Schenectady County green lights “green oil”

10-28-2010

The Spotlight

John Purcell

Going “green” is even easier when the possibility of real savings is included.

Schenectady County officials announced on Thursday, October 21, the results of a test for a possible motor oil for county vehicles. The county partnered with Green Planet Products to test a fully biodegradable motor oil, named “G-Oil,” to see if savings could be found over traditional motor oil. The experiment tested six county vehicles, including a mixture of high and low usage, and found savings could be realized from making the biodegradable switch.

The distributor of the product, Green Planet, provided the county with a 55 gallon drum of the motor oil for testing purposes at no charge. Testing of the product began in December 2009. The Green Earth Technologies, Inc. oil is currently the world’s only bio-based motor oil to be SM Certified by the American Petroleum Institute.

Testing revealed more intensely used vehicles, which normally receive an oil change at 3,000 miles, didn’t need oil changes until 10,000 miles, said Joe McQueen, spokesman for the county. Also, vehicles normally receiving an oil change at 4,000 miles could be changed at 15,000 miles with the bio-based oil.

“We are pleased with the results we have seen during testing,” said Susan Savage, D-Niskayuna, chairwoman of the Schenectady County Legislature. “Our future use of this green oil will continue our efforts to provide better, more efficient government to taxpayers while also protecting the environment.”

County vehicles averaging six oil changes a year would only have the oil changed an average of two times a year. Also, the vehicles averaging nine oil changes a year would be reduced to three oil changes. Switching to the bio-oil could save the county up to $1,000 per year for vehicles with a high amount of oil changes per year. The bio-oil costs around $1.50 more per quart compared to traditional motor oil.

McQueen said the wear and tear on the vehicles doesn’t seem to be an issue.

“All the tests show that the cars ran very well with it and that it extended the interval for oil,” said McQueen. “We could run [vehicles] for the extra period of time without seeing any problems to the car itself.”

The 5w-30 weight engine oil is made from beef tallow, which is a part of the cow containing fat, which is then processed by nanotechnology to make the product, said S. Lee Bowden, president of Green Planet Products. The motor oil also breaks down much faster and after 28 days, said Bowden, the oil is “virtually gone” after accidental spilling or leaking.

“If you have a county interested in going into the green movement… it is a viable alternative and it is cost-effective.” said Bowden. “It is a fairly new product, so what we wanted to do was get some people testing it and bring back the results. We all run our cars on it, but it is nice to have a third party endorsement.”

Bowden said that the process to make the bio-oil is also less energy intensive than the one for traditional oils, because to separate petroleum products into separate grades it must be heated up to around 650 degrees, while the bio-oil is blended from 80 to 120 degrees.

Bowden said the company is working on making the oil more readily available to consumers, but it is available for purchase at some auto stores and online retailers.

While no official agreement or purchase has been made yet, McQueen said the county is planning to move forward and purchase the product for county vehicles. How widespread the usage will be isn’t known currently.

“We were pretty sure that they were going to be happy with it, because we have been running it in our cars for years with the same kind of results.” said Bowden.