Touting Industry’s Sustainability Contributions

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Touting Industry’s Sustainability Contributions
The wind turbines of the Zeebrugge Wind Farm in Zeebrugge, a village in Belgium on the coast of the North Sea. ©Roger Utting

Lisbon, Portugal – The lubricants industry is the best kept secret in the battle to stop climate change and achieve sustainability goals, including improved fuel economy and reduced emissions, a speaker told an industry conference recently.

A Cargill official told ACI’s European Base Oils and Lubricants Summit last month that the industry helps enable the transition to renewable and sustainable energy and electric vehicle mobility since it keeps cogs spinning and wheels turning.

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“The products that we deliver and what we do as an industry are absolutely crucial in helping the world to achieve net zero emission goals and a more sustainable future,” Cargill Technical Marketing Manager Gemma Stephenson said during a Nov.17 presentation.

Cargill is headquartered in Wayzatta, Minnesota, United States, and is a multinational conglomerate with operations ranging from agriculture and petrochemical products to food, drugs and animal nutrition. Stephenson is based at the company’s United Kingdom office.

“What the lube industry is actually doing is improving the energy efficiency and fuel economy,” she continued. “It gives maximum energy and cost savings. It ensures operational safety and reduced emission, prolonging fluid machine durability, accelerating the move to sustainable mobility and electrification of cars, as well as the move to sustainable energy – to keep electric motors and blades of the wind turbines running and rotate efficiently.”

The world cannot function without lubricants, she noted, and with the current transition toward cleaner energy and achieving net zero emissions “we are asking what the industry would have do to adapt to such a dramatic change.”

Stephenson said that when it comes to the most important part in the lube formulations – the additives, “we must think more holistically and look across the whole additive value chain. When we are considering the principle of safe and sustainable design for the lubricant additives, the focus should be on minimizing the intrinsic hazards of the product plus stimulating and maximizing the product use and benefits.

In designing new additives, we must deliver performance benefits such as improved energy efficiency reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved durability while maximizing the safety and sustainable credentials. We have to adapt and innovate in order to move forward, we must do that in order to survive and keep going as an industry,” she said.

The lubricants industry has a key role in this drive for net zero emissions, Stephenson said.

Organizations such as UEIL, ATC, ILMA, ATIEL, ELGI and the American Chemistry Council represent key parts of the lubricants industry value chain and cover the voices of additive and base oil suppliers, grease manufacturers and OEMs.

“Decarbonization is required across the whole value chain, and collaboration is essential in making this happen,” Stephenson stressed.

Recent Cargill findings have suggested that 80% of companies’ Scope 3 emission are embedded in raw materials that they are buying in.

Scope 3 encompasses emissions that are not produced by the company itself nor is the result of activities from assets owned or controlled by them, but by those that are indirectly responsible for, up and down its value chain.

“We can create products that are safe and sustainable by design, by using innovation to produce more sustainable products,” she said. “We have to look at the way we manufacture products, moving to lower energy processes and minimizing our reliance on fossil fuels.”

An example of such products is a friction modifier.

“Polymeric friction modifiers have been in use for decades and they are extremely relevant today – to reduce friction and improve fuel economy,” she said. “They can still be applied to current and future formulations of fuels and lubes in the internal combustion engines. Polymeric friction modifiers are specifically designed to reduce friction and wear, which can lead to energy savings. Lower friction performance in an engine leads toward better fuel efficiency. For example, with the same amount of fuel the car can travel longer. Fuel economy performance in passenger cars is directly related to CO2 savings.

In 2019, Cargill calculated that for every one ton of polymeric friction modifiers applied, around 1,500 tons of  carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions can be reduced. “It is important to know that the fuel economy savings from the biobased friction modifiers are larger than those delivered from petrochemical products,” She said.

There is a huge drive toward the electrification of vehicles, she noted, and they come with new systems and componentry that have new and complex lubrication requirements. “[API] Group III base oils are currently used in EV transmissions [fluids]. We evaluated the ester fluids. Inclusion of 20% ester to the Group III base oils can help reduce traction levels significantly,” she said, adding that lower traction can achieve better efficiency savings.

Cargill performed a FZG test for high load carrying which showed that Group III formulation fluid with 20% ester added performed well in a test of 140 minutes, while the Group III formulation fluid without esters failed in 78 minutes.

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