The country's leading bio-lubricant research center, the University of Northern Iowa's National Ag-Based Lubricants Center, has received a $370,000 competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to test biobased lubricants and greases. The center will perform a side-by-side study of the biobased rail curve grease and hydraulic oils with petroleum-based versions of the same products. The goal is to compare the performance as well as the environmental and economic impact of each.
The study is provided for in the Railroad Safety Improvement Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008. The law required the Federal Railroad Administration to conduct a study on the use of biobased lubricants in the freight and passenger rail industries, including fuels for locomotives, greases for rail track and rolling stock lubrications and hydraulic oils for the maintenance of way and other railroad equipment.
The UNI-NABL investigation will include: the potential use of soy-based grease and soy-based hydraulic fluids; the health and safety of petroleum-based lubricants vs. biobased lubricants; the environmental impact of petroleum based lubricants vs. biobased lubricants; and the effects of biobased lubricants on railroad equipment.