Use of Bio-Degradable Oils by State Maintenance Crews

Focus Area

Waste Management/Recycling/Brownfields


Environmental Process, Natural Resources




Under $99k


1-2 years

Research Idea Scope

Throughout the US, state DOTs are striving to develop more comprehensive transportation programs that provide infrastructure and services with less impact on the surrounding environment. Great efforts have been taken to better understand how practices impact the environment and this influx of knowledge has led to a preference for “green” materials and practices that have the potential to inflict less change onto the surrounding environment.

Some state maintenance programs have found that adopting the use of biodegradable oils is more environmentally friendly then fossil-based alternatives. It has been proven that these oils can be used as lubricants, 2 cycle fuel additives, and hydraulic fluid without causing damage to existing machinery. Recognizing the environmental benefits that could result from more widespread successful implementation of this practice, this study will investigate the range of use and the cost/benefits derived by state maintenance crews. 
Research Objectives/Tasks
The research approach includes five main tasks.
Task 1:
Investigate and compile a preliminary assessment of current uses of biodegradable oils in highway maintenance programs. If necessary, supplement the information with a brief desk survey of state DOTs, cities and environmental agencies. 

Task 2:
Identify organizations that have successfully implemented biodegradable oils into their maintenance programs. Interview the appropriate state DOT, city or environmental agency personnel to investigate and evaluate the necessary resources for converting to a bio-oil program and practices that have been adopted to make this transition. The research should also look at the economic and environmental benefits of incorporating biodegradable oils into maintenance programs, along with disposal and storage practices, and impacts as they relate to varied climates.

Task 3:
Identify major manufacturers of tools and equipment used in typical state DOT maintenance programs.  Investigate manufacturer’s acceptance of biodegradable oils in terms of equipment warranty and support.  Discuss whether this is an impediment to the use of biodegradable oils and what additional research would be warranted to help address this issue.
Task 4:
Based on the findings from state DOTs and other relevant agencies, produce a cost- benefit analysis of using biodegradable oils in state maintenance programs. The report should recognize the environmental benefits, along with taking into account the cost of disposal and storage and the impacts of different climates on costs of implementing a successful bio-oils program.    

Task 5:
Provide an electronic draft final report that analyzes programs that are currently utilizing biodegradable oils. The report should evaluate the cost comparisons of a biodegradable oil programs, including suggestions for successful implementation, impediments, specifications for the required use of bio-oils in construction contracts and future recommendation for research.
Based on NCHRP review, finalize the report. 

Suggested By

Peter Weykamp, NYSDOT, Telephone: 518 457-8485 Tim Hill, SCOE Environmental Process and Analysis Subcommittee

[email protected]