Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Washington State University Applied Sciences Laboratory

Industry Solutions

Development of Biohydraulic Fluid

In North America alone there are approximately 100 Million gallons of hydraulic fluid released into the environment annually. This represents a volume of fluid that is roughly 5 times larger than the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound. While this is dispersed across a large landmass, conventional hydraulic fluids are derived from petroleum-based resources and often persist in the environment. While bio-derived and bio-degradable alternative exist, in many cases they do not have the needed characteristics for high demand applications involving fixed assets. A specific example of this problem can be found in the hydroelectric industry. The Pacific Northwest relies heavily on hydroelectric power generation. Most of the equipment used at or near waterways requires hydraulic fluids for operation. A spill of these fluids could lead to severe environmental damage and result in substantial hazard mitigation and financial penalties. WSU has partnered with Avista to develop a biodegradable hydraulic fluid that would minimize the environmental harm in the case of a spill. The fluid has been tested, with great success, in a hydraulic trash-rake in one of Avista’s hydroelectric facilities. The collaboration with Avista has been expanded to include a third partner, American Governor, a premier hydroelectric turbine controls company. In preparation for further tests at American Governor, WSU has scaled-up the fluid production and expanded the testing parameters, an important step towards commercialization and the broad use of this nontoxic, biodegradable fluid.