Biodegradable lubricants for marine industry

Posted by Boost Commerce on

A drop of oil in the sea is a drop too many

Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants, or EALs, have been driving a change across industry sectors in recent years.

Achieving environmental compliance, optimising productivity, minimising maintenance costs and creating safe working conditions would be the main drivers.

The environmental aspect being the most visible. Considering just one litre of lubricating oil can contaminate up to 1 million litres of water, it is essential to consider bio-lubricants over conventional petroleum oils. Especially when operating machinery in environmentally sensitive environment.

Technical feasibility and compatibility of the modern EALs adds to the case.

The role of EALs is not only to provide environmentally considerate products based on renewable materials, but to truly help the industry keep moving forward. Longer-change intervals, lower clean-up costs and less downtime after an accidental unauthorized discharge are commonly gained benefits.

Current regulatory systems covering marine industry are in place mainly in Europe and North America. They have strict regulations, mandatory purchase requirements and a strong degree of self-regulation through business leadership and trade associations. Implementation of comprehensive eco-labelling programmes also contributed to a fast recognition and acceptance of bio-lubricants.

The EU Ecolabel is the primary pan-European green label used to define bio-lubricants across Europe, and by extension, become a reference point for customers in Asia, America and the rest of the world including New Zealand. The two specific aims of the EU Ecolabel are to limit harm caused to the water and soil environment though product’s use, and reduction of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere.

Whereas the US EPA 2013 Vessel General Permit (VGP) and the proposed Small Vessel General Permit (sVGP) introduced by the US Environmental Protection Agency are the most significant regulation specific to the marine industry. According to the US EPA 2013 VGP vessels are required to use environmentally acceptable lubricants in all oil-to-sea interfaces.

Oil-to-sea interface

Oil-to-sea interfaces include any equipment onboard a ship where seals or surfaces may release oil and are submerged in water. The VGP specifically identifies several types of equipment that can generate lubrication releases from an oil-sea interface including thrusters, stabilizers, rudder, thruster, stern tube, propeller, wire rope, grease, anti-corrosion and penetrating oils.

LUBECOTM non-sheening products are designed to benefit on all of the above accounts, leaving the waterways and marine environment safer and cleaner while promoting operational efficiency. Performance and equipment’s demands are always at the forefront of our thinking.

LUBECOTM products are technically fully feasible and meet stringent EPA’s VGP and sVGP compliance, and EU Ecolabel certified.

Biodegradable hydraulic fluids

Hydraulically-driven systems are at the core of most working equipment and machinery. Ports, marine transport, dredging, harvesting plants, vessels, and the list goes on. Oil supply and return lines are commonly mounted at exposed areas and upper decks presenting a significant risk of accidental discharge of hydraulic fluids into the environment.

To limiting the risks of negative environmental impacts due to inevitable spills it is strongly recommended to use readily biodegradable hydraulic fluids.

Category of Biodegradable Hydraulic Oils is governed by the internationally accepted standard ISO 15380 and technical rule VDMA 24568.

Classification of Biodegradable Hydraulic Fluids and typical characteristics 




Base Fluid

Typical Temperature Range (ISO)

Characteristic Features




-20 to +70°C

+ Excellent biodegradation

-  Lower oxidation resistance


Synthetic Ester

1) unsaturated

2) saturated


-30 to +90°C

+ Stable, High-performing

+ Excellent biodegradation


Poly alpha olefin (PAO)


-35 to +80°C

+ Good stability

-  Only available in low viscosities


Poly alkyl glycol (PAG)


-30 to +90°C

+ Stable, often water-soluble

-  Incompatible


Thanks to technical and environmental capability Synthetic Ester based products – type HEES (Hydraulic Oil Environmental Ester Synthetic) currently lead the category of biodegradable hydraulic fluids.

Synthetic ester range of readily biodegradable hydraulic oils LUBECOTM HEES type HVI deliver high-performance fluid properties while green-proofing every hydraulic system. Our HEES range consist of two products based on level of fluids requirements, working conditions, and other factors:

Examples of LUBECOTM Biodegradable Hydraulic Oils


BIO Hydraulic Oil

Premium rapeseed oil based hydraulic fluid


BIO Hydraulic Oil PLUS

High performance hydraulic fluid based on saturated synthetic esters


BIO Hydraulic Oil PREMIUM

Premium performance hydraulic fluid based on saturated synthetic esters of the highest quality


BIO Hydraulic Oil FR HFDU

Fire-resistant hydraulic fluid. Purposely designed on saturated synthetic ester base oil to comply with requirements for readily biodegradability


LUBECOTM HEES fluids are compatible with other commonly used types of hydraulic oils and can be used as drop-in alternatives, or in a full system change-over to achieve the ultimate performance effects as always recommended.

Although oils & lubricants can be seen as a small piece of the puzzle in green-proofing of the marine industry, it is a simple adjustment to make with an instant gain.

Opening to a proven green technology is a simple way to help immediately protect our environment, the clean green New Zealand we all benefit from.

See our range of LubEco products here.

SANTY MARIA, a state-of-the-art fishing vessel by MOANA New Zealand and RMD MARINE working with environmentally friendly HEES hydraulic fluids and other LUBECO bio-lubricants.

Article supplied by LubEco.

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