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There has been a recent increase in the amount of oil and natural gas exploration due to fuel reserves that were once inaccessible in North America becoming available through methods such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. However, these methods of exploration generate substantial amounts of oil contaminated waste which pose significant pollution risks of which current methods of treatment are slow and ineffective. This project aims to design a better operating process for use with Anaerobic Thermal Desorption Units (ATDU) that are currently manufactured by RLC Technologies which offer more environmentally safe and quick processing of such wastes.

Current methods used to treat oil contaminated waste include land farming and deep well injection. These methods in essence leave the oils on or in the ground that has raised concern regarding land and groundwater pollution. These methods are practiced due their lack of regulation and little cost investment. RLC provides a waste treatment service that is currently more cost efficient than the rest of the current market for thermal desorption plants. Through success of this project, a more cost effective method can be offered by RLC Technologies that can be competitive with the current regulation light methods in practice.

The focus of the project is on aiding RLC in the utilization of their ATDU for their plant operations. In order to do so, the team will study the effects of drum rotation speed, temperature, and waste composition on waste materials from drill cuttings and (remove!) synthetically created waste on a bench and pilot scale sized batch ATDU. The data collected will be used for determining the thermal efficiency by analyzing how much of the base oils are collected. The desired outcomes are to improve the oil recovery of the current ADTU capabilities by at least ten percent while reducing costs associated with it’s operation. There will be efforts to increase the amounts of the diesel ranged oils in the recovered product through controlling the thermal cracking in the ADTU.

Publication Date



chemical and life science engineering, base oils


Chemical Engineering | Engineering

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Rene Olivares-Navarrete

VCU Capstone Design Expo Posters


© The Author(s)

Date of Submission

July 2015

Separation Technologies of Base Oils: The Optimization of an Anaerobic Thermal Desorption Unit [View Image]


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