The Lube Effect
Lubricants, the life-blood of any machinery, hold a pivotal position in enhancing the longevity of an engine. Lubricants help mitigate overheating and seizing, and if properly monitored and maintained, they can extend the life of a machine. The fundamental function of a lubricant is to protect capital investment by shielding the equipment from wear and corrosion- even under the most severe conditions. Akhil Jha, Vice President Technical, Shell Lubricants India, states, ´In the cement industry, the compressors, gears and bearings operate at extremes of speed, load and temperature. Often, the equipment parts are subjected to wet and contaminated conditions. In all these scenarios, a lubricant needs to ensure longevity of the equipment by protecting its parts.´
´Our advanced technology lubricants and greases help protect and extend equipment life, which in turn significantly help minimise the need to purchase new equipment and associated maintenance, disposal and replacement,´ says Imtiaz Ahmed, Asia Pacific Mobil SHC Brand Manager, ExxonMobil Lubricants Private Limited.
One opportunity for energy conservation that is often overlooked in industrial facilities is the technology behind the lubricant used. Though the conventional role of lubricants is reducing friction, modern lubricants go beyond this primary. ´Advanced base oils and additives impact traction coefficient in bearings/gears. Advanced High Viscosity Index (VI) fluids offer the potential to use lower viscosity for reduced churning loss and better heat dissipation,´ points out Ahmed. He adds, ´In hydraulics/circulating applications, advanced High VI fluids manage balance of mechanical and volumetric efficiency in pressurised pumps for instance, that leads to reduced energy at start up, and improved lubrication at high temperature of operation.´
The Right Lubricant
Plant managers, equipment maintenance professionals or purchasing agents need to informed decisions when it comes to selecting the right lubricant and developing the equipment maintenance plan to help ensure their operations remain competitive and productive. Lubricant selection, thereby, is crucial in the pursuit of precision lubrication practices. ´The lubricant selected must be able to support the demands placed upon the lubricant film when the machine is in operation, even as we seek to ensure clean delivery. Quality-conscious lubricant manufacturers, such as ExxonMobil, provide field support to ensure products are properly selected for their customers´ machines,´ asserts Ahmed.
Oil analysis is a useful, predictive and proactive tool that can help prevent equipment breakdowns, determine the root cause of failures and aid in locating operational and contamination problems. ´Analysis of used oil is widely acknowledged as a key tool in the armoury of preventative and predictive maintenance tools. Many leading companies utilise Shell LubeAnalyst as an important part of their planned and predictive maintenance strategy,´ asserts Jha.
Much like doctors assess health through blood analysis, critical plant equipment must be monitored in much the same manner. Chronic lubricant or equipment symptoms show up as indicators in oil analysis samples and, if left uncorrected, can lead to equipment degradation and productivity losses. Therefore, the goal of a proactive oil analysis programme is to trend gradual changes in fluid properties, contaminants and wear debris, so that corrective action can be initiated in a controlled, planned manner.
Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are increasingly interested in using low-viscosity oils to reduce friction and meet fuel economy requirements. Use of correct grade of oil is equally important.
These can help enhance equipment operating efficiencies, safety and environmental care and productivity gains. Analysing lubricant properties and suspended contaminants for the purpose of monitoring and timely reporting, and providing accurate information on lubricant and machine condition is mandatory.
Parameters for selecting the right lubricant
1. Tribological system
This system includes the type of motion, speed, temperatures, load and the operating environment. The lubrication engineer (or tribo-engineer) can utilise different lubricant chemistries to select a lubricant.
2. Right specifications
OEM´s recommendation may be specific to the machine manufacturer or component manufacturer. It typically provides the appropriate viscosity grade for the expected operating temperature and pressure range, as well as a minimum level of specifications and performance.
3. Right viscosity
The higher the viscosity index, the less viscosity is affected by temperature. This property can be improved with a viscosity index additive. Without the proper viscosity, the system will not operate as designed and the system will likely never reach peak efficiency.
4. Additives and base oil type
The additive package used in the lubricant will determine the lubricant´s general category and affects various key performance properties under operating conditions. For instance, a lightly loaded high-speed element bearing does not require extreme pressure (EP) additives; while a heavily loaded open gear set does.
5. Grease consistency and thickener type
The consistency of grease is controlled by the thickener concentration, thickener type and the viscosity of the base oil. Even though base oil viscosity affects consistency, it is important to note that greases can have high consistency and a low base oil viscosity or vice versa.
6. Performance properties
High temperatures and pressures require fluids that deliver oxidative and thermal stability, while preventing system deposits and providing a high degree of anti-wear protection under these extreme conditions. The fluids must also possess excellent air release properties, filterability and seal compatibility.
7. Effective lubrication practices
Lube oils can be contaminated during the storage, dispensing & handling with the various unwanted materials. Keeping lubricants clean, dry and free from contaminants is one of the easiest, least costly means of improving equipment reliability.
8. Oil analysis
Typically, it is advised that maintenance professionals perform quarterly oil analyses and annual system inspections. The oil analysis should include a measurement of fluid viscosity, water content, particle count and dissolved metals to determine how well the system is operating.
9. Visual inspections
Visual system inspections should be conducted regularly to check and document the condition of the hydraulic systems. Inspection data can be used to establish the optimum time to perform maintenance on critical hydraulic components such as filters, breathers, valves, hoses, heat exchangers and pumps. Comprehensive leak detection should also be performed during a routine system inspection.
Benefits of Oil Analysis
- Optimum Equipment Life
- Extended Oil Life
- Reduced Downtime
- Quick and timely results
- Lower repair costs
- Precise monitoring of operating efficiency
- Improved Safety
- Environmental Awareness