The history of Sustainalube AB

Sustainalube has its roots in research at Luleå University of Technology (LTU), Sweden. In 2009, scientists at LTU started to investigate the possibility of developing lubricants based on glycerol due to a strong need from society about the oversupply of glycerol, which is a by-product of RME-biodiesel production. The biodiesel industry even needs to pay money to get rid of glycerol.

The development took big steps towards ready products during 2012-2014 and in 2015 the company was established. The first commercial product was saw chain lubricants for harvesters, which attracted a good number of customers who were positive to the use of this fossil-free and non-toxic lubricant. The customers are very happy with the fact that the lubricant not only had good lubrication performance but also kept machines and windscreens clean, i.e., no “oil fog” issue, which is a common problem for oil-based products. Because oil products need solvents to do the cleaning which is not the case with Sustainalube’s water soluble technology.

Sustainalube gained good attraction already from the start. One of the founders, Prof. Yijun Shi, received Swedbank’s “Future Award” at Almedalen 2015. The company won the national final of Venture Cup 2016 and was on the important 33-list of new Swedish start-ups in 2017. Later in 2023, Sustainalube won the regional final of SEB’s Next Awards.

Since 2015 many new products have been developed and released to the market, some examples are hydraulic fluids, lubricating greases, sawmill lubricants, hydropower lubricants, and special products for fossil-free steelmaking and electric vehicles.

The company’s marketing strategy is to establish business relationships with big players in the market. A very recent successful collaboration was initiated in 2021 with Skoogs Bränsle in Piteå. Skoogs Bränsle makes the sales, blending, and delivery of saw chain lubricants for harvesters.

In 2021, Sustainalube moved to new premises in Dalbo some 5 km outside Luleå centre. Prototype lubricants are manufactured there before larger volume sales can take place. The R&D is made in close collaboration with Luleå University of Technology. Research grants of around 30 million SEK have been awarded since the start of the company. The main contributors are Mistra Innovation, Kempe Foundation, Vinnova, Formas, and Energimyndigheten.