Layman’s report


Environmental Problem

The environmental  problem  targeted  is the  use of  synthetic  mineral  oils  in the  fluxing/running in of  transmissions  and  gearings.  Lubricants  of  mineral  origin,  as a matter  of  fact,  present  a high environmental impact, ranging  from energy consumption and  CO2 production, to the pol-lution of water; one litre of oil can contaminate one million litres of water. Recent figures regarding the CO2 equivalent burden of oils show  that the production of virgin base oil requires 1156 kg CO2/Mg oil. Considering  a  global  lubricant  demand  of  around  41.7 million  of tons,  of  which one  quarter  involves European  countries,  the  best available  technology,  i.e. regeneration,  even if reducing  of  42%  the carbon footprint doesn’t appear  a solution since  it involves the production of more than 28  million tons of CO2 per year. Moreover,  due to  the  high power  involved in tractors  mechanical  transmissions,  lubricants  are usually made of dangerous substances, like highly refined mineral oils or zinc-alkyl-di-tio- phosphates,  which are  classified  as very  dangerous  for  the  men’s  health (danger’s  category: Carc. 1B,  R38-51/3).

Project objectives

The  project  intended  to  demonstrate  the  feasibility  of  an  alternative  pre-treatment  of  high power  transmissions  and  gearings,  by the  subsequent  use  of  graphite  particles  suspended recovered glycerol and  bio-lubricants mixtures. The project involved the construction of a pilot line, where the use of such   lubricants,   together   with  a   stabilizing  Ag-containing   engineered surface,  would  have led  to  an  average reduction  of  4000 kg of equivalent CO2 production, as well as the  elimination  of  harmful compounds like highly refined mineral oils or zinc-alkyl-di-tio- phosphates  and  the  elimination  of  environmental  pollution deriving from mineral oil spills. At the same  time, recovery of glycerol from other manufacturing processes, Fluxing/running in by graphite particles suspended in glycerol would have been performed in order to ensure protection from oxygen and  enough  cooling of the moving parts of the transmission. After  graphitized  glycerol  removal  from  the  transmission, the  final steps  have been performed using  biolubricants,  in a controlled  environment.  As  a matter  of  fact,  the  temporary  and  re- versible  stabilization of  bio-lubricants  would  have allowed  their  use for  the  next  steps  of  run- ning in, without problems  correlated  to  these  oils  high biodegradability,  which makes them subject to bacterial and  fungi attacks.

Activities implemented

To  achieve  the  aforementioned  objectives,  the  following  means   and  actions  have been  imple- mented:

           • Optimization of graphite particles size and  concentration in glyc- erol to produce a suitable suspension for the preliminary flux- ing/running in of transmissions.

• Design and  realization of a functionalised bio-lubricant collection tank with aluminium inserts,  in order  to  provide  antibacterial and  fungi protection.

• Design  and  realization  of  heating  circuit  for  bio-lubricant  tank, powered  by thermal  solar  energy  and  by direct  kinetic  energy recovery.

•  Design  and  realization  of  an  on-line  filtering/separating  station for  the  lubricants  and  arrangement  of  permanent  magnets  for the creation of high magnetic field gradients.

•  Tests  of  fluxing  and  individuation of  the  most  suitable  bio-lubricants  operating  tempera- tures and measurements of energy consumption, efficiency and bio-lubricant life time and cleanliness.• Field   tests   of   complete   tractors   with  reference   customers   and   possible   improvements emerged  by the  experimentation  and  development  phase,  as well  as from  suppliers  indica- tions

• Definition of recycling procedures.

Environmental results

           The main environmental results achieved are:

• Complete substitution of synthetic oils with bio-lubricants.

• Recovery  of  4000 litres/year  of  glycerol  per  fluxing  site,  using glycerol preferably obtained as a by-product of biodiesel manu- facturing.

• Reduction of  CO2 production  (1150-670  kg/Mg  of  lubricant less) compared to a mineral-oil based fluxing plant.

• Reduction of gaseous emissions (- 20%).

• Lower  oil consumption  due  to  the  fluxing,  which replaces  two running  in oil changes  (average  60  litres  per  transmission  per change).

 • Less  polluting and  safer  oils,  not containing  harmful  highly refined  mineral  oils  nor zinc-alkyl-di-tio-phosphates.

 • Protection of water  and  soil form casual spills, in case of use of  bio-lubricants  also  dur- ing the service life of the tractor.

 • Use of renewable resources.

           LIFE+ Programme

The LIFE+ programme  is the  European  Union’s  financial  tool  for  the  environment.  The general aim of the LIFE programme is to contribute towards implementing, up-dating and developing significant  environmental  policies  and  legislation  for  the  European  Union  by co-financing  pilot or demonstration projects that are important for the whole of Europe. The LIFE+ programme is split up into three components:

• LIFE+ Nature  and  Biodiversity: This  supports  demonstration  pro- jects and  best practices having the aim of safeguarding nature and  Euro- pean  biodiversity  by means   of  conservation  and  protection  of  natural habitats and  of animal and  plant species.

• LIFE+ Environment  Policy  and  Governance: This  supports  pilot and innovative projects contributing to the implementation of European envi- ronmental policies and of ideas, technology, methods and tools for the development of innovative environmental policies.

• LIFE+ Information  and  Communication: This  supports  projects  re- lating to the development of communication and awareness campaigns regarding issues such  as preservation of the environment, the protection of  nature  and  the  preservation  of  biodiversity,  as well  as campaigns  for the prevention of forest fires.

For further info:,


Final Report


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