Recycling Used Oil in Hawaii

By Connie Braesch DLA Energy Public Affairs

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When Daniel Muranaka learned the Navy was spending a lot of money to dispose of its used fuel oil, he decided to do something about it – and found a way to not only save up to $1 million per year but actually generate a revenue.

For the Defense Logistics Agency Energy quality assurance representative, recycling fuel oil reclaimed, or FOR, is about saving money and the environment through proper quality control.

“By working through the process of retesting and resampling the FOR in preparation for sale, we learn how to manage it to meet the specification requirements,” he said.

Because he was previously a supervisory chemist at the Pearl Harbor Fuel Laboratory, Muranaka is familiar with FOR specification testing. Once test results show it meets specification, FOR is routinely purchased by refineries, blended with high-sulfur fuel oil and sold to specialized customers.

However, the FOR at Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii had trace amounts of used oil in it, making it harder to sell, Muranaka said.

“Used oil is a regulated waste, and facilities are not allowed to process used oil or products containing used oil unless they have a permit to do so,” he said.

NAVFAC Hawaii accumulates FOR from Navy vessels’ bilge water, a mixture of water and oil. According to federal regulations, oily bilge water can be contaminated by oil from leakage or maintenance work in machinery spaces. The water portion of the bilge water is treated and discharged, and the remaining oil is tested and sold to refineries for recycling.

Because refineries weren’t purchasing the FOR, NAVFAC Hawaii had been paying a commercial contractor up to $2.50 per gallon to remove and dispose of the 200,000 to 400,000 gallons it collects annually — a cost of up to $1 million each year.

“I became passionate about NAVFAC Hawaii’s FOR when I learned about their difficulty getting their FOR purchased,” Muranaka said. “NAVFAC Hawaii supports the warfighter, but no one was supporting them on this issue.”

Searching for a solution, Muranaka contacted the local refineries, such as Island Energy Services which is permitted to accept FOR with used oil. He educated its staff about the product and explained why it’s suitable for recycling. He then worked with DLA Energy Contracting Officer Luis Beza-Cay, who is forward deployed to Hawaii, to help negotiate a contract.

After months of working through the process, DLA Energy successfully awarded Island Energy Services the contract on Nov. 13 to purchase 185,000 gallons of NAVFAC Hawaii’s FOR at $.02 a gallon resulting in a cost avoidance of up to $462,500 for disposal and generating a revenue of $3,700.

While the remaining 87,000 gallons of NAVFAC Hawaii’s FOR was deemed not salable, Muranaka said some is better than none at all. Throughout the process, Muranaka has worked to educate NAVFAC Hawaii personnel on proper management and testing of the FOR for future sales.

Muranaka was inspired to take on this project while attending the Emerging Leaders’ Course at the Pacific Leadership Academy. He was encouraged to develop a plan for a challenging work-related project that would stretch him out of his comfort zone. Although Muranaka encountered obstacles and set-backs during the NAVFAC Hawaii FOR project, the Emerging Leaders Program supplied him the leadership skills needed to succeed.

Muranaka credits Lisa Simon, the Emerging Leaders Program director, for her encouragement, guidance and support; Jessica Hiraoka, his Pacific Leadership Academy mentor from the U.S. Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in Hawaii, for broadening his understanding of strategic thinking; and Ralph Wells, his supervisor and the deputy director for DLA Energy Hawaii, for helping him prioritize his workload to accomplish the project.

Muranaka’s leadership commended his innovative, thoughtful and collaborative problem-solving.

“Through networking, creative logistics thinking and applying his expertise in supply-chain management, Daniel has not only found a way to more effectively manage used fuel oil but also to save millions of dollars in the long run,” said DLA Energy Hawaii Commander Navy Cmdr. Eric Lockett. “His ingenuity and extensive outreach with both the refineries as well as NAVFAC Hawaii personnel strengthens DLA’s reputation for cost-consciousness and ethical business processes.”

Muranaka said seeing the project through has built his confidence as a leader and influencer.

“As a quality assurance representative, I don’t have the opportunity to manage and analyze programs and projects, especially those that transcend agencies with millions of dollars at stake,” he said. “This project allowed me to demonstrate the capability of managing and analyzing projects with significant impacts.”