Safe and sustainable by design

Gemma Stephenson, Croda, Technical Marketing Manager – Energy Technologies John Eastwood, Croda, Head of Global Business Development – Energy Technologies

A European Green Deal Climate change and environmental degradation pose very real and serious threats to Europe and the rest of the world. Rising temperatures are snaking their way across the globe and in 2020, land temperatures in Europe reached their highest levels since records began. Europe is recognising that action must be taken and now the continent is striving for climate- neutrality by 2050. The European Union Green Deal(1) was established in 2019 and serves as a growth strategy and roadmap by which to achieve the challenging targets and reverse our negative impacts on the earth. The actions can be grouped according to Figure 1.

Safe and Sustainable by Design As an industry, product performance is the primary consideration when designing additives, base oils and finished lubricants, with varying degrees of consideration given to the intrinsic properties of the base oils and additives, such as, biodegradability and toxicity.

Figure 1: European Green Deal strategic roadmap for growth1 .

Looking beyond Climate Ambition, of particular interest to the lubricants industry is the zero-pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment and such a roadmap has the potential to revolutionise the development of base fluids, additives and formulated lubricants.

A key feature of the EU Green Deal is the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS) (2), published in October 2020, which aims to better protect the environment and ban those most harmful chemicals in consumer products, as well as play a leading role in promoting high standards globally. Critically, another key aim of the CSS is around boosting innovation towards production and use of chemicals that are Safe and Sustainable by Design (SSbD).


In designing new base oils and additives we aim to deliver performance benefits such as improved energy efficiency, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved durability, whilst minimising the use of raw materials. In our current lubricants industry approach, we do regularly compromise on safety and sustainability aspects to ensure that base oils and additives have appropriate functionality to deliver benefits in use. For example, corrosion inhibitors may provide excellent performance benefits in terms of prolonging equipment lifetime and improving process efficiency, but some can be classified as dangerous for the environment and may pose a threat to human health. In many applications the risk associated with using harmful chemicals is mitigated by the fact that they are used in a controlled manner, with little to no opportunity for human or environmental contact, if used correctly.

Under the CSS initiative, it is likely that performance in-use benefits alone will not be tolerated and there will be a greater push towards products that perform but do not compromise on safety and sustainability aspects. Whilst the debate continues around allowances being made for essential use applications, as a lubricants industry we must be prepared for a future where ‘essential-use’ derogations are few and far between.

The chemical industry is now in a period of consultation with the European Commission, however, there is no current process or guidelines that companies need to follow and adhere to.

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