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).
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.
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.
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.
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.