In a recent Fluid Power Technology Conference – Virtual Series session, Brandon Richards, CEO of PANOLIN America Inc. presented “Where and when should you use environmentally acceptable fluids?” He provided an overview of EALs, including their biodegradability and low toxicity, as well as benefits in terms of performance, durability and affordability versus mineral-based lubricants.
With ever-increasing demands for environmental protection, regulations in place around the globe recommend or mandate the use of EALs in a growing number of applications, he said. Let’s take a look at four important ones.
Environmental Liability Directive. The Environmental Liability Directive covers the European Union. The legislation applies to environmental damage caused by occupation activities and imminent threat of such damage; and damage to any protective species and natural habitats whenever the operator has been found at fault or negligent. This is a program that fines the polluter for the damaged ecosystem, as well as requires it to cover the cost to repair the ecosystem. This can be very costly, so this is a highly effective deterrent. The burden of proof is on the polluter.
CAM. Criteri Ambientali Minimi, translated as Minimum Environmental Criteria, is a law that has been in place in Italy since 2012. It currently mandates the use of the EALs on job sites and in public green spaces. The next steps are coming and they include road construction, railway, mass transit, and waste management. Like similar legislation, it shows that the rules are getting more and more stringent as time goes on.
National Environmental Policy Act. Here in the United States, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a federal law that was enacted originally in the late sixties and has been amended over time in line with tougher environmental policies.
This is federal policy for protecting the environment. It promotes efforts to prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and it places critical importance on restoring and maintaining environmental quality that benefits overall welfare of the population.
NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. This includes decisions on permit applications, adopting federal land management actions, and constructing highways and other publicly-owned facilities. Agencies also provide opportunities for public review and comment on those evaluations. More than a dozen states, including California and New York, have enacted their own environmental policy laws based on NEPA’s terminology and methodology, and the list is growing.
Vessel Incidental Discharge Act. In conjunction with the U.S. EPA Clean Water Act, the Vessel General Permit (VGP) in 2008 created rules governing discharges from normal operation of commercial marine vessels. Instead of renewal in 2018, President Trump signed into law the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), which became the parent regulation that governs VGP.
VIDA states that vessel operators must use EALs in any oil-to-sea interface. That interface can include equipment like hydraulic cranes, hydraulic-powered ramps, winches and hoist gear, and booms and jibs. Those EALs, like PANOLIN’s Atlantis fluid approved for marine and offshore applications, are required to be readily biodegradable, with 60% biodegradation within 28 days. It also has to be minimally toxic and non-bioaccumulative. The scope of the legislation was finalized late last year and, by December 4, 2022, the U.S. Coast Guard must define the method of enforcement. Users expect the regulations will have teeth and the potential for hefty fines, and many companies are already converting their systems to EALs.
Manufacturers of fluids and lubricants usually add ecolabels to their products which conform to the relevant legislation. These are actual labels seen on the product container.
There are many different types of ecolabels from various countries and certification bodies. For example, the previously mentioned Atlantis product carries CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science) approval for use in equipment in areas such as the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea. It also conforms to VGP/VIDA.
The European Ecolabel (EEL) is applied to products that reduce impact on aquatic environments and soil, lower CO2 emissions, and contain a high percentage of renewable raw materials with limited use of hazardous substances. EEL is granted only to companies that can display high environmental standards throughout the life cycle of the products. EEL encourages the use of highly durable products, such as PANOLIN EALs.
The German Blue Angel ecolabel has been around longer than any other. It’s a certification for products that have environmentally friendly aspects, with a focus on renewable raw materials that display excellent performance and stand out due to superior biodegradability, low toxicity and non-bioaccumulative properties. VGP and VIDA have the same requirements, so there’s a lot of commonality, even though this is a European ecolabel.