Microwave-heated pyrolysis of waste automotive engine oil: influence of operation parameters on the yield, composition, and fuel properties of pyrolysis oil

Su Shiung Lam, Alan D. Russell, Chern Leing Lee, Howard A. Chase

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131 Citations (Scopus)


The pyrolysis of waste automotive engine oil was investigated using microwave energy as the heat source, and the yield and characteristics of the pyrolysis oils (i.e. elemental analysis, hydrocarbon composition, and potential fuel properties) are presented and discussed. The microwave-heated pyrolysis generated an 88 wt.% yield of condensable pyrolysis oil with fuel properties (e.g. density, calorific value) comparable to traditional liquid transportation fuels derived from fossil fuel. Examination of the composition of the oils showed the formation of light aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons that could also be used as a chemical feedstock. The oil product showed significantly high recovery (90%) of the energy present in the waste oil, and is also relatively contaminant free with low levels of sulphur, oxygen, and toxic PAH compounds. The high yield of pyrolysis oil can be attributed to the unique heating mode and chemical environment present during microwave-heated pyrolysis. This study extends existing findings on the effects of pyrolysis process conditions on the overall yield and formation of the recovered oils, by demonstrating that feed injection rate, flow rate of purge-gas, and heating source influence the concentration and the molecular nature of the different hydrocarbons formed in the pyrolysis oils. The microwave-heated pyrolysis can be performed in a continuous operation, and the apparatus described which is fitted with magnetrons capable of delivering 5 kW of microwave power is capable of treating waste oil at a feed rate of 5 kg/h with a positive energy ratio of 8 (energy content of hydrocarbon products/electrical energy supplied for microwave heating) and a net energy output of 179,390 kJ/h. Our results indicate that microwave-heated pyrolysis shows exceptional promise as a means for recycling and treating problematic waste oil.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-339
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Fuel
  • Microwave pyrolysis
  • Pyrolysis
  • Pyrolysis oil
  • Waste oil

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