About Water-Based Hydraulic Oil

Water-based hydraulic systems have been a fixture of longwall mining and hot metal steel mill processes for years, due in large part to their fire resistance. But it’s not their fire resistance alone that makes them so beneficial—they also pose some significant cost advantages over oil-based fluids that make them attractive to hydraulic facilities.

Here’s some more in-depth information from a hydraulic service in Minnesota about the advantages of water-based hydraulic oil over oil-based fluids.

Cost benefits

A single gallon of concentrate can make 20 gallons of a solution that contains 95 percent water and just five percent additive. When you consider the fact that these biodegradable additives cost much less per gallon than oil-based fluids do, and that you can stretch their use out over longer periods of time, that provides the potential for some outstanding savings.

There are also savings capabilities at the plant level, especially when one considers the costs typically associated with cleaning up and preventing environmental contamination. Oil that leaks or drains out of a system cannot be dumped down a drain—it has to be properly collected, contained and then carried away by a certified carrier capable of properly disposing of that oil. Compare this to water that contains synthetic additives, which can be dumped into effluent systems at the plant, and it’s significantly easier (and less expensive) to dispose of it.

Safety benefits

The use of water-based fluids allows for greater safety for workers at plants, because the water-based fluid is both non-flammable and non-toxic. These attributes can reduce the insurance rates at the plant, which provides some additional savings, but more importantly makes the entire facility safer.

In addition, putting antifreeze into water-based fluids can significantly lower its freezing temperature, which allows the machines using the fluid to run better in colder temperatures. It is recommended to use propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol, as the former is non-toxic and biodegradable, meaning its use won’t compromise the environmental benefits associated with water-based fluids.


This benefit comes more out of necessity than anything. If water-based hydraulic systems are not properly designed, they could become prone to the problem of pump cavitation. Therefore, a lot of parts are designed in a standardized, identical way to make sure the system’s components work well with each other.

All the major components in these systems are designed to be used specifically with water-based fluids rather than oil-based fluids. While there are some cases in which oil valves might be retrofitted for water service, the performance you get out of such a component is never going to be quite as effective as one that’s been designed specifically for that purpose.

To learn more about water-based oils and water-based hydraulic systems, we encourage you to contact our hydraulic service in Minnesota with your questions. Our team is happy to provide you with answers and to help you better understand the functionality and benefits of water-based hydraulic systems. Reach out to M & M Hydraulic Company today to learn more!

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