Rafael González, Technical Director of the Sertego regeneration plants.
“We are minimising the impact of highly contaminating waste”.
Used oil from vehicles, machinery, and lubricating oil used in various industries produces what is potentially one of the most contaminating types of waste.
Used mineral oils are processed at SERTEGO used oil regeneration plants managing to obtain a new base lubricant that is perfectly reusable and just as reliable as first-time distilled oil.
Industrial Engineer Rafael González has worked at Sertego from the beginning in the Technical Department, studying and designing technical modifications and improvements at the company’s various used oil regeneration plants.
February 2018 web copy
What are your responsibilities at the company?
Studying, evaluating, and developing possible technical modifications and improvements at the used oil regeneration plants, passing on proposals to plant technical personnel and reviewing their needs.
Another one of my responsibilities is to be up to date with new technologies and projects related to our activity, and consider their technical and economic application.
In production work I review consumption and performance at the different plants, and evaluate the causes and reasons for deviations.
Does this oil come from industrial use?
The used oil regeneration area at Sertego is made up of four plants where used mineral oil is treated, which is extracted from vehicles, from machinery used in large public works and other types of oil that are used in the industry which, when changed periodically, produce this waste.
What percentage of this waste do you recover for new use?
It is difficult to talk about percentages given the fact that oil comes with so many impurities, such as sediment, water, and other fluids, but practically everything except water that comes into the plant can leave as a regenerated product.
But is it recovered and recycled?
Exactly. As I mentioned, all of this used oil, which is recovered from workshops and industries that use lubricant oils, that has already lost its lubricating properties and has impurities, is brought to our plants for regeneration.
And this whole mixture of substances is separated and treated before going back into circulation.
Yes. All this is what we transform in our processes and we mainly obtain a base lubricant, in addition to other products that are also used in the industry. Base oil obtained this way is sold to companies that produce lubricants, which add the package of additives proper to each oil, to then package it back up into the can that you buy at the store. Regenerated base oil has characteristics that are similar to first-time refined oil.
How many regeneration plants do you have?
Four. In Alfaro (La Rioja), Fuenlabrada (Madrid), Cartagena (Murcia), and Palos de la Frontera (Huelva).
More or less, what is each plant’s annual capacity?
Each plant treats approximately 33,000 tonnes per year.
More or less, what investment does a regeneration plant have?
Well, it depends on the technology used, but we would be talking about between 16 and 25 million euros.
Is innovation important to your area?
Yes. Even though these are well-studied processes, it is important to observe how the base lubricant market is evolving so that we don’t get left behind. That requires being up to date on the latest technologies and introducing the necessary improvements to our production processes.
What are your goals for 2018?
Basically, to try to improve the production results of our plants, with minor modifications and improvements, and study new processes that are applicable to our activity in order to obtain better products and increase performance. Keep in mind that we have long-running experience. For example, the Madrid plant opened in 1999, so it has been regenerating for 18 years. The other plants have been operating since between 2003 and 2009. These plants are also very well optimised.
How long have you been working at Sertego?
Since Sertego began. It was created as the industrial waste division of the Urbaser group, which is where I came from 31 years ago.
How would you rate all of these years of experience at Sertego?
Professionally, it has been a very complete experience. Having been able to work on designing, building, commissioning, operating and managing a chemical plant; no engineer could ask for more. It has been a very gratifying experience.
What has been the best moment during these 31 years?
There are so many… Just to name a recent one, or relatively recent, is the commissioning of the latest Alfaro regeneration plant, because the project was entirely developed by Urbaser from start to finish.
What would you improve, or what do you think could be improved at the company?
More than improved, I would say just continuing with the current policy. Despite being Spain’s leading industrial waste management company, Sertego hasn’t reached a standstill and hasn’t stopped innovating. It hasn’t fallen into the easy position of saying that everything is going well, so why change?
Since the beginning, Sertego has provided an integral solution to the problem of industrial waste in Spain.
What do you think is Sertego’s contribution to sustainability?
Its environmental impact reversal. We are minimising the impact of highly contaminating waste.
Could you tell me what comes to mind when you hear these terms?
Waste is a resource that returns to the production cycle again. The concept of use and throw away is going to end. Sertego is a clear example of that.
Literally, they are the alterations that the climate is suffering. We usually refer to it when indicating that our way of life is producing climate variations from contrasted data, such as the ice caps melting, increasing temperatures, etc. Whereas if we don’t become aware and act, there might be a disaster.
Can you complete the following sentence?: I would like….
For the concept of recovered not to be a synonym for used or bad, which would result in fewer natural resources and raw materials being used, and our environment would then improve. If you look at the product we treat, a recovered product has the same characteristics as the first time it was refined.