»  Home » What are biolubricants? » Lubricant components


Measuring the environmental 
friendliness of lubricants


Lubricant components
Usually, the components of lubricants are divided into base oils and additives. Additionally, lubricating greases contain a certain amount of thickening agents. As a rule of thumb, it can be assumed that biodegradability is determined by the base oils and the toxicity is determined by the additives. The environmental properties of thickening agents tend to vary significantly.
Additives are often sold in packages. In most cases, this means that the package consists of a number of substances that all have their own specific functions. Such a package may, for instance, contain corrosion inhibitors, extreme pressure additives, dispersants and an antioxidant.
The base oil, too, may consist of a combination of substances in order to reach the desired viscosity. Base oils are commonly divided into mineral, vegetable and synthetic oils. The drawback for biolubricants is that (in market statistics, for instance) no distinction is made between types of synthetic base oils, i.e. whether they have been manufactured from mineral or vegetable oils.
Either type of oil may have excellent biodegradation and toxicity performance, but when it comes to sustainability, in terms of using renewable materials, a synthetic base oil manufactured from vegetable oil will often outperform a synthetic base oil manufactured exclusively from mineral oil. (for more information read Benefits and environmental performance)


Corrosion inhibitor
Corrosion is what happens when materials are affected by their environment, particularly metal objects that are affected by electrochemical reactions. In this case oxygen, acids or caustics will change metals into oxides (such as iron oxides, better known as rust) or metal salts. A corrosion inhibitor is supposed to counteract the corrosion of the metal parts of the lubrication system and installation.

Extreme Pressure (EP) additive
A substance that improves lubrication in extreme conditions (such as high pressure and extreme temperatures).

A substance that aids in breaking up solids or liquids as fine particles or droplets into another medium.

A substance that counteracts oxidation (which is also called rust when it applies to metals).

Biodegradation is a property of all natural organic materials that will gradually disintegrate into components that can serve as nutrients to plants and animal life. Micro-organisms that improve this disintegration are very important for this process. In other words, biodegradation is the metabolic degradation of all organic materials by living organisms.

An effect of a substance that will negatively affect the physiological process in an organism. Two main toxic effects are distinguished: direct or acute toxicity and long-term or chronic toxicity.