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In the woods testing of a new bio-based engine coolant

Sveaskog is testing a new coolant developed by Avantherm in its forest machines. Based on Neste's renewable isoalkane, preliminary results suggest that the unique coolant can reduce emissions, lower costs and improve the work environment for operators compared to conventional propylene glycol.

Sveakog are testing a unique bio-based coolant developed by Avantherm in a Komatsu harvester (photo courtesy Avantherm).
Sveakog are testing a unique bio-based coolant developed by Avantherm in a Komatsu harvester (photo courtesy Avantherm). Sveakog are testing a unique bio-based coolant developed by Avantherm in a Komatsu harvester (photo courtesy Avantherm).

The Swedish forestry company Sveaskog is testing a new coolant in their forest machines in cooperation with Avantherm, a Swedish developer of renewable speciality chemicals. The unique coolant is patented by Avantherm and is based on renewable isoalkane produced by Finland-headed oil and renewable fuel major Neste. The new product is expected to be highly beneficial for the climate, people and productivity.

Since the start of the new millennium, the most popular coolant for forest machines has been propylene glycol. It is a much more environmentally friendly alternative to its predecessor, the highly toxic ethylene glycol, which still remains in widespread use in cars. The new product now about to enter the market will have notable advantages compared to the previous coolants.

Tests on forest machinery

According to a recently published research project report “Replacement of glycol with bio-based synthetic alkanes as coolants for forest machines“, the benefits of the new coolant include instant engine warmup after starting and a long coolant change interval. The coolant only needs to be changed every five years, if ever. The biggest challenge for the use of the coolant are the rubber gaskets and hoses of the forest machines that must contain the new slick fluid.

– We place a great deal of importance on discovering high-quality oils and liquids. Now we finally have a chance to test a coolant that is environmentally friendly, nearly carbon-neutral and offers great working conditions for our employees, said Torgil Granström Production Controller at Sveaskog.

The project, conducted by Avantherm in cooperation with Sveaskog, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), SkogForsk – Forest Research Institute of Sweden, SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, SMP Swedish Machinery Testing Institute and ZAE Bayern, Germany investigated how well the fossil-free coolant stood against conventional propylene glycol in two different forest machines, a Komatsu harvester and a Komatsu forwarder over an eight month period.

– Tests in a real environment confirms that our coolant is just as good performance as the lab results revealed. It is a clear sign that fossil-free products are doing well in the competition, remarked Stefan Dufva, CEO, Avantherm.

The research project concluded that Avantherm’s coolant has:

  • equivalent heat transfer properties as current solutions in forestry machines
  • a higher temperature span than current solutions avoiding problems with hot spots in the engine lower viscosity, especially in cold conditions, avoiding problems with freezing in the cooling system, which in turn can lead to production stops
  • positive environmental effects with lower greenhouse gas emissions, low toxicity, equivalent biodegradability as glycol and improved working environment when handling the media
  • the ability to reduce costs through lower corrosion and wear problems, longer durability and less fuel consumption during cold starts

– Right now, we are testing the cooling oil in forwarders and felling machines fitted with the appropriate gaskets and hoses. In the winter, we will probably include service trailers in the testing. We are making progress towards a fossil-free fleet. Our forest machines and other vehicles use renewable HVO diesel almost exclusively, said Granström.

Furthermore, Granström expects that productivity will increase when the machines work better.

– Our productivity will also increase, as our machines will no longer need to idle to warm up before starting work, which improves their efficiency, he said.

As the engine warms faster the operator cabin heats faster too leading to a better work environment for the operator. If the winter tests prove successful, Sveaskog will likely start using the new cooling fluid in all their new forest machines.

Heat Transfer Media a major market

Avantherm’s fossil-free product is based on Neste’s renewable isoalkane, which is further processed by Haltermann Carless Solutions (HCS), a distillation partner of Neste. The renewable isoalkane is a long-lasting, safe and odourless alternative to traditional mineral oils and biodegradable in accordance with the OECD 301 test guideline. It enables multiple applications, either further distilled or used as-is, such as paints, coatings and lubricants.

According to Neste the global “Heat Transfer Media” market is estimated to be 480 kilotons and around US$ 2 billion. Depending on the type of application, several technologies are used, one of them being glycols, which represent 13 percent of the market volume.

– Several sources indicate that the growth of the Heat Transfer Media market is driven by rapid industrialisation of the BRICS economies and the development of bio-based solutions due to more stringent regulations, said Alejandra Norén, Head of Business Team, Emerging Businesses, Neste.

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