Bio-Based Motor Oil Being Tested in Federal Vehicles

May 05, 2016

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The Department of Defense has begun testing bio-based oil in federal vehicles, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) said.

The tests, which include the use of oil that contains a 25-40 percent mix derived from agricultural products such as canola or soybean oil as well as animal fats, are being tested at four Air Force bases and a Department of Homeland Security facility. DLA said program managers are looking to expand to other federal agencies soon. DLA said it is conducting the tests in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory.

"Our office funds projects like this to find alternatives not only to reduce hazardous materials, but to reduce our reliance on foreign oil," Andy Shaban, chemical engineer and DLA Aviation program manager, said in a statement. "Oil and greases are typically composed of base oils thickened with polymers, solids and other additives, which are considered hazardous. Our job is to find an environmentally safer substitute for the traditional oil that military and federal agencies use in non-tactical vehicles."

The tests, which are designed to assess the compatibility of bio-based synthetic oil in government fleets, are being conducted under authority granted by Congress in the 2002 Farm Security and Investment Act. The Pentagon uses about 1.1 million gal of four-cycle engine oil in 180,000 vehicles each year, according to DLA. A total of 633,000 vehicles are maintained by the federal  government overall, it said.

The testing began in January at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. Bio-based synthetic oil replaced conventional motor oil in four base vehicles. The process was repeated on 40 more vehicles at air bases in Arizona, Montana and Washington state at the DHS Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

The testing locations were chosen to provide further information on the environmental impacts various climates may have on the oil.

The testing will consist of driving and long idling sessions over a 12-18 month period.

"Some of the testing will be based on mileage, some will be time-based," Shaban said. "After a certain mileage or time frame, the oil will be removed and sent to a lab for testing. If the requirement was to change the conventional oil at 5,000 miles, we will test the bio-based oil at 5,000 miles and compare.

Bio-based synthetic oil from Biosynthetic Technologies, G-Oil (Loch Sciences) and BioBlend are being used in the testing, DLA said.