Green Earth

Making Good Environmental Choices for Lubricants

Lubricant Manufacturers must adhere to & continually improve their own manufacturing processes toward green-friendly processes. This means they have to undergo procedures to reduce the consumption of resources such as water and energy sources. It means that they practice sound environmental disposal practices to reduce the amount of effluent—and the impact of their effluent on the environment. It also means they provide stewardship to their communities and education to help consumers make decisions cognizant of the environmental impact of their product selection, use, handling, and disposal.

Automotive Lubricants
To reduce impact of Automotive lubricants on the environment, emphasis is to be placed on the used lubricants disposal, since they may contain materials that are harmful to life or the environment or both. Lubricant conservation and the used oil reclamation, reprocessing, and disposal are critical and so are environmental compatibility and toxicity of the lubricants. Concern for the entry of used lubricant into the environment is on the rise, there are three main avenues to restrain the ever-increasing use of lubricants. These are to develop equipment, wherever and whenever possible, that requires minimum lubrication, extend service intervals, and when possible recycle the used lubricant.
In order to attain the extended service interval, one must use lubricants with extended useful life. Recycling is the option to minimize the used lubricants entry into the environment. This translates into cost savings, with respect to buying a batch of a new lubricant as well as in disposal costs, and the potential damage to the environment, if the disposal method is inappropriate. Ways to minimize inadvertent entry of the lubricant into the environment is to use a closed system, where appropriate. A prime example is the modern automobile, where the automobile manufacturers have successfully minimized the loss of the lubricant or its volatile components into the environment through leakage and evaporation. They have achieved this by building closely fitting parts and recycling the volatiles into the engine by installing closed ventilation systems. Many industrial users of lubricants employ such self-contained systems to prevent the unintended lubricant loss into the environment.

Industrial Lubricants
For an industrial lubricant to be most effective, a number of correct decisions must be made throughout its service life. A longer oil lifecycle not only contributes to less liquid waste, but there are other benefits as well: cost savings because labor can be used more effectively elsewhere, and fewer shutdowns for oil changes. These added costs can amount to at least five times the price of the oil alone. In addition, not having to drain the old oil, move it for disposal and bring in new oil also means less chance of spills. Spillage can often occur when a pail is knocked over or a drain valve breaks off.

  • Equipment Design. Request technical assistance to ensure that the equipment selection has been optimized for environmental and tribological considerations.
  • Selection of lubricants. Selecting the proper lubricant is important to sharply reduce long-term costs. The best-fit product selection can mean longer lubricant life, reduced machine wear, reduced incipient power losses and improved safety. Suitable basestocks and additives reduce environmental impact.
  • Maintenance. Consider specialty maintenance items to reduce liquid waste and improve sampling procedures. Review condition monitoring testing, particularly the results and successes. Periodically perform a lubricant survey. Set up guidelines for conducting a proper failure analysis, including lubrication failure modes and effects analysis.
  • Condition Monitoring. Lubricant condition monitoring (oil analysis), is critical for safe lifecycle extension. Quick on-site tests can usually determine if the oil requires treatment or if the machine is in distress. Proactive oil testing prevents damage. In contrast, most other testing/monitoring methods require some damage to have already occurred.
  • In-situ Treatment. A lubricant can often be effectively treated while still in the equipment, and in many cases can remain on-line. Caution should be exercised to prevent inadvertent contamination of the sumps from oil previously treated with the filtration equipment, if required drain housings and hoses have separate ones for turbine oils or phosphate esters.
  • Reuse or Disposal. Cost-effective alternatives to disposal are offered because the fluid can often be used in less-demanding applications either on-site or in other industries. For example, mineral oil could made into a cutting fluid or recycled.
  • Training. Correct actions require decision makers to be fully aware of their actions, non-actions and alternatives. Products, equipment and rules change quickly and necessitate periodic updates. Consider asking suppliers to give presentations or arrange for industry experts to provide specific training. Ongoing, two-way communication is a must.
  • Persistence. Last but not least, it is important to show that efforts have been made to reduce the environmental impact of operation and/or spills. While this might not prevent charges from being levied if there are spills, it can reduce the likelihood of problems and/or reduce the environmental consequences.