1. Rail Curve Grease used for lubricating the inside of railroad track around the curves to reduce friction, noise, and energy consumption. Related products include, Top of Rail Friction Modifiers, applied to top of rail for sections of track including tangent and curve section to reduce friction; and solid stick lubricants that are applied to the locomotive flange for reducing friction.

2. Wire Rope Lubricants – applied to wire ropes used on cranes, in shipping, submersibles, and numerous land-based and offshore applications. Figure 2 shows a clam shell type lubricant applicator with two pressurized chambers. One chamber applies high pressure biobased penetrating lubricants to the rope before going to the second chamber to be greased with wire rope dressing grease.

3. Drilling fluids used for cooling and washing cut materials in downhole drilling.

4. Drill Rod Greases used extensively on the surface of drill rods that are inserted into the ground for thousands of feet. Figure 3 shows drill rod grease applied by hand as the rotating rod is lowered into the exploratory well.

Figure 3: Hand application of biobased drill rod grease. Source: Environmental Lubricants Manufacturing, Inc.

5. Truck greases used on chassis and ball joints of trucks as well as wheel bearings that are typically re-greased on 10,000-15,000 mile (16,000 – 24,000 km) intervals. Most truck greases are washed off onto the roads or in truck washes.

6. Chain lubricants applied to chains of numerous varieties including forestry chainsaws, bicycle chains, motor cycle chains, conveyor chains, anchor chains to name a few.

7. Food grade grease and lubricants used in food processing facilities offering improved safety in case of incidental or accidental contact with food.

8. Corrosion inhibitors used on metals especially when they are stored at ports or transported by sea.

9. Metalworking application areas where the products have short residency time in the machine and are typically carried away by metal shavings.

10. Elevators (lifts), escalators, and other lift equipment used in public areas.

Understandably, the list could be much longer as every field of lubrication has some lost-in-use application areas where biobased lubricants can offer great benefits.

Figure 2: Clam shell design under pressure applies penetrating lubricant and redress grease through two chambers. Source: Lubitec Limited, UK.

Biobased vs. Biodegradable While originally environmental friendly products were expected to be biodegradable, the term biodegradable could be confusing and misused. In general, almost all products can biodegrade - eventually. But some products could take years while others biodegrade in just days. Attempts have been made to clarify this by adding secondary terms like inherently, readily, and ultimately to the term biodegradable. Tests of biodegradability include OECD 301 series test methods.

Figure 4: Biobased content of ELM Rail Curve Grease Per ASTM D 6866. Source: Environmental Lubricants Manufacturing, Inc.

Strictly speaking all products including biobased products could be biodegradable if they pass the known standard tests of biodegradability. But, not all biodegradable products are biobased since some petroleum-derived products are also biodegradable. To meet the USDA Biobased standards, each product has a USDS-established minimum biobased or renewable carbon content requirement. Continued on page 8


Biodegradable products could be synthesized from petroleum sources. For example, Polyalphaolefins (PAOs) are available in different viscosity and biodegradability properties depending on how they are synthesized from mineral oils. But, PAOs are not biobased meaning they are not derived from renewable hydrocarbons. The term biobased, spelled as one word BIOBASED, is not hyphenated when referenced in the context of USDA labeling. To test percent biobased content in products, the following test methods are used: ASTM D6866, CEN 16137, CEN 16649, ISO 16620, and ISO 19984. All these tests determine the percent of renewable hydrocarbon compared to fossilised hydrocarbon. The percent of biobased content for a biobased rail curve grease on the USDA Biopreferred list is presented in Figure 4 having been tested using ASTM D6866 test method. Interestingly, a test of biobased content on several petroleum based greases indicated 5-10% biobased content which is due to the presence of stearic and other fatty acids used in making the soaps within most petroleum-based grease. But, the 5-10% biobased is too small to meet the requirements of the USDA biobased labeling quantities.

Biobased Content

% Biobased % Fossil Carbon

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