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February 20, 2018

Volume 3 Issue 4

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Ugandan Rerefiner Awarded Grant

Geoffrey Ssekatawa, founder of Uganda-based Brent Technologies Ltd., received the African Entrepreneurship Award for pioneering a homegrown technology for rerefining used engine oils.

Ssekatawa was awarded U.S. $50,000 as one of the 12 winners of the 2018 edition of the grant program. “I feel very much excited to be recognized for my effort as a waste motor oil recycler,” Ssekatawa told Lube Report. “In fact, after winning the award, I have been re-encouraged and I am now working with a lot of vigor.”

Ssekatawa will use the funding to ramp up his company’s production of rerefined engine oils from a little less than one ton per day to nearly 3 t/d by July and around 4.5 t/d by the end of the year. He will increase capacity at Brent Technologies’ plant in Masaka by “collaborating with a design engineer for reactors to make a customized system which operates on [his] invented technology,” he explained. “I will travel to India to meet one of my technological advisers, and then we travel to China together to customize my reactor.”

Brent Technologies’ method for rerefining uses surfactants to lower the interfacial tension between input waste oils and their contaminants, including soot. “We subject the treated oil to further processing until it is a clear yellow base oil with a color index of 1 or 2,” Ssekatawa said. “The base oil is further blended with premium-grade additive packages to make engine oil or grease.”

Ssekatawa said he has not patented his proprietary process because local intellectual property support is weak and doesn’t offer any protection outside of Uganda. Therefore, he aims to patent the technology in the United States to obtain international protection. The inability to patent the technology, he explained, has made it difficult for him to lease it to stakeholders across the continent who have sought it.

While some investors have looked favorably on the technology, consumers have been more skeptical. “In many situations, we found it extremely hard to convince customers that rerefined oil performs the same or even better than many oil brands on the market,” Ssekatawa continued. “We encountered much of this during the early days of market entry. Customers used to think that our products were inferior. We had to use a number of marketing strategies which convinced users to like our products.”

The grant also offers a mentorship program and will assign Ssekatawa a dedicated professional development coach. He said he needs a mentor with the knowledge and experience in the fuels and lubricants industry as a well as in general business, and he welcomes the idea of having a mentor from within Africa or from any other part of the world.