NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The sole Bahamian firm specializing in the export of lubricant oil says it’s up to its nose in used oil, with exports halted 100 per cent as cheaper global crude oil prices lead United States (U.S.) buyers to forgo the refining process needed for used oil exports from this nation.
With the right concessions, the head of Engineers and Consultants Ltd. (ECL) DeCosta Bethel said The Bahamas could once again have a viable industry in exporting used oil from the country and ridding the island nation of the harmful substance.
He is now seeking government approval for an inclusion in the Industries Encouragement Act that would allow him to import into the country an $80,000 machine that could process locally collected used lubricant oil and make the Bahamian industry competitive once again.
“We collect used oil and we send the majority of it to the U.S. and turn the rest of it into fuel for people who operate furnaces,” said Bethel, who has been in the business for the past 20 years. “But right now there is no export market and I’m up to my nostrils in oil that people have brought to us and we will need government assistance to obtain a waiver under the Industries Encouragement Act to bring in the equipment and chemicals needed to process and send this hazardous material out of the country.
“It’s important for the environment that we prevent the indiscriminate dumping of these used oils. It is carcinogenic and mutagenic and it can damage genetic structure, so when we can export it for better use we also help to mitigate the volume of indiscriminate dumping into the environment.”
Presently, Bethel’s business collects used oil at marinas from many yachts coming into the country, who need proof that they would have responsibly disposed of their used oil before sailing back into the heavily-regulated U.S. waters. It’s a demand that has driven the proprietor to place five convenient igloo-recycling containers around town. However, with the exception of a select number of businesses that have use for it, he said the used oil was just sitting there, growing continuously as more Bahamians and companies like automotive and aeronautical facilities want to dispose of their used oil more responsibly.
“We are the only facility that routinely assists BEC/BPL with the removal and safe disposal of its used oils and oily waters,” Bethel added. “We have so far safely disposed with well over a million gallons of hydrocarbon sludge and oily waters.”
As far back as 2014 when crude oil barrel prices were as high as $120, he said exporting the used oil in its current state was not an issue and solved a lot of problems locally. The buyers would obtain from ECL affordably and then undertake the refinement process themselves – separating the dirt and water from the used oil. However, as crude oil dropped as low as $30 a barrel in the last five years, the buyers see no need in taking on the costs associated with the exported used oil from The Bahamas.
“The crude oil prices need to be around $80 – $90 a barrel for me because the oil I collect has a significant amount of water in it,” said Bethel. “I need to be able to move that water and dirt first and then export to the U.S. and cut down on the amount of processing they have to do to it, which will improve export opportunities.”
If the duty-free concessions are approved for ECL, Bethel is looking to expand to the islands for used oil collection there as well, training more Bahamians on how to safely dispose of the substance.