U of G mechanic Brian Lamont -- Photo by Nicole Yada

An on-campus experiment with green engine lubricants in University of Guelph vehicles has users stoked.

Bio-based products — gas and diesel motor oils, fuel additives, chain saw and hydraulic oils made from soybean oil – are now being used in 90 per cent of Guelph’s vehicle fleet, after a successful introduction more than a year ago. And they’re drawing rave reviews, says Paul Cook, the university’s manager of Transportation Services. “These are superior products and we’re very pleased with their performance on campus,” he says.

Cook’s enthusiasm about plant-based lubricants grew after Transportation Services participated in a six-month pilot project last year. “We tested two soybean motor oils and have been investing in bio-based products ever since,” he says.

Both oils proved to do as well or better than conventional petroleum-based products. As bio-based products are diodegradable, spray from hand-held equipment chains or spills from snow plow hydraulics do not damage the ground.

All soy-based oils and lubricants used at the University of Guelph are produced by Renewable Lubricants of Ohio and supplied by DM’s Bio-Based Fluid Supply Inc. of Bolton, Ont.

Soy 20/20, an organization focused on bioscience opportunities for Canadian soybeans, first connected DM president Don Marentette with the University of Guelph to co-ordinate the lubricant trial based on Guelph’s reputation for agricultural research excellence.

“These products are integral to the University’s research efforts, from the plant scientists breeding next-generation oilseeds to the engineers developing bioproducts from them,” says Jeff Schmalz, president of Soy 20/20. Indeed, U of G researchers have focused on soybeans for decades, and now that crop is helping to make campus vehicles more environmentally friendly. “The University of Guelph’s successful use of these bio-based lubricants demonstrates their suitability, safety and quality and will hopefully kick-start greater use in other universities, government and the private sector,” he says.

Besides being environmentally friendly and supporting local research, use of plant-based automotive products offers market opportunities for the agricultural industry.

Increased interest in bioproducts could create demand for high-oleic soybeans, including varieties new to Canada that will command a premium price for farmers, says Schmalz.

The University of Guelph plans to continue using Renewable Lubricants products on campus and will consider using them in bio-based transmission fluid.

Story by Rebecca Hannam, a U of G student writer with SPARK (Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge)