With so much emphasis placed on the effects of human activity on our planet these days, and concern over how we impact the environment, the climate, and global health, practically every industry is being called upon to make changes to the way things are done, with an emphasis on sustainable solutions and minimizing environmental impact. LH Travis is committed to doing our part to help keep Earth healthy, so we’d now like to talk about biodegradable lubricants and their pros and cons.

The Real Deal with Biodegradable Lubricants
Oil is ubiquitous in many industries, and about 2.5 billion gallons of lubricants are sold each year in the U.S. alone. 

Oils are available from a multitude of natural sources, including everything from non-renewable petroleum resources to highly sustainable vegetable sources. Let’s take a look at vegetable oils for use as industrial lubricants.

Naturally, vegetable oils are far more biodegradable than oils derived from mineral sources such as petroleum. However, this also makes vegetable oils more prone to oxidation, thereby reducing their suitability for industrial use. For vegetable oil to have sufficient oxidative stability for use industrially, chemical modification is required.

By shifting some of an oil’s fatty acids through partial hydrogenation, a plant-derived oil can be stabilized sufficiently for use. Researchers have recently developed genetically enhanced oil seeds that result in plants that can produce oils that are naturally stable and do not require modification. 

Another issue with these oils is the high pour point they generally have. This can be overcome by adding synthetic esters to the oil or blending vegetable oil with mineral oil. Additives like these can increase toxicity and lower the biodegradability of the oil blend, so all these considerations must be taken into account.

LH Travis – Looking for Solutions
Unfortunately, the problems caused by overreliance on non-renewable resources have no quick fix or easy answer. It’s going to take more research and innovation to provide a truly sustainable solution, but you can count on LH Travis to keep you up-to-date on the latest in lubricant technology.