DoD Sustainable Products Center

Biobased Motor Oil Demonstration

Demonstration Overview

Blue truck on a lift.The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Aviation Hazardous Minimization and Green Products Branch in coordination with the Air Force Research Laboratory – Advanced Power Technology Office (AFRL – APTO) and Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment (OASD E, I&E) has established a demonstration project to evaluate synthetic biobased motor oil for potential use in non-tactical Department of Defense (DoD) and civilian federal agency vehicles. 

Before biobased motor oils can be implemented by the DoD and Federal agencies, their performance must be proven to meet government requirements and end user needs. The candidate synthetic biobased motor oils are being demonstrated in vehicles at DoD installations representing the Military Services and civilian federal agency facilities during an approximate 12 month demonstration period.  The motor oils being demonstrated have American Petroleum Institute (API) certification, are derived from renewable base oils and offer drop in compatibility with conventional oils.  This demonstration facilitates awareness of product performance and potentially the assignment of new sustainable National Stock Numbers (NSNs), making them available for DoD and civilian federal agency procurement. 

Technology Description

Motor oils are used for lubrication in both gasoline and diesel engines.  Motor oil is replaced in vehicles during routine maintenance and is used at every DoD installation in buses, light trucks, vans and passenger vehicles in support of mission activities.  API certified biobased motor oils are available in multiple SAE viscosity grades in both fully synthetic and synthetic blend formulations.  These products meet United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) BioPreferred Program minimum biobased content requirements and are typically biodegradable.  The Benefits of biobased motor oils include:

  • Compliance with Federal Directives (FAR, EO 13693, USDA BioPreferred)
  • Full synthetic, API-SN certified, enhanced biodegradability
  • 70% average reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional motor oils
  • Increased vehicle fuel efficiency – cost savings
  • Extended oil change intervals – product cost savings, labor savings
  • Reduced dependency on foreign petroleum
  • Expanded market for domestically produced agricultural products

Participating biobased motor oil companies:

Three participating biobased engine oil manufacturers with API-SN certification (5W-20 and 5W-30)

  • Biosynthetic Technologies
  • Loch Sciences (B2 biOil)
  • BioBlend

Demonstration Sites

The USAF 441st Vehicle Support Chain Operations Squadron (VSCOS) is providing access to AF vehicles in various climate regions.  Demonstrations of biobased motor oils in non-tactical vehicles are underway at the following DoD installations and Federal facilities:

  • Fairchild Air Force Base (AFB)
  • Luke AFB
  • Malmstrom AFB
  • Seymour-Johnson AFB
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC)

Additional planned demonstration sites include

  • Army, Navy and Marine Corps installations 
  • United States Postal Service (USPS )
  • USDA
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Demonstration Details

Overall performance criteria were established to validate biobased engine oils for use by DoD and Federal Agencies.  These performance criteria allow the evaluation of the biobased engine oils to DoD and Federal Agency requirements.  The following key performance criteria were identified.  

  • Vehicle performance with the biobased engine oils must be comparable or better than with the baseline oil products.  
  • Fuel Efficiency
  • Engine Operation
  • The demonstration oils must be compatible with vehicle systems including sensors, monitoring systems, and gauges.
  • The demonstration oils shall not cause damage to the vehicle engine or increase engine wear compared to the baseline oil products.
  • Engine Wear Indicators
  • Engine Component Damage
  • Oil service life with the biobased engine oils must be comparable or better than the oil service life of the baseline oil products.

A demonstration plan was developed to provide an overview of the demonstration sites and summarize the selection of demonstration vehicles, the identification of vehicle requirements, the identification of key performance criteria, and the selection of demonstration products.  This plan also specifies the demonstration activities to be performed, data to be collected, data analysis methods, and roles and responsibilities of demonstration participants and stakeholders.

The demonstration vehicles oils are changed out to the biobased engine oils.  Independent third party oil analysis testing will be performed on each demonstration vehicle at  oil changes within the 12 month demonstration period.  Demonstration feedback and data is collected and analyzed to evaluate the demonstration products against the key performance criteria.