N.C. Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance
Re-refined Oil

State Agency and Local Government Information


North Carolina has offered re-refined motor oil on state contract since 2001. This helps the environment by reducing the impacts of refining, by closing the loop on oil recycling, and by conserving a non-renewable resource. State agencies, state and community colleges, universities, institutions, local governments and certain nonprofit entities, otherwise known as authorized users, have the opportunity to purchase re-refined oil for their fleet vehicles from the state contract vendor. Although virgin oil is also offered by the contract vendor, the state contract price on re-refined oil is very competitive with virgin oil products. (Review the price list.)

Engine lubricating oil does not wear out, but it becomes dirty as it cleans and protects a car engine. Producers can re-refine oil to remove contaminants introduced during its use and replace the additive packages that confer its specific properties, such as viscosity. Current technologies allow used oil to be re-refined into a high quality base-stock. Several oil companies now market products that have been certified by the American Petroleum Institute (API).

Because the quality of oil is critical to the car’s performance, the API certifies oil that meets a recommended standard. This certification is the basis for warranty requirements of motor vehicle manufacturers. Thus, it is the specifications standard for motor oil buyers. API approved re-refined oil is subject to the same stringent refining and performance standards as virgin oil. Extensive laboratory testing and field studies show that re-refined oil is equivalent to virgin oil.

In addition to using re-refined motor oils, North Carolina began offering biodegradable hydraulic oil and tractor fluid in 2003. See details in the "Biodegradable Based Lubricants" section below.


Government Guidelines for Purchase of Re-refined Oil


On June 30, 1988, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued procurement guidelines for re-refined oil. All federal agencies, and all state and local government agencies and contractors that use federal funds to purchase such products, are required to implement a preference program favoring the purchase of re-refined oil to the maximum extent practicable. The EPA guidelines recommend that engine lubricating oils, hydraulic fluids and gear oils contain a minimum of 25 percent re-refined oil in the base-stock.

Former President Clinton's executive order on recycling required that by April 20, 1994, federal agencies implement guidelines for the procurement of re-refined oil-based lubricants for all government vehicles. In fiscal 1992, federal automotive fleets totaled 513,682 vehicles, with the majority run by GSA, DOD and the U.S. Postal Service. Many state and local governments base their own procurement systems on the federal system, extending this mandate reach to fleets of buses, police cars and garbage trucks. Executive Order 13101 also directs federal agencies to help reduce waste by buying recycled products.

Finally, Executive Order 13149, "Greening the Government Through Federal Fleet and Transportation Efficiency," directs, "no federal agencies shall purchase, sell or arrange for the purchase of virgin petroleum motor vehicle lubricating oils when re-refined oils are reasonably available and meet the vehicle manufacturer's recommended performance standards."


On July 20, 1999, Gov. James Hunt signed Executive Order No. 156. It focuses on environmentally sustainable operations and practices, as well as the purchase and use of environmentally preferable products, among other things. In addressing energy efficiency, water conservation, pollution prevention and land preservation at state-owned and leased facilities, state agencies are directed to minimize the environmental impacts associated with agency land use and acquisition, construction, facility management and employee transportation.  Executive Order #156 establishes a goal for agency purchases of alternative fuel or low-emission fleet vehicles and calls for reductions in employee vehicle-miles driven.

State agencies are also directed to procure goods and services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment, including products made wholly or in part from recycled materials. Agencies are encouraged to give maximum consideration to products that are more energy efficient, less toxic, less polluting and that generate less waste overall. It raises the goal for agency purchases of recycled paper and paper products.

As a result of the governor's sustainability initiative, state agencies are now highly encouraged to use re-refined oil. Buying re-refined oil products make good sense. It saves the environment, conserves our nation's resources, and supports the state's sustainability initiative.


Current State Agency Users of Re-refined Oil

Current qualified users of re-refined oil from off the state contract have made the following comments about the quality, cost effectiveness and reliability of the product.

Agency: Motor Fleet Management - Raleigh (Frank Waller - Fleet Service Manager)
Fleet size managed: Approximately 700 vehicles per month (sedans and light trucks)
Comment: "We use as many recycled content products as possible. I would recommend re-refined oil to anyone; it is just as good as virgin oil. We have had no engine problems related to using the re-refined."

Agency: Moore County (Barry L. Oldham - Fleet Maintenance Supervisor)
Fleet size managed: 262 vehicles (sedans, light duty and heavy trucks)
Comment: "The price was a big selling point. We have been using the re-refined since August 2001. We average about 2 million miles per year in vehicle use. We have had no problems."

Agency: UNC-Charlotte (John Lawder - Fleet Management)
Fleet size managed: approximately 150 vehicles (sedans, light trucks, vans, utility carts)
Comment: "I used to have my doubts about re-refined oil, being from the "old school." But now I like it. We have been using the re-refined oil for the past year. Previously we used it for several years before using the virgin oil again, and then, we switched back to the re-refined. We have had no engine failures, and it is cheaper than the virgin oil."

Agency: UNC-Chapel Hill (Larry Sturdivant - Fleet Maintenance Supervisor)
Fleet size managed: Approximately 700 - 800 vehicles (sedans, light trucks)
Comment: "We have been using the re-refined oil for one year or more. We have had no engine problems, and we run a lot of vehicles. I would recommend it to others."

Agency: Black Mountain Center - Department of Health and Human Services (Buddy Higgins - Maintenance Supervisor)
Fleet size managed: four vehicles (sedans)
Comment: "We have few vehicles here that we maintain. Most go to a dealership for maintenance. However, we have not had problems in using the re-refined oil in those vehicles we do maintain. I had some preconceived notions about the re-refined, but it seems OK to use. Our purchasing agent decided on it. The re-refined has the best purchase price."


Contract Specifications

The N.C. Department of Administration (DOA) has made available re-refined oil under the State Term Contract for Oils, Lubricants, Greases and Antifreeze . DOA has awarded the contract to Correction Enterprises. Over the term of this two-year contract, state agencies will have the opportunity to purchase re-refined engine oil at a price that is very competitive with virgin oil, costing up to 50 percent less than virgin oil in some instances. Authorized users may participate in this contract.

The State Contract has re-refined oil grades of 10W30, 10W40 and 15W40. Bulk deliveries are available. The prices are lower than previous contracts, and the environmental benefits encourage its use.

Biodegradable-based Lubricants

Biodegradable-based lubricants, made from vegetable oils, are emerging as a high-performance environmentally friendly alternative to the more commonly purchased petroleum oil lubricants. Users choose vegetable oil-based lubricants because they perform as well or better than petroleum oils. Additionally, they are made from plants - a renewable resource - are readily biodegradable, low in toxicity, and have a longer life due to the higher viscosity index.

Biodegradable lubricants have many uses in industrial and automotive applications, especially as hydraulic fluids. Such fluids are used in large quantities and, as such, are susceptible to spillage. Spillage of petroleum-based hydraulic fluids pose an immediate threat to the surrounding environment. Spilled oil can contaminate streams, kill vegetation, harm wildlife and lead to costly remediation.

The State Contract has available biodegradable hydraulic oil, in AW (anti-wear) viscosity grades 32, 46 and 68, and universal tractor fluid. Bulk deliveries are available.


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