The Importance of Biodegradable Lubricants

In machine shops and auto body shops, green lubricants are one way to create more sustainable services for customers. Bio-based lubricants are an alternative to mineral-based lubricants, and they offer a number of advantages:

  • Sustainable lubricants reduce the risk of skin irritation. Mineral-based lubricants produce oil mist that introduces volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air and can cause dermatitis and skin irritation, among other concerns. Vegetable-based lubricants do not have this problem.
  • Green lubricants offer superior performance. Biodegradable lubricants are found to improve lubricity.
  • Biodegradable lubricants may increase customer satisfaction. Customers today often look for companies that not only supply the products they want, but that are also willing to do so sustainably. Many customers are interested in alternatives to man-made or mineral-based products, and using biodegradable products, such as lubricants, can be a major selling point for customers who have these concerns.
  • Sustainable lubricants may help companies with compliance. In some industries, the government is strict about sustainability and environmental protection. Using sustainable lubricants can help meet these requirements.
  • Sustainable lubricants can help reduce the risk of machine shop fires. Vegetable oils have a higher flashpoint. Soybean oil, for example, has a flashpoint of 610°F (326°C) — significantly higher than the 392°F (200°C) for mineral oil.
  • Sustainable lubricants reduce dependency on imported petroleum products. Machine shops relying on petroleum-based products may be adversely affected financially when oil prices rise. Relying on sustainable products instead improves local soybean and vegetable stocks, which can mean prices rise more gradually.
  • Sustainable lubricants are made from vegetable oils, which are biodegradable and less toxic. They are quite simply better for the environment. Vegetable oils are renewable, cause less damage to the environment to extract and may cause less harm to those who are exposed to them.
  • Sustainable lubricants may be economically beneficial for domestic farmers. Greases and lubricants made from soybean oil can help stabilize prices of soybeans for American farmers. This is because these products use surpluses of soybeans for production, stimulating demand for the product.
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Although green industrial lubricant costs more than mineral-based product, and although machine shops must carefully clean all the machines before making the switch from mineral-based lubricants to green options, the switch may be well worth it.

Not a New Idea

Sustainable lubricants have been available for many years. In fact, as early as World War I and World War II, industries switched to vegetable oils for greases, lubricants and other applications as a result of rationing. In the 1970s, alternatives to oils were also sought out during the oil embargo. Now, a renewed interest in sustainability and environmental protection has meant more companies are looking for quality sustainable lubricant suppliers to move away from mineral-based products.

A number of acceptable sustainable and biodegradable lubricants have been developed over the decades. In the 1990s, Mobil Corporation launched its Environmental Awareness Lubricants (EALs). Around the same time, Lubrizol Corporation also developed lubricants from sunflower oil. More recently, UNI-ABIL has licensed 16 sustainable lubricants, base oils and greases developed from sustainable soybeans.

In fact, a number of sustainable oils are available from soybean products. These include:

  • Railroad use greases
  • Machinery use greases
  • Chainsaw bar oil
  • Gear lubes
  • Compressor oils
  • Transformer cooling fluids
  • Automotive greases
  • Tractor transmission hydraulic fluid
  • Machine-process industrial hydraulic fluids
  • Food-grade hydraulic fluids
  • Food-grade greases
  • Transmission line cooling fluids

Acme-Hardesty has been a leading olechemical and sustainable lubricant supplier for more than 70 years. If you’re looking to make the switch to greener and more sustainable lubricants, contact Acme-Hardesty to discuss our latest sustainable innovations.