A good used oil analysis programme is integral to any successful maintenance management
The cement industry has several pieces of heavy machinery equipment that work under extreme pressures and loads. Lubrication is critical to maintain the system running smoothly, quite literally. With a slew of specific lubricants designed for specific applications, customers can now design a detailed plan to manage the lubrication schedule at the plant. What is missing is the technical knowhow to choose and use the right product. Akhil Jha, Vice-president - Technical, Shell India Markets, with over twenty years of experience in oil sector which includes ten years at Shell and another ten years in a major public sector oil company, shines a spotlight on the right practices to follow. Excerpts from the interview.
Please elaborate on the importance of lubricants.
In the cement industry, mining and plant side equipments are often exposed to extreme working conditions. There are other environmental conditions like humidity and dust, high temperature variations, and heavy and shock loads to be handled by the lubricants.
There are major sections of cement plant that have variety of equipments, like ball mills, VRM, kiln, crushers, roller press, bucket elevator, conveyors, compressors, id fans, off-highway equipment, power plants, etc.
Critical equipment in these plants generally has to work 365 days a year and every hour of downtime is expensive for the company as it results in lost production. Production losses due to machine down time incur high cost in absence of redundancy. A high performance lubricant can have a significant impact on reducing the operating and maintenance cost. A high performance lubricant can offer following benefits
- Protection of equipment.
- Longer oil life.
- System efficiency.
How can one arrive at a proper lubricant changing schedule?
All major industrial equipment OEMs provide oil drain interval (ODI) based on the design aspects, auxiliary equipment recommendations, type of oil recommended and operating condition etc.
A good way to ensure efficient lubricant drain intervals as well as monitoring schedule for checking the overall condition of equipment is to utilise a strong used oil analysis program. A good used-oil analysis programme is integral to any successful maintenance management. With close monitoring of the condition of the oil in all critical applications like engine, gearbox, compressors, hydraulic system, circulating system in the power plant, an oil analysis programme can help to improve profitability by using:
- Less lubricant purchase.
- Less downtime.
- Less parts replacements.
- Less labour.
In oil analysis, we have to consider four major categories and cross-verify the same within the limit of OEM in correlation with equipment-operating parameters like temperature.
- Physiochemical parameters like TBN, TAN, viscosity, flash point, oxidation test , etc. Wear Metals - Al, Cu, Fe, Pb, Cr, Sn, etc.
- Contaminant: Water, Na, Si, Ca, etc.
- Additive Concentration: Zn, P, Ca.
How does one choose the right lubricant?
Normally, the simplest thing will be to follow OEMs` recommendation as lubricants are approved and recommended after proper evaluation considering operating conditions and equipment design.
However, there can be variation in anticipated condition hence OEM and Lubricant Technical Advisor must be consulted for equipment operating under special/severe conditions. Selection of the right lubricant for each application should always be based on the following considerations:
- Type or part to be lubricated.
- Speed and load.
- Criticality of operations.
- Viscosity grade.
- Current lubrication procedures
- The performance specification of lubricant
By using low quality lubricants, an expensive production equipment can breakdown due to lubricant failure resulting in:
- production loss due to downtime.
- expenses for repair/ replacement for the equipment parts.
It is critical to refer OEM recommendations like the operation and maintenance manual during selection of lubricant besides seeking advice from lubricant experts.
How do lubricants get contaminated and what are the consequent hazards?
Contamination can come from the following external sources:
- Water can result in corrosion, foaming, excessive wear, oxidation and deterioration of oil.
- Particulate contamination in form of lime, cement coal from atmosphere can result in malfunctioning of sensitive equipment leading to failure.
Can one overdose lubricant and does it have any impact on the performance?
Overfilling of oil can increase oil levels and there is a chance of oil leakage through level indicator openings, breather, etc.
Overfilling can also lead to a higher churn in the oil that can then lead to foaming and higher oil drag. This increases internal friction and impacts the system efficiency negatively. Internal friction can also lead to higher oil temperature which combined with foaming can increase risk of oxidation.
Tell us about the new age lubricants available in the market.
The cement industry has slowly started accepting synthetic lubricants due to high performance requirements in severe and highly loaded applications like VRM rollers, kiln support roller bearings, compressor oils, apart from benefits of reduced energy usage. Synthetic lubricants offer a longer oil life which can reduce number of oil changes hence increase productive time.
Cement industry is now using only specialty lubricants instead of bituminous compound for open gear and wire rope lubricant, which are not as environment friendly.
How did the industry perform last year? What are your projections for this year?
Cement consumption in India is expected to rise by 8-9 per cent taking the estimated cement consumption in 2013-14 to about 280-285 MT, from around 260 MT in the 2012-13, as per the Cement Manufacturers Association.Industry performance was not satisfactory last year as fewer number of new projects were commissioned in 2013, compared to the previous year. We are roughly expecting a growth of 8 per cent on our existing share from the expansion projects, also we hope that the cement plants will go back to operate at a hundred per cent of their installed capacity.Even though the industry did not perform so well over last couple of years, we were able to increase our wallet share at major cement groups by delivering value to their business. We are expecting to further increase our market share in 2014.
Who are your major clients in the cement sector?
Shell either directly or through its distributors, supplies to many major cement plants and their mines includes third party mining contractors and project sites of cement OEMs in India
Do you offer consultancy or total lubricant management services?
Our lubricant technical advisors conduct comprehensive study on site at a cement plant to assess the prevailing situations and practices and accordingly advise the customer on the use of the right lubricant for the right equipment, and address their lubrication challenges. We share best practices from around the world and help them realise maximum value from the use of Shell products and our expert services for lowering total cost of ownership.
Do you provide training in this area?
Shell has a on-site training service called LubeCoach. The objectives are to provide training to cement plant personnel on storage, the handling, dispensing and disposal of lubricants. We train them in the basics of lubrication, friction and wear, selection of right lubricant for the right machineries, etc.
Lubricants from shell
- Shell Rimula: Engine oil.
- Shell Omala: Industrial gear oil.
- Shell Tellus: Hydraulic oil.
- Shell Corena: Compressor oil.
- Shell Morlina: Bearing and circulating oil.
- Shell Gadus: Greases, products for open gear and wire rope applications.
- Shell Spirax: Axle and transmission oils.
- Shell Argina: Marine engine lubricants.