Use of graphite and biolubricants stabilized by engineered active surfaces for the fluxing of transmission and gearing

Project background
Lubricants of mineral origin have a significant negative environmental impact. For instance, the production of virgin base oil requires 1 156 kg CO2/mg oil, compared with 676 Kg. C02/mg oil for recycled (regenerated) oil.

Considering that global lubricant demand was estimated to be 41.7 million tonnes in 2010, even the best available technology – regeneration – still involves the production of more than 28 million tonnes/yr of CO2.
An Alternative would be to replace mineral lubricating oils with more environmentally-friendly products, such as solid-state lubricants (e.g. graphite and talc) and “bio-lubricant”, i.e. oils of natural origin, usually extracted from crops, made of triglycerides.

Project objectives
The main objective of the project is to demonstrate the complete replacement of synthetic lubricants for the pre-treatment of transmissions and gearings, with solid state graphite lubricant and fluid bio-lubricants. The project will set up a manufacturing cycle that produces very little waste, reduces the consumption and dispersion of lubricants and has a low carbon footprint. The proposed process will also involve the recovery of glycerol from other manufacturing processes, to be used as a solvent in which to suspend graphite particles.

These goals will be accomplished by a series of sub-projects, which will investigate the reversible long-term stabilization of bio-lubricants against bacterial and fungicidal attacks, improvement of the rheological properties of bio-lubricants; and realization of a closed circuit in which stable suspensions of graphite powders, in recovered glycerol, are injected into the transmissions and subsequently removed and re-collected prior to the insertion of bio-lubricants.

The project will construct a pilot production line, where the use of such lubricants will lead to an average reduction of 4 tonnes/yr of CO2 – equivalent (corresponding to the production/regeneration of 4 000 litres/yr of mineral oil); the elimination of harmful compounds such as highly refined mineral oils or zinc-alkyl-di-tio-phosphates; and the elimination of environmental pollution deriving from mineral oil spills.

Expected results:
• Complete substitution of synthetic oils in a demonstration process with bio-lubricants, which are 70-100% biodegradable;
• Recovery of 4 000 liters/yr of glycerol per fluxing site;
• Reduction of CO2 emission; Reduction of gaseous emissions because of the lower volatility of bio-lubricants (estimated 20% less);
• Lower oil consumption (average 60 liters per transmission per change);
• Less pollution and safer oils, containing neither harmful highly-refined mineral oils nor zinc-alkyl-di-tio-phosphates;
• Longer lubricant service life (+20%) as a result of increased thermal stability:
• Lower lubricant losses as a result of the lower volatility of bio-lubricants and the high temperature stability of graphite in inert gas.

What is "Life+"?
"Life+" finances actions aimed at safeguarding the environment inside the European Community and also in some Third Countries (countries proposed as candidates for joining the EC, EFTA countries as members of the European Environmental Protection Agency, western Balkans Countries involved in association and stabilization processes).
Projects financing can be proposed by operators, organizations or public and private institutions. "Life+" covers three different subjects: "Nature and biodiversity", "Environmental Policy and Governance" and "Information and Communication"

Argo Tractors, with its headquarters in Fabbrico (Reggio Emilia, Italy), manufactures tractors under the Landini, McCormick and Valpadana brands and belongs to the Argo Industrial Group. Argo Tractors SpA has tripled its production volumes in little more than 10 years, with a remarkable growth in concrete results: in 2010, the group turnover amounted to 413 million Euros. The enterprise numbers 1,600 employees and has 3 manufacturing plants, 8 business branches in various parts of the world, 130 overseas importers and 2,500 dealers. Statistics that have allowed the Landini, McCormick and Valpadana brands to achieve a significant standing in the domestic tractor market and to represent one of the most important international players, thus confirming the value of a successful group strategy.