Tuesday, February 21, 2017

December 27, 2016

Maritime Propulsion

Lubricants: Mitigating Risk without Sacrificing Performance

  • Mike Guggenheimer
  • Mike Guggenheimer

A new entry to the EAL lubricant race emerges from RSC Bio Solutions. Deep roots, new technologies and familiar names create the basis for a different way of approaching marine lubricants.

It isn’t surprising that RSC Bio Solutions, a provider of environmentally acceptable lubricants (EALs) and cleaners, chose the SMM 2016 trade exposition in Hamburg, Germany as the platform to launch its newest product. That’s because SMM provided an appropriately large platform for a firm that has deep roots in the chemical and degreaser markets, but perhaps not the name recognition of its higher profile competition. With roots dating all the way back to 1924, and leveraging the acquisition of another now-familiar lubricants firm – Terresolve Technologies – this isn’t RSC Bio Solutions’ first rodeo. It’s also not likely to be the last. 
FUTERRA, introduced only in September 2016, is characterized by the firm as a revolutionary product line of bio-based lubricants. According to RSC Bio Solutions, it is today the only hydrocarbon renewable EAL derived from a plant-based material. Designed to outperform other products on the market while meeting the most stringent global environmental regulations at a more attractive price point, its manufacturer points to superior performance in both wet and dry environments, durability in extreme conditions, contact with water, in high-pressure and extreme temperatures, all adding up to greater system efficiency, fewer change-outs and extended equipment life.
RSC Bio Solutions also touts the seal compatibility and a makeup that is miscible with legacy fluids. The firm claims that it does not disrupt operations schedules, increasing system uptime and efficiency and further positions the EAL as a drop-in replacement for mineral oil- or petroleum-based lubricants. Finally, as an Ecolabel-certified product, FUTERRA is suitable for use anywhere in the world, giving marine companies the ultimate route and equipment flexibility.
Meet RSC Bio Solutions
Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, RSC Bio Solutions was founded in 2010 by the owners of Radiator Specialty Company (RSC), a 90-year-old company that houses, among others, the Liquid Wrench and Gunk brand products. More recently, RSC acquired a majority ownership interest in Terresolve Technologies, Ltd., a manufacturer of readily biodegradable hydraulic fluids, gear oils and greases for both marine and land applications. Terresolve brings its own 17-year track record and an extensive lubricants portfolio of products. 
Mike Guggenheimer is the President & CEO of RSC Bio Solutions. Last month, from his Indian Trail, NC headquarters, he laid out the history of the firm and its considerable plans the future. “This is a family-owned business comprised of about 150 employees; a good percentage of them are based right here in North Carolina. And that’s relevant because the firm is in its third generation and is committed to being here another three generations.” Already a household name in other, similar markets, the firm is nevertheless also looking to grow.
That search first led RSC Bio to Terresolve Technologies. Starting with an initial investment and management help, the relationship has grown to the point where the family owns 100% of that business. In part, and from that investment, RSC Bio Solutions was born. Where the firm hopes to go next, is plainly evident. “In terms of market reach, we will focus on unforgiving or sensitive equipment operated in unforgiving environments. That involves the marine industry,” says Guggenheimer, adding, “There you have big vessels that have to perform, going many years before changeovers, and in environments where it’s unforgiving – a spill in a port, interface with the ocean, is a big problem. That can be a regulatory problem, or a brand problem, or even just a PR problem. Those two things together are where we thrive – solving those types of problems.” And, he says, that’s where FUTERRA comes in. 
“FUTERRA really is the first and only product of its type. It’s an eco-label, certified, renewable, hydrocarbon EAL and that’s a mouthful, but where we have focused technologically is in the hydrocarbon and related technologies for lubricants. So these are technologies that are compatible with mineral oils, and they perform really well in tough environments. And what FUTERRA does is take that to the next level. You’ve got the superior durability in both wet and dry environments. You have superior compatibility – it’s the kind of product that can be mixed with both mineral oil and other EALs like synthetic esters.”
FUTERRA is a stern tube oil, but RSC Bio intends to roll out its gear oils in the first or second quarter of 2017 and have a full range of lubricants on this base oil technology. Plans for a similarly environmentally correct lubricant for deck machinery are also in the works. As all of that plays out, Mike Guggenheimer is positioning RSC Bio’s newest release as “the best of both worlds.”
