Question & Answer

by Cliff Cracauer, Sales Manager

As we move into the 21st century, it is becoming necessary to be more conscious of the environment.  Greater restrictions are being enforced on the disposal of waste materials such as solvents and petroleum-based products.  This type of waste is common in virtually every type of metalworking fluid (lubricants, hydraulic fluids, etc.).  Disposal of such materials is expensive, and will continue to increase in cost as more regulations are imposed.  This is one reason that other sources are being tapped in the manufacture of metalworking fluids.

In this edition of Q&A, I will discuss what other sources are being used in the production of metalworking fluids, how they are more environmentally friendly, and where Cortec fits into the whole picture.

  1. What are the environmental concerns of petroleum-based products?
  2. Petroleum-based products are not biodegradable and have to be disposed of as hazardous waste.
  3. What is biodegradation?
  4. Biodegradation is the process of chemical breakdown, or transformation, of a substance caused by organisms or their enzymes.
  5. How is biodegradability measured?
  6. One test method that is commonly used to determine if a product can be classified as biodegradable is ASTM 5864-95.  This standard measures the amount of carbon dioxide produced over time.  For products to be considered biodegradable they must produce 60 percent carbon dioxide in a 28-day period.
  7. What are some renewable resources commonly used in developing biodegradable products?
  8. Vegetable oils from rapseed (canola), soybeans, corn and sunflowers are renewable sources.  Another source that is becoming more prevalent is that of synthetic esters and olefins.
  9. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each source?
  10. Vegetable oils, synthetic esters and olefins are biodegradable, and both are renewable resources.  However, they differ in their physical properties and in their costs.

Vegetable oils have excellent lubrication properties and are considerably less expensive than most synthetics. The only real disadvantage of vegetable oils it that they tend to oxidize at temperatures above 90ºC.

Synthetic esters and olefins, on the other hand, have excellent thermal stability, and lubricity very similar to mineral oils.  They have great fluidity at low temperatures that allow for a wide operational temperature range.*

  1. Does Cortec offer any products that are biodegradable?
  2. As mentioned in the New Products section, Cortec Laboratories has developed: EcoLine™ biodegradable products, a corrosion inhibiting lubricant, a cutting oil, a hydraulic oil, a gear oil, and a cleaner.  These products provide equal or better corrosion protection and lubrication ability as compared to conventional petroleum-based materials.

*Although costs at the point in time would be considered expensive, the value to the environment makes these products desirable to many end users.