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Consider best-of-class lubrication practices

08.01.2012  |  Bloch, H. P.,  Hydrocarbon Processing Staff, 

Keywords: [lubrication oil] [storage]

Last month’s column explained that all hydrocarbon processing (HP) facilities use machinery, and these machines require lubrication. Periodically auditing one’s lubrication practices is part of a thoughtful reliability assessment routine. Such reviews may uncover near-zero cost improvement opportunities that can have paybacks measured in days. More important, such improvements can rapidly move the plant to best-of-class performance level.

Example audit.

An audit conducted by the authors at a US-based worldscale, state-of-the-art, petrochemical plant proved rather revealing conditions. This particular facility deserved commendations for selecting appropriate lubricants for their critical-operation equipment. While the origin of several plastic drums of synthetic lube was clearly spelled out (Fig. 1), there were deficiencies that needed to be rectified.

  Fig. 1. Water accumulation on a
  drum can jeopardizes 65 gallons
  of a superior lubricant. There is
  an even greater consequential
  damage risk to rotating
  equipment at plants that allow
  this type of outdoor storage.
  Source: Royal Purple Inc., Porter,

Plant management and the reliability group had thoughtfully specified a high-quality lubricant to contain less-than-traditional amounts of water for use at the facility. Also, an oil analysis laboratory was on the facility’s list of consultants, and all should have been aware of the merits of sound lubrication management.

Missed communication and flawed practices. But instructions and implementation strategies had not trickled down to the field workforce. Indoor storage was sporatic; lube transfer from five-gallon buckets (Fig. 2) to smaller, more manageable transfer containers was cumbersome and risky. This deficiency was later addressed by upgrading to the storage system, as shown in Fig. 3.

It was evident that important lube-management rules had been bypassed or possibly neglected at this facility. Storage drums should be located and positioned so that water accumulation (Fig. 1) is mitigated. The July issue’s Reliability column illustrated how changes in ambient temperature can cause rainwater laying on top of a storage drum to be drawn into the drum by capillary action. In the case of Fig. 1, an aggregate supply of lubrication oil worth about $4,000 could have been rendered unserviceable. So, while outdoor storage is feasible, the drums should never stand upright.

Spills and more. Contamination and spillage control of bulk storage containers are alluded to in Figs. 2 and 3. In addition, plants utilizing best lube practices should use both filters and desiccant breathers to eliminate both airborne particulates and atmospheric moisture intrusion in drums. There are instances where installing only a vent cap is no longer deemed acceptable by reliability-focused plants.

  Fig. 2. Indoor storage in 
  five-gallon buckets makes
  spill-proof transfer to smaller
  transfer containers difficult.
  Source: TRICO Mfg. Co.,
  Pewaukee, Wisconsin.
  Fig. 3. A modern indoor oil
  dispensing layout. Source:
  TRICO Mfg. Co., Pewaukee,

Best-of-class actions.

Not applying best available lubrication management practices can be expensive. Good lubrication practices are described in experience-based texts that recommend periodic audits.1


1 Bloch, H. P., Pump Wisdom, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey, 2011.

The author

Heinz Bloch* teamed up with Raymond L. Thibault (rlthibault@msn.com) for this audit. Mr. Thibault has BS and MS degrees in chemistry. In 2001, he retired from a premier multi-national lube manufacturer after 31 years of developing lube programs and providing technical support for numerous major HPI and other industrial clients. He is considered the most knowledgeable independent consultant in the field of lube reliability improvement and teaches the subject worldwide.

Have your say
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    All fields are compulsory.

Garth Heer

For lubricants for use by op/maint personnel for regularly oil sump top ups, I recommend transferring lube oils to new, clean, well-marked, screw top, one-time-use, 1qt. bottles via appropriate filtration skid. This eliminates, contamination and exposure to contamination at several stages of lubrication use in the plant.

mohamed elsanosi

informative and well written paper .

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