Soybeans in motor oils and lubricants

News articles – originally printed in , October 19, 2009

As demand for “green” products increases, more and more technologies and opportunities for bio-based products are emerging alongside to meet those needs.

Crops like corn, wheat and soybeans are starting to replace traditional petroleum-based ingredients in these new bio-products, making them easier on the environment and lessening our dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels. They’re also creating new market opportunities for farmers.

One such market that is growing rapidly is that of bio-based lubricants and industrial fluids, which are made using soybean oil. This includes everything from hydraulic and transmission fluids to greases, motor oils, fuel additives and even a WD-40-like product, produced by companies like Renewable Lubricants of Ohio. Their Canadian distributor is DM’s Bio-Based Fluid Supply Inc. of Bolton, Ontario.

“You name a lubricant and we can supply it using bio-based ingredients,” says DM president Don Marentette. “This market is only going to expand as consumers become more eco-friendly.”

Over the last year, Marentette has involved several of his products in a field trial with the University of Guelph. The University tested a 5W20 motor oil – used extensively in Ford and Chrysler vehicles – as well as a 15W40 diesel engine oil, a diesel fuel additive and chain saw oil. The reason behind the trial was to evaluate performance and ensure the bio-based products did as well or better than the conventional products in use at the school.

“We wanted to make sure that our products would perform as well as those they were currently using at Guelph,” says Marentette, adding that the University was very interested in pursing bio-based alternatives.

The trials proved to be a success. The soy-based chain saw oil is not only less harmful to plants and grasses, but also lasted longer than the conventional product. The motor oil also performed well, extending out the oil change life of each vehicle where it was used from 5,000 km to 8,000 km.

“These products have worked out very well for us”, says Paul Cook of Transportation Services at the University of Guelph. “The biggest thing for us has been extending the oil change life from 5000 to 8000 km. It costs a bit more money to buy the product up front but over the course of a year, you’re doing three oil changes instead of four, which makes a difference. In the long run, we’ve found it to be a far superior product.”

There are also environmental benefits that are considered when they’re making their purchasing decisions, says Cook, explaining that although they are always careful, sometimes spills do happen when the equipment is being used, but there is less potential for pollution from the bio-based products.

The University has switched its snow plows to DM’s hydraulic oil, and is working on implementing use of the 5W20 motor oil across its fleet of owned vehicles, as well as the diesel fuel additive. Its lawnmowers will begin running on the bio-based product in the spring. Cook says they’ve also started using a diesel fuel treatment product that will help boost engine lubricity and decrease smoke emissions from small engines.

“We’re looking at changing over other products as well and we feel it will be well worth it for us in the long-run,” says Cook. “And best of all, we’ll hopefully be able to grow what we need for these products right here in Ontario some day.”

Although he currently only distributes US-made product, Marentette’s company owns Canadian manufacturing rights that he plans to implement once the Canadian market – both in terms of consumer demand for product and farmers’ ability to grow the high oleic soybeans required for these products – gets bigger.

That’s the reason why Guelph-based Soy 20/20, an organization dedicated to supporting and developing new bioscience opportunities for Canadian soybeans, became involved in the project and helped to link up DM and the University for the lubricant trial.

“Our desire is to create a market opportunity for Canadian-grown soybeans and build a value chain that will benefit our entire soybean industry,” says Jeff Schmalz, President of Soy 20/20. “Soy-based lubricants can help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and create a potential market for high oleic soybeans.”

As well as providing a market opportunity for growers, DM’s bio-based lubricants can also be used on-farm to reduce costs and improve equipment performance. The fuel additives will help increase fuel economy and decrease emissions, says Marentette and although the cost of the products is often higher than the conventional alternatives, the benefits will come into play over the long term.

“It’s true that the initial product cost is higher than traditional lubricants, but the materials will last twice as long,” says Marentette. “This means you’ll be buying less, generating less waste oil and getting longer use out of what you do buy.”

The bio-based lubricant products are available for sale to consumers through DM’s location in Bolton and through distributor Varco Industrial Sales, which has outlets in Windsor, Wallaceburg, Chatham, London and Kitchener. For more information, contact DM’s Bio-Based Fluid Supply Inc., at (905) 951-1100.