Greener future for the marine industry

25. 08. 2013 - A core focus within the marine industry has been on engine fuel efficiency and emissions – a mixture of: operators wanting to keep fuel costs low and legislation driving emissions down. But now legislation is in the ‘driving seat’ and making the use of Environmentally Considerate Lubricants (ECLs) mandatory. Patrick Lämmle, CEO, Panolin International Inc., clarifies some key talking points surrounding ECLs.

Why will we have to use them? Current and emerging worldwide legislation, is requiring that Environmentally Considerate Lubricants (ECLs) be used in vessels where leakage into the sea could occur, to protect marine life.

How does this affect me, in Europe? Ospar Convention and, closer to home, Cefas and ACOPS, together with the MARPOL Convention, provide vital roles in securing a healthy marine environment. The Polar Code, currently in draft form, will be ‘looking after’ the environment in the Arctic regions. ECLs feature prominently in these.

What is an ECL? An ‘Environmentally Considerate Lubricant’ (sometimes also called Environmentally Acceptable Lubricant) means lubricants that are:

Am I going to be forced to use ECLs? Any hydraulic systems that are used on board ships entering US waters, that could leak fluids into the sea, must use ECLs from 19 December this year – unless ‘technically infeasible’. EPA states possible reasons for technical infeasibility, but these are only for the short term. Eventually all fluids and lubricants must be ECLs. Manufacturers of hydraulic equipment need to understand the various ECL Types available and be able to select the most appropriate ECL(s) for their system(s), to recommend to their customers.

How do I choose which one(s)? Up to now, mainly the ‘technical performance’ of a lubricant was important to operators. With the new environmental requirements there is this other aspect to a lubricant that requires careful consideration – the so-called ‘eco-tox’ profile. Four product groups (acc. to ISO 15380) provide potential environmentally acceptable alternatives to mineral oils: HEPG, HETG, HEPR and HEES. However, these 4 ‘families’ of lubricants have widely differing performance characteristics – some are not as good as others. What ‘additives’ are used in the ‘blend’ of the lubricant are extremely important – they have great impact on the product’s performance and its eco-tox profile.

What ‘independent’ environmental testing has been done? There are various ‘labels’ such as Blue Angel, Swedish Standard and the European Eco Label (Marguerite) that have set environmental criteria for not only the main constituent of the lubricant, but also the ingredients that are the ‘unfriendly’ parts – the additives, that can be toxic and bio accumulative. The labelling programmes can aid the purchasing decisions of a vessel/equipment operator, by helping to remove uncertainty. Look for the label.

What about Operational Performance? The ‘operational’ performances of the 4 families of fluids, indicated above, that could be considered as ‘environmentally’ acceptable, differ widely. Poor oxidation resistance, gumming and lacquering, limited shear stability and, not least, limited life all mean that selection of the correct lubricant by the OEM/equipment user, is vital. Consult with the lubricant manufacturer. The fluid type with the best all-round performance attributes, coupled with meeting the criteria for environmental acceptability is HEES – the Saturated Synthetic Ester (SSE) form, which out-performs the unsaturated type.

What are the specific benefits of HEES Saturated Synthetic Ester Fluids?

Am I going to be a Guinea Pig? SSEs have already been working in the most arduous of applications and conditions for over 20 years and have been applied not only in hydraulics and component lubrication systems in: marine, hydro, wave power, dredging and sub-sea equipment, but also in land excavation/mineral extraction, forestry and on inland waters, of ecological sensitivity.

But do I need to look after them more than mineral oils? Not really, but by employing ‘Best Management Practice’ and ‘Best Available Technology’ (like condition monitoring), you will keep your lubes and, more importantly, your equipment in prime operating condition.

Can I actually save money by using ECL? Yes. Documented monitoring of ‘real-life’ use of SSEs shows that in all areas of fluids/lubricants use: mainly hydraulics and gearboxes, up to 10 times the life of mineral oils can be achieved. Reduction in maintenance frequency reduces downtime, keeping equipment earning money.


Panolin International Inc. manufactures Environmentally Considerate Lubricants in Madetswil, near Zurich, Switzerland. The company is represented in the UK and Ireland by Environmental Technologies Ltd. (ETL). Based in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, ETL produces coolant handling, lubricant filtering and condition monitoring equipment.


Source: Hydraulics & Pneumatics, August Issue