“For many users, the mineral oil or the hydrocarbon technology (the kind of petroleum synthetics are what they’re used to), it’s what their systems are designed for, it’s what the seal materials work with, that’s what they’re used to, and chemically, they know how it operates. Where the ‘best of both worlds’ comes in is that you get the performance that you expect from a petroleum-based synthetic or a mineral oil, a high performance mineral oil or a PAO, but you also get the environmental benefits along the way. So we have a line that is a biodegradable, minimally-toxic, and non-accumulative – the three key factors for VGP.”
The advantage of all that in the marine world is that it (FUTERRA) doesn’t sheen in the water, and is not toxic to the environment when it spills. That’s because the new lubricant’s base consists of a hydrocarbon that is created from a plant-based material. And there are a number of sources that could be used. In this case, the base oil is coming from sugar cane from Brazil. As Guggenheimer explains further, “Enzymes and chemical technology allow you to convert that and process it just like a PAO – a synthetic base oil. So you get that renewability, the biodegradability, but also the performance of what you would expect from a PAO.”
The typical ester technology is an emulsifying technology. So as water comes in to the stern tube, the water gets emulsified with the oil, and eventually the oil breaks down. On the other hand, Guggenheimer recounts reports from clients that have taken the RSC product out after five years, used gravity systems to pull the water out, and put the oil right back in the vessel. Based on those results, RSC Bio even offers a robust warranty. In a nutshell, FUTERRA brand hydraulic fluids will have a warranty for stern tube applications carry a 10-year limited $1 million product warranty. He adds, “We’re working on all the details of that, but provided that you follow the protocol, we’re going to stand behind the technology.” 
FUTERRA’s Future, Built on Performance-based Promises
As shippers work to identify every application where there’s a risk – whether it be regulatory or just exposure – RSC Bio hopes to be there to map out strategy for them. Looking ahead, gaining OEM approvals for the new lubricant family will be key to that effort. And, as the excuse that some equipment can’t be operated using EAL’s goes away for good, RSC Bio is working with all its current equipment partners to ensure that FUTERRA is a big part of the future solution.
Beyond its utility, says Mike Guggenheimer, another real attraction for switching to FUTERRA involves a 10 to 15 percent cost savings over the competition’s EAL’s. Some of that is rooted in the projected longer lifespan of the product – hence, the ten-year limited warranty – but also in the reduced maintenance costs (and reduced need to buy replacement lubes) during that time frame. He adds, “It’s a combination of initial up-front cost being favorable, the long-term durability of the product, and the value of risk mitigation; those three things. And again, depending on the fleet, it could be a little bit of savings or it could be significant savings over the life of the product.” 
While RSC Bio makes some of the new product here in the United States, a network of internationally based blenders ensures timely global distribution. Right out of the gate, Guggenheimer knows that this will be important. “Some of our competitors are very big companies that have great histories and they have an availability advantage that we recognize we don’t have. I think what we focused on is the performance advantage.” But, OEM’s will want to know whether the firm they trust with five to ten years worth of lubricant strategy, will be around at the end of that cycle. To that end, seven firms have already granted approvals for the nascent technology. Addressing the road to still more approvals, Guggenheimer says simply, “We can put data in front of a customer that shows over 50,000 hours in a offshore thruster for an offshore drilling company. That’s a compelling story.”
In the end, RSC Bio will leverage the longetivity of a 92-year old parent, the prior successes of newly acquired technology and the introduction of an even more cutting edge product. Marine operators can look to the heritage of long selling products like Gunk and Liquid Wrench to know that the firm means business as it prepares for its second 100 years. Guggenheimer finishes that thought simply, by adding, “One of the values that the Blumenthal family has instilled in this business is that we make products that work and we do what we say we’re going to do. And, I think that a big part of this industry is being able to stand behind what you sell. We’re doing that.”
(As published in the November 2016 edition of Marine News)
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