2019 Volume 14 Issue 2 Pages 60-70
Lubricants are very important consumables in all industries as failure in machine parts due to absence or wrong choice of lubricants carries enormous cost. The base oil used for the formulation of most lubricants is environmentally hostile mineral oil and 30% of lubricants consumed ends up in the ecosystem. However, mineral oil reserve is depleting and the environmental concern about the damaging impact of mineral oil is growing. The search for environment friendly substitutes to mineral oils as base oils in lubricants has become a frontier area of research in the lubricant industry. Vegetable oils are perceived to be alternatives to mineral oils for lubricant base oils due to certain inherent technical properties and their ability to be biodegradable. This paper is an overview of recent research on vegetable oils as base oil for lubricant production with focus on the prospects, challenges and efforts to overcome the challenges of using vegetable oils as base oil for the production of industrial lubricants. Compared to mineral oils, vegetable oils in general possess high flash point, high viscosity index, high lubricity, low evaporative loss, are renewable, and are environmentally friendly. Poor oxidative and hydrolytic stability, high cost, food versus energy debate, high temperature sensitivity of tribological behaviour and poor cold flow properties are reckoned to be the limitations of vegetable oils for their use as base oils for industrial lubricants. The current effort to overcome these limitations includes the use of non edible oils, additives, chemical modifications and thermal modifications. More research and legislation in favour of the use of vegetable oil lubricants is recommended.