| Wednesday, July 23, 2003 || || VOLUME 3 ISSUE 29 |
News Sponsored By ConocoPhillips
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| Soy Grease On Track for Sales Boom |
By Tim Sullivan
Calling it a commercial breakthrough for its soybean-based lubricants, the University of Northern Iowa’s Ag-Based Industrial Lubricants Research Program announced Monday that Norfolk Southern Railway has decided to use its SoyTrak grease across its entire network of rails.
ABIL officials said the choice by Norfolk Southern not only represents a quantum leap in sales of SoyTrak; it also opens the door for the grease to be accepted by other major railroads. Norfolk Southern plans to use SoyTrak on straight sections, as well as curves, greatly increasing the volume of grease demanded. That decision could open the way for other railroads to do likewise.
“For a niche product, this is a very significant contract,” ABIL Director Lou Honary said. “This is just a huge boost to our program.”
ABIL was formed in 1991 with a mission of helping to develop soybean-based industrial products as a way to support U.S. agriculture. The Cedar Falls, Iowa, university later founded Environmental Lubricants Manufacturing Inc. to commercialize its products.
Among the products it has developed, SoyTrak has been marketed for several years as a grease to be used on rail curves – the sections of railroad that are exposed to the most pressure and wear. The product was already being used by two dozen or more local or regional lines, but volumes remained low because of ELM’s inability to win over any of the nation’s five major railroads.
The situation suddenly changes with Norfolk Southern’s conversion from the petroleum-based greases that the industry has traditionally used. The Norfolk, Virginia-based railroad by itself accounts for 20 percent of the 9 million pounds of rail grease consumed in the United States each year.
Norfolk Southern officials said they wanted to switch from the greases the company was using because they tended to collect along the bottom of rails. Rail greases are applied to rails by trackside lubricators and then are spread along tracks by railcar wheels.
“We had a problem with the amount that was accumulating because it makes it hard to identify stakes that are coming loose,” Project Engineering Manager Donald E. Cregger said. “Then if you had to clear it away to do repairs it became a bit of a hazard because of the [molybdenum] it contained.
“This new product contains soybean oil and graphite, so it decomposes in six weeks and eliminates that problem. But we also found some wonderful side benefits. It’s a polar material, so it adheres to the rails much better and spreads farther. It also has much better lubricity, so it not only protects the rails better; it’s also easier on the internal pumps. We’re already seeing benefits in the field.”
Honary said Norfolk Southern represents an important endorsement. The railroad places particular emphasis on protecting its curves because it is the largest carrier of automotive parts and finished vehicles – heavy loads.
“Norfolk Southern uses more than five times as much grease as all of our other customers combined,” he said. “But the really significant thing is that they have a leadership position in this area, so the other companies will have to look at this. We’re already talking seriously to two of the other major railroads because of this.”
Waterloo, Iowa, soybean farmer Blake Hollis has founded Biobased Industries LLC to blend and package SoyTrak. Portec Rail Products Inc., of Pittsburgh, Pa., will serve as distributor.
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| Copyright © 2003 LNG Publishing Co., Inc. All rights reserved. |
Tim Sullivan, Editor. Lube Report, Lubes'n'Greases Magazine and Lubricants Industry Sourcebook are published by LNG Publishing Co., Inc., 6105-G Arlington Blvd., Falls Church, Virginia 22044 USA. Phone: (703) 536-0800. Fax: (703) 536-0803. Website: www.LNGpublishing.com. Email: info@LNGpublishing.com.
For sponsor information contact Gloria Steinberg Briskin at (800) 474-8654 or (703) 536-7676 or gloria@LNGpublishing.com.
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