Prolan Marine Lubricants
An innovative product made from sheep's wool byproduct lanolin
A small Tauranga company has developed an innovative product based on the by-product of wool scouring.
Prolan was formed in 2003 by Murray and Julie Shaw and Julie’s father, who is a sheep and beef farmer in the King Country. They believed that there was an opportunity for a clean, green product based on lanolin and the fact that it was off the sheep’s back was another plus.
In 2004 Murray and wife Julie began manufacturing Prolan from their kiwifruit packhouse in Omokoroa near Tauranga.
Julie has a science diploma which means she helps with all the R & D, certifications, systems and quality assurance. Murray has a New Zealand certificate in engineering so he can take care of any technical, production and sales issues.
Murray says the clean and green nature of Prolan’s products is what makes them appealing to so many markets.
Prolan’s main ingredient is wool grease/lanolin. It comes from wool and is removed during the scouring of wool prior to it being processed into textiles. Lanolin is particularly suited to use on metal surfaces – penetrating and protecting by forming a long lasting natural barrier that prevents corrosion.
Prolan produces products in a range of formulations, from industrial lanolin lubricants all the way through to anti-seize greases. Prolan has gained a number of International Food Safety Approvals and therefore can be used in sensitive environments such as food and drinking water processing industries.
It is used in agricultural and marine industries to preserve, lubricate and protect. In agriculture it’s sprayed on tractors and quad bikes, along with other agricultural equipment. Murray says that ag fertilizers have a high impact on the corrosion of ground spreading gear. He says Prolan is a good solution to protecting that equipment in an environmentally friendly way.
Prolan’s products are exported around the world and used in some of the toughest and coldest environments, protecting machinery, vehicles and even wind turbines. Prolan’s main export markets are Scandinavia, Pacific Islands and lately into China.
Lanolin, a natural form of wax found in sheep wool is used in a variety of lubricants and corrosion inhibitors. It is non-toxic and non-carcinogenic so its green credentials are better than other petrochemical products. The lubricants and grease lubes made from lanolin are safe to use on rubber and other synthetic materials, providing a natural barrier that will not cause perishing.
Lanolin is also biodegradable, so is a safer alternative for the environment, especially in the marine industry where the protection of oceans and marinas has now become a global issue.
Murray says Prolan is great on dairy farmer’s quad bikes, protecting them from the corrosive nature of cow manure. He says some bikes are treated with a mixture of diesel and oil but this evaporates off and breaks down. He says most frames on quads rust through on the front steering wishbone where the cow muck builds up. He says the lanolin sprayed on once a year can easily double the life of a quad bike as they generally are replaced due to the frame rusting out.
When the cargo ship Rena recently ran aground on the Astrolabe reef, the ship’s grounding created a major environmental disaster for NZ. To remove the containers from the wrecked vessel, two huge cranes had to be barged out to the site.
To protect the cranes from the elements during the period they were in use at sea, the salvage teams used Prolan Heavy Grade grease to form a barrier on the steelwork and wire ropes. The advantage of the lanolin product is that it is environmentally safe and the lanolin lasts for long periods in difficult conditions.
Until recently, lanolin has had limited use in cold climates, such as those in Scandinavia, because it becomes unworkable in extreme temperatures. Murray says countries like Denmark have large areas of coastline and therefore have corrosion issues. “They believe in using natural products to combat this when they can. However, their use of environmentally friendly products like lanolin has been limited over the years.”
Murray says this is because firstly they do not have the same emphasis on sheep farming that we have in New Zealand and secondly, traditional wool-based lubricants have performed poorly in cold climates. At temperatures below 12 degrees, Prolan’s original lanolin product solidified and became impossible to use.
To keep growing its Scandinavian client base, Prolan had to find a solution. The company approached the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment for help in late 2010. They put Prolan in touch with AgResearch and co-funded a study which aimed to lower the temperature at which the lanolin became unworkable and to reduce the tackiness left on the surface of the sprays.
The two research organisations collaborated to enhance Prolan’s formulation to function in extreme conditions ranging from -0C to +30C. This was achieved by scientifically developing lanolin with specific concentrations of bio-additives.
As a direct result of the project, Prolan has been able to develop a soft grease product that stays usable to five degrees Celsius. Prolan has also developed its Enduro range of corrosion inhibitors, which will withstand water blasting and have a clean shiny finish that collects less dust.
Prolan’s product range and where to buy them can be found on their website – http://www.prolan.co.nz