While non-mariners and mainstream public may focus on oil spills as the greatest threat to our marine environment, many miss the fact that lubricants lost from a vessel and entering into the aquatic environment can do just as much serious damage. This article defines environmentally acceptable lubricants (EALs); describes best practice management solutions; and provides examples of how leaders in the industry have solved this issue for their own companies.
While many oil and lubricant companies are currently scrambling to develop products that meet the regulatory guidelines established in 2011 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one Canadian company has been meeting that standard before there was even a recognized need. Since its formation in 1988. Lubri-Lab Inc., a Canadian company founded by Jacques Tremblay, has been at the forefront of developing lubricants designed to withstand the most extreme industrial situations without the use of heavy metals and toxins, thereby making them friendly to not only the environment but to the individuals who use them.
Photo above: Lubri-Lab's commitment to environmentally acceptable products extends to their grease products.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines an EAL as: “those lubricants that have been demonstrated to meet standards for biodegradability, toxicity and bioaccumulation potential that minimize their likely adverse consequences in the aquatic environment, compared to conventional lubricants.” The EPA established regulations around lubricants and fluids that are currently in force for ships of a specific length. They provide clear guidelines for any operator working on or around oceans or lakes as well as companies that operate inland and work on or around environmentally sensitive locations.
One of the key measurements in these regulations is the biodegradability of the product in a 28-day test period. The minimum standard is greater than 60 per cent. It should be noted that many companies will simply show this as “Pass” in their Product Guides. This means that if, for some reason, the product comes into contact with the waterway, at least 60 per cent of the product will biodegrade in 28 days. This is where testing and years of focus come into play — for example, many industries working in the marine environment require quality hydraulic oil. Lubri-Lab BC’s “Bio-Tope Hydrau” will not only outperform most standard hydraulic oils by four to five times, it also has a biodegradability of more than 85 per cent.
But, like experience, language is important as well. Products that are described as “inherently biodegradable” means that the product in question may have biodegraded 30 per cent with 28 days. Users should be warned that this does not meet the required standard.
Major ferry operators and cruise lines are increasingly becoming aware of this ability to not only provide a quality lubricant but be environmentally aware as well. The reality for operators of all vessels (large or small) is that if the product does not meet the operational standards, making the decision to switch to an environmental solution is very difficult. One example of this decision making process was a significant review of operational and environmental standards which resulted in Lubri-Lab’s Bio-Tope Hydrau being used by BC Ferries in their vehicle ramps. After successful testing in two ramps, a third application is planned, making it clear that it is not only the ships but the ground operations as well that must adhere to these standards.
Cruise ships have also been quick to recognize the benefits of environmentally acceptable lubricants that meet other needs as well. For example, Holland America and other lines are currently using the Lubri-Lab CCL (Chain and Cable Lube) product to coat their cables and wires on lifeboats. Some of the attributes that attract these corporations include how the product dries clean and clear on the cable (no more greasy cables) and will not drip on the deck (or the customers). CCL products also provide superior protection against corrosion while ensuring exceptional lubricating properties. And, of course, like many of the Lubri-Lab products, the coating is environmentally acceptable and will not leave a sheen on either salt or fresh water if it comes into contact.
Lubri-Lab’s range of products all demonstrate a commitment to the environment, including grease products — TOP5 (impact grease), S350 (all-purpose grease), and ALIMEX-1 (H1 food approved grease). These greases withstand load bearing pressures of three to four times the industry standard; have temperature ratings of -40 to +600 Degrees (F) and zero-to-less-than-one-per-cent water washout, while leaving no sheen on the water surface.
The bottom line is that you can have a product that will protect your equipment and meet environmental standards — whether in the U.S., Canada or internationally where Lubri-Lab products are distributed and readily available. Lubri-Lab BC will be attending both the CFOA Trade Show in Ottawa and the Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle with representatives ready to discuss your needs, our experience and solutions that ensure best practices when it comes to applying environmentally acceptable lubricants.
Shane Hanna is the Owner of Lubri-Lab BC; his focus is on distribution through retail and B2B networking. Shane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on any of Lubri-Lab’s products, please visit: www.lubrilabbc.com.