Lab Canada

Biolubricants smooth way to a cleaner environment (May 10, 2004)

Edmonton, AB – May 10, 2004 – The Alberta Research Council (ARC), under a contract to Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (AAFRD), says it recently conducted two tests on a biologically based lubricant (biolubricant) for chainsaw bars.

The tests, which were run for Greenland Corporation of Calgary, will help industry establish product standards for biolubricants to encourage consumers to choose these environmentally friendly products.

“We wanted to compare the bio-based chain bar oil with a commercial petroleum-based chain bar oil to evaluate chemical and physical properties, ecotoxicity, and functionality,” says Dan Wispinski, manager, ARC fuels and lubricants business unit. “The performance of the biolubricant in the field application was very comparable to the petroleum-based oil.”

Xiaomei Li, research scientist with ARC’s Environmental Technologies business unit, led environmental tests on the biolubricant. “Biolubricants have significant advantages related to environmental impact,” he says. “They are inherently biodegradable and are made from a renewable resource.”

ARC technologists in Edmonton conducted performance tests using a chainsaw mounted to a portable sawmill, while technologists at ARC’s Vegreville facility carried out environmental tests on seedlings.

According to Connie Phillips, manager at AAFRD’s Centre for Agri-Industrial Technology, moving away from traditional chainsaw bar oil is an important step towards better environmental stewardship. “Chainsaw bar oil is a free-loss lubricant, which means it is expected to end up in the environment when used,” she says. “When using a chainsaw, up to 0.8 litres of oil per hour can go into the environment, therefore, it’s important for the forestry industry and occasional chainsaw users to have an environmentally safer alternative.”

According to a market report on the European biolubricant market (Frost and Sullivan, 2000), one litre of mineral-based oil can contaminate one million litres of water.

As an added benefit, Alberta’s agriculture industry could supply source material to biolubricant manufacturers. The Chemical Market Reporter, an International newspaper for the chemical process industries, forecasts the biolubricant industry to grow at a healthy seven to ten per cent per year in the United States with the most growth occurring in higher margin, specialty products.