Environmental Impacts of Lubricant Selection – The Forest Products Industry

10 Feb 2020, Posted by McPherson Oil in Oil Tips

The forest product industry is involved in the harvesting of wood and its conversion into various wood and paper products. Typically, wood harvesting requires the use of heavy equipment to drop trees, gather them and then transport them to the various mill sites for further processing. The equipment is often deployed in remote and rugged areas and there is an environmental risk inherent in using heavy-duty equipment in off-road situations.

While machinery used in off-road environments is designed for such use, meaning the risk of lubricant loss directly from the oil sump is relatively low, there is some risk of lubricant release to the environment in hydraulic equipment.

Hydraulics— typically hydrostatic drives— are often used to harvest wood and there is some risk of a hose breaking as a result of entanglement with branches and other debris, and, while most machines are designed to shut down in the event of a hose breaking, lubricant release to the environment can still occur.

Fortunately, high-quality hydraulic oils, such as Mobil DTE 10 Excel™ Series, have features that can help minimize their environmental impact when spilled. Unlike many hydraulic oils, Mobil DTE 10 Excel has low aquatic toxicity, meaning that in the event of a leak where the oil is exposed to land or streams, it will have a low environmental impact, as measured by leading industry certifications.*

Of course, significant energy can be expended to harvest the timber, but using high-performance hydraulic oil can help improve efficiency. In fact, Mobil DTE 10 Excel has demonstrated up to six percent energy efficiency benefits, as compared to commonly used reference oils, which will help reduce fuel consumption and emissions related to the harvesting work.

In highly sensitive environments, oils such as Mobil EAL Envirosyn™ Hydraulic series, have the advantage of being readily biodegradable, meaning that if released in the soil microorganisms can break them down.


In the paper mill, there are several other opportunities to improve environmental consciousness in lubrication programs.

Paper mills require a great amount of energy, utilizing large drive systems and very heavy equipment to transform the logs into a finished piece of paper of paperboard, and their operation is highly water-intensive. Therefore, it is not surprising that lubricants can help to reduce environmental impact by improving the energy efficiency of paper mill operation and by maintaining performance characteristics over the long haul, particularly in situations where water is plentiful and oil contamination is likely.

At paper mills, the major opportunity to reclaim efficiencies exists in the gear drives throughout the mill. In paper machine bearings, across-the-board conversion to synthetics to improve energy efficiency may not be cost-effective, as, in many cases, the paper machine bearings may use a common lubrication system with the gear drives. However, if the gearboxes are independently lubricated, then operators should consider the potential benefits that synthetic lubricants can help deliver, such as their long life properties and energy efficiency performance.

It is additionally important to ensure that the lubricants operating in paper mills can adequately handle the moist environment in which they operate. This property, referred to as demulsibility, ensures that the oils will resist water contamination by rapidly releasing water in the sump, or with the help of auxiliary water removal equipment such as centrifuges or vacuum dehydrators. Without this property, oil life would be greatly reduced.

Paper machine oil is specially designed for the unique operating conditions in the mills. It resists deposit formation and breakdown in high-temperature roller bearing applications, where sump temperature can be as high as 180– 200°F (82 – 93°C), and can also shed water rapidly if a steam joint leaks, causing water ingress.

A properly formulated lubricant like Mobil DTE™ PM, Mobil SHC™ PM, or Mobilith SHC™ PM will help handle these harsh conditions while providing long oil and filter life.

The Impact of Undetected Leaks

In many paper mills, undetected leaks can cause operators to waste a significant amount of resources and money. It is, therefore, important for operators to maintain strong records that will help measure lubricant consumption and help identify the source of any lubricant system leaks, helping to ensure that repairs occur in a timely fashion.

Clearly, there are many opportunities to use high-quality lubricants in the forest products industry. By taking care to select the proper lubricant, operators in the paper industry can achieve improved efficiency and reduced environmental impact.

– by Tom Diez via ExxonMobil’s Mobil Industrial Club.


About: McPherson Oil has provided the southeast with quality products and services since 1971.  As a proud distributor of ExxonMobil products, we offer these services through our belief in TPM – Total Petroleum Management.  Through our TPM program, McPherson brings a valued-added difference to its customers by meeting all of their petroleum needs. Our commitment to our customers is reflected in our company vision and mission statements. McPherson proudly services Alabama, Arkansas, North and Central Georgia, Mississippi coast, Florida panhandle, Greater Chattanooga Area, the Greater New Orleans Area and Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast.  McPherson Oil is an authorized ExxonMobil distributor.