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A quick introduction to hydrocarbons

REMONDIS Integrated and Managed Services // 4 October 2021

1

Hydrocarbons can be toxic to marine and terrestrial environments

2

Some are potentially combustible and flammable and present a significant fire risk

3

Hydrocarbons can be carcinogenic, increasing risk of illness with long-term exposure

What are hydrocarbons?

Hydrocarbons are a group of organic compounds, predominantly derived from petroleum, coal and natural gas products. More generally this encompasses all types of oils, greases and fuels as well as other less common materials such as solvents.

Hydrocarbon waste may include liquids, absorbent materials, rags, soils and sludges contaminated by hydrocarbon contaminants.

Waste oils commonly come from industrial and domestic vehicle engines, gearboxes and machinery where they are used as lubricants and can be refined back into new lubricating oils or alternative fuels. aste oils may also originate from transformers where they are used as an insulator or cooling agent.

Waste solvents may be generated by parts washers or industrial cleaning or coating processes, or through the use of waste inks or solvent-based paints.


Storing hydrocarbon waste

All hydrocarbon contaminated waste should be appropriately stored – in special bins, tanks, containers or stillages – to avoid the release of hydrocarbons into the environment.

It’s also important to consider secondary containments such as bunding (retaining wall around storage) or spill trays, that act as a fail-safe if a primary container leaks.


Disposal and recycling of hydrocarbon waste

Hydrocarbon waste management is a specialised field, governed by regulation and managed by licensed experts.

Various disposal methods can be used to dispose of or recycle hydrocarbons or hydrocarbon contaminated waste. The selected methods must consider:

  • The quality of the waste hydrocarbon
  • The extent of the hydrocarbon contamination
  • Water content
  • And other factors

For solid hydrocarbon wastes, disposal and recycling options may include:

  • Staged recycling – for example, recovering metal from used filters
  • Landfarming to use biological activity to break down hydrocarbons
  • Solid alternative fuels
  • Lined landfill

For liquid hydrocarbon wastes this may include:

  • Oil separation and re-refining to produce a recycled oil
  • Blending of hydrocarbons into liquid alternative fuels
  • De-watering
  • Onsite treatment to allow discharge to sewer

When booking in a hydrocarbon-contaminated liquid removal service

  1. Provide the estimate of quantity to be removed
  2. Specify the type of waste to be collected. This may require an analysis of the waste or provision of a safety data sheet
  3. Advise us if there is a variation in the type of material to be collected, such as sludge in the bottom of the tank
  4. Advise us if the liquid contains any dangerous goods materials or may present a flammable or explosive risk
  5. These variables will determine the type of vehicle that is sent to collect the waste.

Does waste oil have value?

In some instances, sites can be paid for waste oil. However, the waste oil must meet certain parameters, including:

  • Having a low content
  • Being free of contaminants such as coolant
  • Be collected in minimum volumes

The value of oil in international markets must also be high enough to warrant a return value.

Disposing of hydrocarbon contaminated containers

When disposing of empty containers such as drums or pails that have contained hydrocarbons, you should:

  • Establish a specific service
  • Consolidate containers as instructed, usually by placing them in either a dedicated bin or pallet, and securing with plastic wrap or strapping

In some circumstances, it may also be possible to triple rinse the containers and recycle them as uncontaminated to reduce costs and improve recyclability.


Best practice for customers

  • Ensure hydrocarbon waste is appropriately stored on site, with secondary containment systems (bunding or drip trays) as necessary
  • When booking in the collection of waste hydrocarbon liquids, be sure to provide details on the quantity to be collected, the type of liquid, safety data sheets and analysis (if required)
  • Also advise if there is any variability in the liquid, such as sludge at the bottom of the tank
  • Prevent the contamination of your waste oil with other materials, such as coolant

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