A Closer Look at Sustainable Lubricants

Taylor, Robert Ian orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-3132-8469 (2023) A Closer Look at Sustainable Lubricants. Tribology Online, 18 (6). ISSN 1881 -2198

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.2474/trol.18.268


Lubricants are used to reduce friction and wear in machines, saving billions of dollars worldwide in energy and breakdown costs and lowering CO2 emissions. Today, most lubricants are made using hydrocarbons derived from crude oil, which is a finite resource, although alternative bio-based lubricants are also being investigated, as is the re-refining of used lubricants to make new base oil. The CO2 emissions from current lubricants (due to their manufacture and waste disposal) are estimated and it is found that CO2 emissions from the production and disposal of lubricants are very much lower than the CO2 emissions associated with the energy used by those machines. It is also shown that an effective way to make lubricants more sustainable is to extend lubricant oil drain intervals and collect used oil and re-refine it to make base oil for re-use. The role of bio-based lubricants, and their benefits and disadvantages are discussed.
Other aspects in which lubricants can be made more sustainable are also briefly covered, such as lubricant packaging, the removal of toxic additives via improved regulatory chemistry, and the use of renewable electricity in blending plants.

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