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Fuel-Oil Blenders Save Time, Money, and Lives

Environmental professionals at the Army Engineer School found a way reduce oil disposal problems in Iraq by using commercial off-the-shelf equipment.

Used oil is a major waste stream for a deployed army. The Army generates an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 gallons of used oil per week in Iraq. Although contracts that provide for its disposal are in place, insurgents make the already difficult job dangerous. Convoys are frequent targets of enemy attacks, so commanders have reduced or stopped completely the transport of waste such as used oil. The resulting stockpiling of used oil presents a significant problem.

In the Army, used oil is handled as many as eight times before its ultimate disposal, which generates an unacceptable drain of available time and money. How can the Army eliminate this costly waste stream? That is the question the team of Army environmental professionals in the Army Engineer School’s Directorate of Environmental Integration (DEI) asked themselves.

Kurt Kinnevan, a professional engineer and a DEI division chief, found a potential solution in a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) item called the Oil-CAT (Change Alternative Technology). The Oil-CAT is a fuel-oil blender built by Clarus Technologies, LLC, of Bellingham, Washington. It blends oil drained from the crankcase of an individual piece of equipment during a scheduled oil change with diesel or JP–8 from the vehicle’s fuel tank. The Oil-CAT filters the oil and returns it to the vehicle’s fuel tank to burn as blended fuel. One gallon of used oil equals 1 gallon of JP–8. Engine performance is sustained, a large waste stream is reduced or eliminated, and used oil handling requirements are cut. The replacement filters, which must be handled as a hazardous waste, are the only recurring cost.

Kinnevan saw the Army using Oil-CATs during a visit to Camp Eagle in Bosnia in 2004. With more research, he found that they have been used effectively at Fort Drum, New York, Fort Lewis, Washington, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and Fort Irwin, California. After further study, Kinnevan made some recommendations on how to make the Oil-CAT more user-friendly to Soldiers in the field.

Working with the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), Kinnevan helped draft an operational needs statement (ONS) for fuel-oil blenders that would be suitable for the CENTCOM area of operations. The ONS was endorsed by the Engineer School and the Army Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia.

The Oil-CAT pays for itself in a short period of time. A unit costs around $3,000, which includes sufficient filters for approximately 1 year of use. Other benefits of using the Oil-CAT include the following—

• It supports the Army Strategy for the Environment’s goal of zero-footprint base camps for the Future Force.
• Vehicle emissions after oil is processed meet Environmental Protection Agency standards when the oil is blended with diesel or JP–8 in percentages of 7.5 or less.
• Its construction is relatively simple, making it easy to use.

Fuel-oil blending is not to be confused with adding lubricants such as motor oil or transmission fluid directly to the fuel tank. Reports from the field indicate that this has been done to offset the reduced lubricity of JP–8 fuel. This practice, which is prohibited by the Army, is not the same as fuel-oil blending.

Blending used oil in an area of operations such as Iraq would not only save time and money but also could save the lives of Soldiers who would otherwise be engaged in the dangerous task of used oil disposal.

Lieutenant Colonel Albert M. Vargesko, USA (Ret.), is a Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel, and Facilities (DOTMLPF) Integration Specialist in the Directorate of Environmental Integration at the Army Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He has a bachelor's degree in geography from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master of military art and science degree from the Army Command and General Staff College.