Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 33


LUBRICATION STRATEGIES

Improve Lubricant Performance in

Harsh Environments

Ken Bannister
MEch Eng (UK)
CMRP, MLE
Contributing Editor

Where equipment is located and the conditions in which
it operates are crucial factors in successful lubrication.
CONSIDER THE manufacturing
sector: Most of us envision stand-alone
machinery and process/assembly lines
protected from the outside elements in
temperature-controlled buildings that
are typically located in an urban core or
suburban industrial park. Now, consider
the natural-resource sector, including
the oil and gas, mining, and forestry
industries. Their operations are typically
outdoors or underground, often in
remote, harsh environments that dictate
an absolute need for equipment reliability.
Harsh conditions manifest themselves
in different ways, depending on the
industry. For example, oil and gas fields
and terminals in remote locales will
require lubricants that work in hot and
cold climate extremes. Mining and
forestry operations that put temperature
demands on equipment subject to dirt and
water intrusion will require lubricants of
suitable viscosity, consistency of application, and excellent filtration.
Remote operations also create burdens
for the organization, as all spare parts and
supplies must be shipped long distances,
frequently by air. That makes equipment
failure in these places many times more
expensive than in a manufacturing plant.
Regardless of the industry, the resource
sector is highly dependent upon mechanical equipment to power its processes. In
the past, however, despite having long
been considered a requisite in manufacturing plants, lubrication-management
programs have usually been viewed as a
secondary maintenance process.
Fortunately, mechanical failure doesn't
have to be part of doing business in harsh
environments. Good lubrication practices
(GLPs) will significantly reduce such
failures at a fraction of the cost of any
OCTOBER 2016

failure/reparation strategy.
The obvious approach to
improving equipment performance
in harsh environments is to review
your current lubrication practices
and implement an inexpensive
plant-wide GLP program. Gaining
support and buy-in for this type of
program sometimes calls for a few
preliminary wins to demonstrate
value. The following examples
reflect ways to do that.
S Choose the right lubricant for
a working environment. Investigate the use of lubricants with high
Harsh conditions manifest themselves in a variety of
viscosity-index (VI) ratings, which
ways, depending on the industry. To say that they have
are more stable over drastically
'no mercy' on lubricated equipment and the people
changing seasonal and day/night
and products that maintain it is an understatement.
temperature swings. Although
initially more expensive to purchase,
cross-contamination, lower purchase/
synthetic lubricants can help resolve many
carrying costs, and a simplification of the
temperature-related performance issues,
lubricant-application program.
as well as increase time between oilEngage with your suppliers and have
changes and reduce forced downtime.
them bid on conducting a lubricantAn oil and gas operation turned to
consolidation exercise for your site. This
this strategy on a number of gas-field
type of program is usually offered-at
compressor stations that were routinely
little or no cost-in exchange for a blanket
shut down three days each year for oil
order that can also work in a site's favor by
changes. A switch to a synthetic lubricant
fixing lubricant costs for a set period.
allowed oil changes to be performed on a
S Offset the cold. In sub-zero climate
biannual basis, saving millions of dollars
conditions, viscosity will increase and
in production losses. The compressors
make it difficult to pump the product to
also ran smoother and more efficiently.
the bearings. In such cases the lubricant
S Reduce carrying costs and simplify
needs to be warmed.
lubricant needs. Many plants still carry
A fish-processing factory ship in the
an inventory of 20 or more lubricants on
Arctic seas was losing conveyor bearsite. Consolidation programs have been
ings due to lack of lubrication-even
shown to reduce lubricant inventories by
though it had a fully automated lube
as much as 75%. Among other things, the
system in place. The system would stall
lubricant-consolidation process forces a
under flash-freeze conditions as a result
facility to inventory all lubricants at the
of lubricant thickening. A simple $10
site and list every storage location. The
automotive block heater, positioned in the
results include less chance of lubricant
MAINTENANCETECHNOLOGY.COM | 33


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Maintenance Technology October 2016

Maintenance Technology October 2016 - 1
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - Cover1
Maintenance Technology October 2016 - Cover2
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