Efficient Plant Jan./Feb. 2021 - 20

feature | lubrication solutions

Anatomy
Of an

Oil
Analysis
Report
Mark Barnes, PhD CMRP
Des-Case Corp.

The various components of an oil-analysis report
will provide you with considerable knowledge about
asset operating conditions.

OIL IN A MACHINE is often compared to the blood in our body,
and for good reason. Our blood provides numerous benefits, including delivering oxygen and nutrients to tissue, carrying antibodies, and
heating/cooling the body. Machine oil also performs multiple functions, including reducing friction, controlling temperature, providing
additives, and helping to control and remove contaminants. As with
our blood, when something goes wrong with a machine, the symptoms of failure often manifest themselves in the oil.
In the medical field, we use blood samples to perform body
condition monitoring. In the industrial world, we use an oil samples.
Used correctly, oil analysis is a predictor of imminent failure and a
prescriptive tool, used to guide decisions about lubricant selection and
application, oil change-out intervals, preferred storage and handling
practices, and contamination-control strategy.

ELEMENTAL ANALYSIS
All oil-analysis reports start by listing 20 to 30 elements. They range
from common metals, such as iron, lead, tin, and copper, found in
oil-wetted components; to additive elements such as zinc, calcium,
and phosphorus, found in certain types of oils; to common contaminants such as silicon (dirt), and sodium (coolant or sea water). Like
all oil-analysis tests, elemental analysis results should be trended
over time.
While element analysis is fundamental it should be used judiciously

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because the analysis procedure has limitations that affect the results.
Perhaps the most significant limitation is particle size. Most modern
labs use inductively coupled plasma (ICP) spectrometers to report
elements. This method cannot measure particles larger than 3 microns. As such, large-particle contamination, or wear modes, such as
adhesive wear, may not be accurately reported through ICP. In fact, it's
entirely possible for a gearbox to be experiencing severe scuffing wear
but for ICP to report little to no iron or other wear metals.

PARTICLE QUANTIFIER INDEX
In assets, such as gearboxes, common failure modes lead to large
(>5 micron) wear particles. With these assets, particle quantifier (PQ)
testing should be routine. The test uses the magnetic Hall Effect to
determine the concentration of ferromagnetic particles in the sample,
regardless of size. Trending an oil's PQ Index over time can provide
valuable information about incipient failures. Other tests, such as
direct-read ferrography, are also capable of measuring large wear particles. The PQ test, however, has become an industry standard due to
its relative simplicity and low cost. Note that the PQ test cannot detect
non-ferrous wear or non-magnetic forms of iron such as rust particles.

VISCOSITY
Viscosity is the most important property of any lubricant, so it makes
sense to measure an oil's viscosity as part of any routine oil analysis.

JAN/FEB 2021

1/26/21 12:35 PM


http://www.EFFICIENTPLANTMAG.COM

Efficient Plant Jan./Feb. 2021

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