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The right place for a used motor oil re-refinery: Peachtree City

Oil. Black gold. Gold can be melted and reshaped again and again. Oil, too, has the potential to be re-refined again and again. But that’s not what usually happens.

For 20 years, Universal Environmental Services (UES), headquartered in Peachtree City, has collected used motor oil from cars and trucks. UES’ customers include large corporations — Walmart is their largest customer — and mom and pop service stations across 14 states.
At their facility they filter and dewater the used oil, and then they sell it as fuel for industrial machines to paper mills, cement kilns and asphalt plants. Because there is no re-refinery in the Southeast, most of the oil from every car, every bus, every truck on the road gets reused, but not as well as a re-refinery can do.
UES was sold last year: 86 percent of the company was acquired by Avista, a German company that pioneered a process for re-refining used motor oil, at their three other international re-refineries located in Europe and the Middle East.
With patented Avista technology, German engineering and a $60 million investment in production equipment, UES is constructing a re-refinery in the heart of Peachtree City’s industrial park.
A re-refinery takes used motor oil and processes it to the point where it can be blended with standard additives to be motor oil again. This process creates a better quality base oil and less of a carbon footprint than the oil refining from crude. UES CEO Juan Fritschy calls it “upcycling.” It’s relatively rare.
There are only five re-refineries in the United States. All of them use hydro-treating, a method of re-refining, that requires high temperature, high pressure and highly flammable hydrogen.
According to Fritschy, the Avista process is much safer. And he should know. A native of Argentina with two master’s degrees and a Ph.D., he worked with Avista in Europe, where they have a re-refinery that hasn’t missed a day of operation in its seven years of operation. The Peachtree City plant will be Avista’s fourth in the world.
Safety is a top concern for Fritschy. The new re-refinery will be built to withstand hurricanes and a hundred year flood. There’s a back-up plan for every function.
Of their $60 million budget, “About $11 million is for redundancies. This is by far more resilient than any other refinery in the United States. We are trying to build for the long run, an asset that should last decades,” said Fritschy.
Unlike a manufacturing facility, which could take their widgets to another state by moving equipment, the UES investment in their facility is permanent. They are in Peachtree City to stay.
And that’s fine with Fritschy, “I travel a lot around the United States. It’s difficult to find a city like Peachtree City. There are all the components of a well-designed city here. You can see the city is being taken care of. It’s very green and family friendly. People choose to move here because of that reason.”
He cites the mild weather here as a benefit, especially in comparison to Wisconsin, where he lived for a time. “It’s excellent for raising children and families. I hear it’s in the national rankings for the best places to live. After six months I see why,” he said.
Juan Fritschy could have lived anywhere. After all, he’s lived all around the globe. But there are business reasons for being here.
Fayette County is a logistically ideal place to put UES’ new re-refinery: It’s 250 miles to the port at Savannah, and 250 miles to the port at Mobile, Ala.
Mobile has easy access to the Gulf of Mexico, and the oil industry’s blenders in Texas and Louisiana. Blenders are manufacturing facilities that turn the base oil UES will produce into motor oil by adding the proper additives, some of which are removed in the re-refining process.
Their Peachtree City location, on Dividend Drive, also has direct access to the CSX railway. Fritschy estimates that their rail shipments will increase by 65 percent with the re-refinery, scheduled for completion in May 2013.
Some jobs have already been generated in Fayette County. Construction at UES was contracted to Peachtree City’s Tiernan & Patrylo. Additionally, some 25 jobs will be added when the re-refinery comes online.
Matt Forshee, President and CEO of the Fayette County Development Authority, explained, “When the community thinks about why industrial investment is good, they’re often thinking jobs. But an investment of $60 million, like what UES is doing with their re-refinery, that brings in additional tax revenue of about $800,000 per year. That’s money that helps to pay for roads, parks, libraries and schools.”
“UES and their investment in our community are appreciated not just because they are a green business, but because they are helping this county to be an exceptional place to live,” said Forshee.
Fritschy added, “When you build a re-refinery, there is no way you can move it. In order for this investment to be profitable, we have to stay for decades. We know we cannot relocate, but we feel we are in the right place.”
— By Ellie White-Stevens, Special to The Citizen




What will make this plant different from other oil re-refineries like the Evergreen Oil plant in Newark CA which caught fire and has subjected town residents to foul odors and air pollution for decades? I am using that as just the first example that popped up after a quick google search.

After the mess at Photocircuits I am glad that business is moving here, but sad that it's something that has the potential to turn into an environmental problem. All the problems from the PSC plant, were the jobs created there worth it?

PTC has the dubious honor of having the most EPA registered sources of potential toxic and hazardous waste in the Fayette/Coweta area (quick reference to that is at usa.com under the Fayette County GA environmental watch map)

I hope this one will be different, and hope that my house ends up being upwind of the place if it isn't. Maybe there can be another article at some point that tells us how this will be different (and better?) from the hydro-treatment style plants, that would be nice to see.

S. Lindsey's picture

Peachtree City may be on the starting block of a trend. They can be proud of the fact that with the rising price of a barrel of crude, oil that would have been destined to be burned or used once as an asphalt extender will be re-refined and put back on the market.

Oil does not get used up it just get's contaminated. The more oil that is recycled the right way the less Foreign oil dependent the US is. I was the Project Manager for the cleanup at PhotoCircuits and yes it was a difficult situation getting approval from their Corporate offices for Environmental work but it was done. All newer instillation's like Universal Oil has to have an Environmental bond that covers a closure. PhotoCircuits did not.. The State, County nor the City never required one.

Additionally accidents do happen we all can google fires at Walmart.. doesn't make Walmart a fire hazard however.

This will be a state of the art facility and although no plan is perfect I suspect this one will be close.

My thanks goes out to Universal Oil for looking forward to the future.

"Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel."

-Ayn Rand

muddle's picture

This "article" reads like a company brochure written to sell the idea.

What studies have been done to determine potential environmental hazards? What are the potential risks? Is the process likely to produce fumes or odors that affect quality of life in the surrounding area? And did anyone ask homeowners just across 74 what they think?

S. Lindsey's picture

Universal Oil has been at that location for years with 4 10,000 gal stock tanks and 5 5000 gallon feed tanks. Trucks carrying 3500 gal each enter and leave daily.The Re-Refinery works on Fractal Distillation and will use the feed tanks already on-site.

Additionally the distillation process produces no discernible odors or fumes. It is a closed loop system. The dangers involved are no more or less then those that have existed for years at that same location.

"Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel."

-Ayn Rand

SPQR's picture

when the source is "The Citizen" and not a staff member you know you're going to be reading somebody's PR. check out Ellie White- Stevens, She's a contract marketing person. This piece probably should have been in the advertising section.

SPQR's picture

here is a little more objective look at the re-refinery business from a town in Alabama. Enjoy.


S. Lindsey's picture

"Tens of millions of barrels of lubricant cycle through vehicle engines around the world each year—U.S. drivers alone produce about 1.3 billion gallons of dirty used motor oil annually. Too much of it—the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 200 million gallons (757,082 liters)—is dumped illegally each year. Some is “recycled,” but with dubious environmental benefit; it typically ends up burned as a rather dirty industrial fuel source."


"Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel."

-Ayn Rand

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