Advanced Lubricants Meet Today's Operating Challenges

 30th Apr 2015

Rising energy costs and ever increasing regulatory requirements are two of the main challenges facing a wide range of manufacturing and processing industries. Without the option of passing increased operating costs onto customers, businesses face the ongoing challenge of remaining competitive while complying with the latest environmental and emission targets.

Advances in lubricant technology, especially fully synthetic products, have seen significant breakthroughs that can help increase oil drain intervals and cut energy use. Choosing the right lubricant can also play a central role in helping to protect equipment, extending its life and ensuring trouble-free operation. An expert formulation approach is required in order to develop lubricants that offer both productivity and energy efficiency benefits for a wide range of industries. By using the most appropriate formulation companies can therefore increase productivity, reduce costs and lower energy consumption.

ExxonMobil uses an advanced, scientifically-engineered ‘balanced formulation approach’ that has helped it to pioneer advances in synthetic lubricant technology. This process has helped the company create lubricants that deliver exceptional performance across all critical areas for each application ­ such as oxidative stability, component wear protection, corrosion control, filterability, shear stability and extreme temperature performance.

Some properties of advanced lubricants can provide benefits that create potential energy savings. Extended oil life, energy efficiency and extended equipment life, for example, all contribute towards a company reaching its environmental care objectives.

Maintenance procedures carried out during both scheduled and unscheduled downtime have the potential to put operators at risk by direct contact with equipment. The formulations used in the development of high-quality advanced lubricants, particularly synthetic variants, are designed to enhance oil lifespans and can also extend equipment life, thus helping to increase worker safety by minimising potentially hazardous maintenance.

Mobil SHC 600 high performance synthetic gear, circulating and bearing oils, for example, are ExxonMobil products that include a balanced formulation designed to help optimise ‘overall performance’. In extensive laboratory and in-service testing, Mobil SHC 600 Series lubricants exhibited energy savings of up to 3.6% compared with conventional oils. In addition, featuring the latest Mobil SHC technology with advanced synthetic base fluids and a proprietary additive system, Mobil SHC 600 Series oils can deliver a service life up to six times longer than competitive mineral oil-based gear and bearing lubricants.

The Mobil SHC 600 Series oils are recommended for use in 1,800 applications by more than 500 major equipment builders, including Siemens, which endorses their use in Flender gearboxes.

Selecting the right lubricant

In selecting a lubricant that will help to maximise equipment protection and increase productivity, it is vital to consider not only the quality and performance of a product, but also the requirements and challenges of the specific application. Operations that function at extreme temperatures and under intense pressure, for example, pose a number of lubrication challenges that can only be met by technology that is specifically designed to function in these conditions. Factors such as base oil type, viscosity, thickener type, stability of the composition and operating temperature all need to be considered in order to ensure that the most appropriate lubricant is selected.

Despite the seeming simplicity of greases it is important for maintenance professionals to understand how they are formulated in order to ensure that they select a grease that will deliver the performance and long-term protection to their equipment. A simple way to think of grease is to consider it like a sponge soaked with lubricating oil. Under the application of external stresses, such as heavy loads or high temperatures, the thickener (sponge) releases the oil to lubricate the mechanical parts. When the stresses are removed, the thickener reabsorbs a portion of the released oil for later use. Typically, greases are applied to mechanisms in which a lubricant cannot stay in position, or re-lubrication is infrequent, difficult or simply not economical. A few examples include ­ drive shaft couplings, universal joints and fan shaft bearings.

In extreme temperature applications there is a risk that a grease will perform poorly due to degradation resulting from thickener and base oil oxidation, or due to the loss of base oil from grease bleed and evaporation. Typically, greases with synthetic base oils can provide a wider operating temperature range than conventional, mineral-based greases. For example, the Mobil SHC Polyrex Series is a range of high performance, synthetic bearing greases that uses advanced polyurea thickener technology in order to achieve excellent high temperature performance up to 170°C.

With ongoing developments in machinery aimed at increasing output, and the high ambient temperatures of many industrial sectors, lubricants that can operate effectively in extreme conditions will enable companies to build a competitive advantage into their operations by reducing energy consumption and increasing productivity.

It can be a challenge managing lubrication especially in the manufacturing and processing industries where multiple lubricants may be required on a single piece of equipment.

WP Group, for example, work alongside businesses to ensure the right lubricant is selected for the right application. WP implement what is described as ‘Reliability Centred Lubrication’ (RCL). RCL is an asset-life focussed approach to lubrication management based on specific operational conditions, best practices, machine applications and maintenance processes. Successful implementation of RCL will lead to an increase in asset life, cost effectiveness and machine uptime, and a proactive approach to long-term asset care.

For more information on RCL contact WP Groups team of expert lubrication engineers on 0800 980 6172.

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