Hydraulic fluids haven’t yet caught the attention of the regulatory bodies that are demanding greater use of biodiesel and other sustainable products. But the industry is pushing forward on its own, creating biofluids that will pave the way for ongoing advances.
A number of fluid manufacturers are already offering bio hydraulic fluids, ranging from smaller companies such as Terresolve Technologies and Houghton International to global giants including BASF. Suppliers such asSVB Industrial Chemicals do Brasil Ltda are making products outside the U.S.
The demand for green hydraulic fluids won’t ever be as high as for fuels that are burned continuously and therefore have more environmental impact. But hydraulic fluids do make their way into the environment.
Some studies estimate that in North America alone, more than 100 million gal (380 million L) of fluids leak from hydraulic machinery and other lubricated equipment every year. These leaks can be especially damaging when equipment is used in wetlands, parks, or other green areas.
“Bio hydraulic oils offer a solution for applications in environmentally sensitive areas such as close to water bodies or in forestry applications, for example,” said Hind Abi-Akar, Senior Engineer for Fluids Engineering at Caterpillar, Specialty Products Business Unit. “This role may expand in the future as regulations are further tightened."
Biodegradable lubricants can improve workplace cleanliness and reduce disposal costs. They can also help customers meet regulations for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction. Among the first steps for expanding use will be reducing the cost premium of bio fluids and better detailing their high environmental impact. Many feel it’s important for the industry to push forward so the knowledge base is ready if regulators do step in.
“Regulations to control GHG may lead to expansion of bio lubricants into more products and applications,” said Abi-Akar.