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Cleaner and greener harvesting operations, and better performance!

Environmental initiatives are usually associated with having to accept higher costs or lower productivity. However, this is not always the case as recently experienced by PF Olsen when it encouraged a harvesting contractor to trial a new chain bar oil based on vegetable oils.

PF Olsen Environment Manager, Kit Richards, says the issue of chain bar oil has been a concern for some time. While very dispersed, it represents a source of direct entry of mineral–based oil into the natural environment and can contribute to water contamination. Across all of New Zealand it is estimated that in excess of 1.5 million litres of chain bar oil is discharged into the environment each year.

Speciality Fluids (based in Napier) approached PF Olsen to trial a new, safer, biodegradable vegetable–based oil. "We were happy to assist in facilitating a trial with one of our contractors", says Kit. "By the contractor's own reckoning, the trial has been very successful, with the product seeming to meet the claims made of it. As a result the crew has fully converted to the product."

Bio oil is not only biodegradable, it is also manufactured from a renewable source. Claims made by the manufacturer include: better stickiness (to the bar), up to 50% lower consumption, less bar and chain wear and lower bar heat. In addition, vegetable oil is less toxic than petroleum–based oils and operators report it being better and cleaner to work with.

Initially the trials, carried out by harvesting contractor Olsen 80 near Rotorua, focussed on portable hand–held chain saws commonly used by loggers all around New Zealand. Such was its success that it was next trialed on a Waratah harvesting head, used for mechanical felling and delimbing and the cross–cutting of the trees into logs. Harvesting heads are high–performance machines which process large numbers of trees each day. The new bio oil met the challenge of this tough operating environment and delivered the same benefits to the contractor.

Paul Fitzgerald, from Olsen 80, made a presentation on the results of the trial at a recent PF Olsen harvesting contractors meeting in Rotorua. Paul is so impressed with the performance of the new oil (called "Bio–D") that he has implemented it in all his operations. Other harvesting contractors are being encouraged to try the new oil in their own operations. A number in the Hawkes Bay area who have trialled the oil, and have changed to it, have written letters of testimony pointing out the 50% lower consumption and that they have found it a better, cleaner oil to work with.

Kit Richards says he hopes this initiative will gain real traction, not only to improve environmental performance out in the forests, but also to send a signal to lubricant suppliers that the market is seeking not only cost–competitive solutions, but also more environmentally benign solutions.

Vegetable–based chain oils were first trialed on hand–held chain saws. Such was the success that harvesting contractor Olsen 80 trialed it in the mechanically demanding Waratah log processing head – again the trial was a runaway success.