Farmer finds niche in collecting used oil

Farmer finds niche in collecting used oil

SIDNEY — Is there new life for old oil?

There sure is, and Travis Loschen helps make it so by collecting used oil from farms and businesses throughout East Central Illinois.

Though several large companies are in the oil reclamation business, Loschen's firm, Illini Used Oil Service, is one of the few independent firms that still goes out to farms to collect smaller quantities of used petroleum products.

"I'm the only one I know of in central Illinois," said Loschen, 29, who farms with his family in the Royal area. "There are several very large ones nationwide and worldwide, but as far as an independent, I don't know of another single one in the state of Illinois."

Loschen got into the business about five years ago when he found it a hassle to get anyone to collect old oil from the farm.

"I kind of decided to do that myself, and now it's turned into a full-time business," he said.

Loschen figures he devotes 30 to 40 hours a week to the Sidney-based business, in addition to other work on and off the farm.

His customers?

"It's farmers, trucking companies, small-town auto repair shops, some factories — anyone you can think of who uses oil in some capacity," he said.

He collects engine oil, hydraulic oil, transmission fluid, gear oil, lubricants.

"As long as it's a petroleum-based oil product, I will pick it up," he said.

Loschen takes his 2,300-gallon tank truck to customers and uses it to suck oil from storage drums, fuel tanks and other containers. The oil is filtered through a series of strainers as it's pumped into the truck.

"The refinery comes and collects oil from me on a weekly basis," he said. "They pump from my truck to theirs."

Not all used oil is of equal quality, so the price Loschen pays for it can vary — but it's generally in the range of 50 cents to $1 a gallon.

"The price is based on the volume and the cleanliness of the oil," he said. "On farms you get a lot of dirty oil. You get a lot of the corn stalks and grass and mice and birds. Birds and bats may fly down into it, and mice may fall into it. At an auto oil-change shop, you don't have that."

Loschen said it's often hard for farmers to find someone to pick up less than 200 gallons of oil from their farms.

"In order for me to come out to a location, they have to have 50 gallons," he said. "Once they have over 200 gallons, then I pay for it."

If the customer has more than 50 gallons but fewer than 200 gallons, Loschen picks up the oil for no charge, but won't pay the customer anything for it.

Loschen said the price he gets paid for used oil varies not only with the market for crude oil, but also with the market for natural gas.

"A lot of used oil goes to asphalt plants where they burn the used oil to heat the asphalt up," he said. "The alternative to used fuel at an asphalt plant is natural gas. If the price of natural gas is going up, it tends to drive the price for used oil up."

Loschen, who is licensed by the Environmental Protection Agency as a nonhazardous special waste hauler, said he often cooperates in used-oil drives for high school FFA chapters.

Formerly active in FFA himself, Loschen said it usually involves him going to the participating high school on a Saturday morning.

"Farmers will bring in used oil in whatever quantity they have — a five-gallon container or a 55-gallon drum — and I'll pump it out. If they have over 200 gallons, I'll come out to their place to pick it up. They donate the oil to the FFA, and I pay the FFA for it," he said.

"It's a good fundraiser for FFA chapters, and it's good for farmers who normally wouldn't have an outlet for used oil to go somewhere," he added.

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