FUCHS and BASF collaborate for a sustainability assessment analysis for the Life Cycle of Hydraulic Fluids

FUCHS, one of the largest independent lubricant manufacturer and BASF, a leading chemical producer have jointly carried out a study on the full life cycle of hydraulic fluids with the aim of assessing the environmental impacts and economic aspects of using multi-grade hydraulic oils over mono-grade hydraulic oils. With a recent Eco-Efficiency Analysis (EEA) for different mineral oil-based hydraulic fluids, jointly executed by FUCHS and BASF’s global business unit Fuel and Lubricant Solutions, the two partners have now established a strong case for a holistic real fact-based sustainability assessment of lubricants-hydraulic fluids.

Contrary to the currently dominant cradle-to-gate approach, which only assesses a partial product life cycle until a product has been manufactured, the evaluation of different hydraulic fluids was conducted employing a cradle-to-grave approach when assessing the environmental and economic aspects of the involved products in their full life cycle from sourcing of the raw materials, overproduction, their use phase and the disposal.

Holistically considering the products’ full life cycle around the usage in a crawler excavator, the findings of the EEA study clearly indicated the lower environmental impact and lower overall cost especially in the use of the studied premium HVLP fluid (high performance multi-grade hydraulic oil) versus standard HLP fluid (monograde hydraulic oil). This advantage is mainly based on an improved diesel fuel economy throughout the use phase primarily due to improved volumetric fluid efficiency lower friction and lower fluid mass circulation ratio which overcompensates a slightly higher environmental footprint of these products in the cradle-to-gate phase. The improved fuel economy was enabled mainly through the higher hydraulic fluid efficiency of the specific fully formulated multi-grade hydraulic oils.

“With this study, we are jointly pioneering the assessment of sustainability aspects within the lubricant industry,” said Dr Lutz Lindemann, Chief Technology Officer, FUCHS PETROLUB SE. “We value the broad competencies around sustainability and analytical methods which BASF has brought to the table to make it happen in combination with practical, realistic and application relevant FUCHS know-how. FUCHS and BASF are currently looking at further cases to evaluate jointly, but also at application cases for BASF’s sustainable product portfolio of lubricant components.”

“Sustainability is at the core of our business,” added Dr Julia Frey, Vice President Business Management EMEA Fuel and Lubricant Solutions, BASF SE. “As a leading solution provider to the industries we serve, we aspire to continually, together with our partners, advance the implementation of a fact-based approach to the topic within the fuel and lubricant sector.”

This study is a first example that demonstrates, on the one hand, the superior relevance of a cradle-to-grave versus a cradle-to-gate assessment and on the other hand the positive impact of a special designed multi-grade high VI (viscosity index) hydraulic fluid on such a cradle-to-grave analysis. The fluids investigated were all mineral oil-based hydraulic fluids of different quality levels. Further beneficial impacts on EEAs can be expected upon the usage of ester-based, so-called biodegradable ester-based (HEES) hydraulic fluids. Such fluids are known to inherently possess high shear stable VIs and in addition, lead to lower friction compared to standard mineral oil-based fluids. Another environmental benefit is their biodegradability. Investigations with such ester-based fluids could be the next step.