Santee Cooper: Recycling Used Oil in South Carolina

Susan Jackson

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

Reusing and recycling used oil is a sustainable process that is good for the environment and economy. Santee Cooper’s GOFER program (Give Oil for Energy Recovery) has an enviable track record of collecting used oil throughout South Carolina and then either reusing it as a fuel source to produce electricity or recycling it.

When this used oil is burned to make electricity, it provides valuable fuel for Santee Cooper’s Winyah units by replacing coal - creating environmental and economic benefits. When used oil is re-refined for recycling, it takes about one-third the energy of refining new crude oil. In fact, one gallon of used oil provides the same 2.5 quarts of lubricating oil as 42 gallons of crude oil.

Over the past 30 years, the price of crude oil has fluctuated widely, from less than $30/barrel to $148/barrel, and the corresponding value of the used oil has fluctuated. Despite the economics, GOFER has continuously collected and then reused or recycled used oil since 1990. GOFER partners with SCDHEC to collect DIY used oil from county recycling centers. 

DIY stands for “Do It Yourself,” and plenty of people change their own oil in their cars, trucks or boats. DIY oil is one of the least economical types of used oil to recycle because it is typically stored in smaller containers at collection sites scattered throughout the state. This requires more work to collect on a per gallon basis. DIY oil often contains more water than other types of used oil which lowers the overall BTU value. However, the extra effort is worth it since improperly or illegally disposed used oil causes serious and long-lasting harm to the environment.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) tracks and publishes informative annual reports on the state’s used oil recycling programs for DIY oil changers. According to the 2019 annual report, the total DIY used oil collected in South Carolina was 954,097 gallons and of this, GOFER collected 492,379 gallons – over half of the used oil in the state! South Carolina has more than 900 used oil collection sites. Check out SCDHEC’swebsite to find one of them near you to recycle your used oil.  

And Santee Cooper will continue to be here – providing a valuable recycling and sustainability service to South Carolina.