Lyondell Petrochemical Co. will recycle used lubricating oils into gasoline and heatingoil at its Houston refinery, the nation's 10th largest.

"We believe that Lyondell is the first major U.S. petroleum refiner to take used oils into its refinery as a feedstock for producing gasoline on a commercial basis," said Bob G. Gower, Lyondell president.Other oil recycling programs typically blend used oil into lubricants or industrial fuels.

Lyondell will initially focus on purchasing used oil from large lubricant users such as railroads, commercial transportation fleets and large industrial plants. The program could later be expanded to include used automotive oil.

"Refining used lubricating oils into gasoline provides a productive re-use of a substance often treated as a waste material," Mr. Gower said. ''Recycling has the potential of improving the environment and conserving a natural resource. It could reduce the demand for foreign crude oil if enough other refiners did this."

Lyondell will begin by processing about 7.5 million gallons a year of used oil at its refinery.

When fully implemented, Lyondell could recycle up to 30 million gallons of used lubricants a year, Mr. Gower said. That's the equivalent of about 25 million automotive oil changes.

"One of the most common downfalls of recycling programs is the lack of a marketable end product, and we have overcome this obstacle," he said. "As long as there is a market for gasoline, there will be a market for recycled lubricating oil."

The refinery successfully processed 10,000 barrels of used lubricating oil in December, producing gasoline and heating oil of the same quality as Lyondell fuel products derived from crude oil, he said.

The company anticipates the same results from processing used automotive oil, which is being tested this week.

The United States generates about 1.3 billion gallons of used oil annually, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. About 58 percent of this used oil is burned for fuel. Landfills and other disposal account for another 32 percent. Only 2 percent of used oil is re-refined.