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Understanding Biodegradable Lubricants: A new IMCA publication

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Jane Bugler

Jane Bugler

A question often heard in offshore and marine circles is “What is a green oil?” That leads on to “What is an oil spill?”  Following a successful workshop on the subject at the International Marine Contractors Association’s (IMCA) Annual Seminar in 2012, a new publication ‘Understanding Biodegradable Lubricants: An Introduction to ‘Green’ Oil in Hydraulic Systems Offshore’ (IMCA R 019) is now available to help answer these questions, and alleviate some of the confusion.

“A number of contributors have helped to compile our new publication, ” explains IMCA’s Technical Director, Jane Bugler. “It is not intended to be wholly definitive and the reader will quickly appreciate that there is a degree of chemical composition and science to be aware of in order to better understand the information. Where needed, practical explanations or reference reading have been included.

“In addition, there is significantly more detailed and complex data available to the industry The aim of this new guidance is only to provide an initial point of reference.  It should be noted that it has been largely drawn from European and American sources. When operating in other regions it is imperative that local information is used to ensure compliance with local ‘oil spill regulations’.”

The guidance, which is available for free downloading by members and non-members alike from the IMCA website atwww.imca-int.com, explains that the increase in use of environmentally sound hydraulic fluids (ESHF) can be attributed to a growing awareness of the potential environmental impact and the need to observe legal and regulatory requirements. Biodegradable lubricants in the offshore and marine industries have been in use since 1985, as an alternative to mineral oil based products, which only degrade slowly and inadequately.

Choosing the correct type of fluid for a particular application can be problematic, given that most types offer some degree of biodegradability, however differ in performance and regulatory compliance.   The new 16-page document with a useful glossary, and sections devoted to ESH/ECL classification: HETG, HEES, HEPR, HEPG; fluid performance parameters; biodegradability/Ecotox; water intrusion; manufacturers; regulatory requirements – OSPAR compliance; spill/discharge; do’s and don’ts offers some guidance for the operator when determining the correct choice of ESHF.

While the information can be applicable to any hydraulic system, the focus for the document is on hydraulic systems associated with remotely operated vehicle (ROV) systems, including but not limited to the vehicle, the launch and recovery system (LARS), the deck hydraulic power unit (HPU) and associated ROV tooling.

Printed copies are available from publications@imca-int.com at £10 for members and £20 for non-members.

Further information
Further information on IMCA and its work on behalf of its 1000+ member companies in over 60 countries is available fromwww.imca-int.com and imca@imca-int.com. The association has LinkedIn and Facebook groups and its Twitter handle is @IMCAint
About IMCA

  • IMCA is an international association with well over a thousand members in more than 60 countries representing offshore, marine and underwater engineering companies. IMCA has four technical divisions, covering marine/specialist vessel operations, offshore diving, hydrographic survey and remote systems and ROVs, plus geographic sections for the Asia-Pacific, Central & North America, Europe & Africa, Middle East & India and South America regions. As well as a core focus on safety, the environment, competence and training, IMCA seeks to promote its members’ common interests, to resolve industry-wide issues and to provide an authoritative voice for its members.
  • IMCA Vision & Strategy. As a result of work and collective input in 2013, IMCA has redefined its stated core purpose to be “Improving performance in the marine contracting industry”. To achieve this goal, IMCA’s Vision & Strategy has been devised with two elements in mind: Core activities and ways of working.
  • IMCA publishes some 200 guidance notes and technical reports – many are available for free downloading by members and non-members alike. These have been developed over the years and are extensively distributed. They are a definition of what IMCA stands for, including widely recognised diving and ROV codes of practice, DP documentation, marine good practice guidance, the Common Marine Inspection Document (CMID) – now available electronically as eCMID, safety recommendations, outline training syllabi and the IMCA competence scheme guidance. In addition to the range of printed guidance documents, IMCA also produces safety promotional materials, circulates information notes and distributes safety flashes.

About the industry IMCA serves
The marine contracting industry plays a vital global role. Its vessels account for 4% of the world’s maritime fleet. Collectively IMCA members employ some 350, 000 people and have an annual turnover of around $150bn. They work in all the world’s major offshore areas, delivering large offshore oil and gas and marine renewables projects around the globe that quite literally fuel the global economy.

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