. It can also be extremely expensive to mitigate and complicated to prevent.
As an example, used petroleum oil is the largest volume hazardous waste generated in the state of California. And the impact may be actually understated, “All surveys underestimate improper disposal of used oil and filters. This occurs because survey respondents try to conceal illegal or socially undesirable behavior by refusing to participate at all, by refusing to answer key questions, or by falsifying their responses to such questions.” (California Integrated Waste Management Board)
Non-petroleum, nontoxic, biodegradable, renewable and recyclable products used in place of current alternatives will protect water, soil and air.
Ultimately, the impact of the oil on the environment depends primarily on the total volume of oil released to the environment. Replacing some or all of the billions of gallons of petroleum-based lubricants used each year, with a biodegradable, renewable, nontoxic and recyclable alternative would certainly be a cleaner, safer alternative.
USDA – commercialization of government technology intended to grow US agricultural markets. Biosynthetic Technologies demonstrates how government and the private sector can work together to effect positive change that benefits both the US economy and the American standard of living while at the same time protecting the environment.
Further, we can make an impact in building the economy of rural America, by diversifying markets for agricultural products. The patented technology that creates Biosynthetic Technologies products was originally engineered and patented by the USDA for this purpose. We can advance America’s economy by strengthening the backbone of the agricultural system.
The environmental damage and health issues caused from petroleum based lubricants and motor oils are diverse, substantial and well documented. A move to bio-based products would provide a substantial benefit to the public health and to the environment.
What if we looked at the problem through new eyes and tried to remedy the situation, if we could start over…
We would start off with base oil that is biodegradable, renewable, and nontoxic and recyclable. We would legislate and incentivize industry to adopt real solutions to the problem by eliminating the dependence on petroleum-based products and reliance on foreign oil. We would engineer high performance synthetic oils that meet the highest function demands of industry while remaining sustainable, biodegradable and completely nontoxic. These oils would be American made biobased oils that supports the environment and our economy. Imagine the environmental and social benefits these products could achieve once adopted worldwide.
This is not just a dream, but is now a reality. Welcome to a cleaner world.