Chemtool fire causes potential grease shortage

Farmers worry about a potential grease shortage sparked by the Chemtool fire in Rockton last month and how it could impact their harvests.
Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 6:23 PM CDT
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FREEPORT, Ill. (WIFR) - A potential grease shortage could be added to the list of issues caused by the Chemtool fire.

Rockton’s Chemtool plant was once one of the largest manufacturers of grease in the world, but after last month’s fire, there could be a grease shortage for farmers leading up to harvest season. Farmers often use grease to keep certain parts of their equipment operational, but now grease could be the new toilet paper when it comes to a shortage on the shelves.

“You don’t think much about it, but it’s kind of an important commodity to have access to,” said Illinois Corn Growers Association Executive Director Rodney Weinzierl. “Farmers might have to rely on each other if their combine breaks down.”

Ed Mulholland works at a John Deere dealership. Mulholland hasn’t experienced a grease shortage so far but is prepared for the possibility.

“Whenever for instance John Deere has run into a shortage with one vendor, they’ve reached out to try and keep that going with a supplemental vendor to make sure that their customers are well supported,” said Mulholland.

Steve Fricke owns a farm in the Freeport area. He said a grease shortage might not affect farmers because adjustments can easily be made.

“One of the things we’re fortunate about too is the equipment’s gotten newer. We’ve seen the wear points become parts that don’t require us to use as much lubrication,” said Fricke. “But we try to be planned ahead so we have the equipment and the products that we need to go through the harvest.”

Fricke grows several crops including wheat and soybeans. He says the corn he harvests is mostly turned into ethanol which is put into gas tanks.

Chemtool does supply a portion of its grease to farmers, but officials from Lubrizol said the exact amount is confidential.

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