Sheep could solve anti-rust problems

Sheep could offer the latest bio-additive for lubricants to help overcome rust problems.

Lanolin, a natural grease extracted from sheep wool, has turned a local New Zealand couple into global entrepreneurs.  Husband and wife team, Murray and Julie Shaw have created lanolin-based lubricants for a range of outdoor uses including marine, wind turbine and mechanical applications.


Anyone seen a rusty sheep? Image: James Bowe

The discovery that lanolin provides outstanding anti-rust properties when added to liquid lubricants has attracted the interest of a number of European customers including the Danish Airforce.

Scandinavia has proved a particularly fertile market after the couple developed soft greases and non-tacky spray lubes to overcome conditions of extreme cold.

Branded as Prolan, the couple supply the lubes and greases through their Aria Investment trading company, based in Omokoroa in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty.  Aided by development grants and research support, the Shaws have seen export orders double in a matter of months as a result of the new product development with total production at around 12,000 litres annually.

Lanolin's properties make it extremely sticky, ideal for adhering to stainless steel surfaces for example.  The natural grease stops electrolysis and prevents corrosion according to the company.  It also cannot be broken down by salt water or removed by water blasting.

Although the products are developed using scientific processes, Murray Shaw's less scientific sales patter is perhaps the most convincing: "It's environmentally friendly and straight off the sheep's back. You haven't seen a rusty sheep, have you?"