Last months column explained that all hydrocarbon processing (HP) facilities use machinery, and these
machines require lubrication. Periodically auditing ones
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
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
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 facilitys
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 issues
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
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.
2. Indoor storage in
five-gallon buckets makes
spill-proof transfer to smaller
transfer containers difficult.
Source: TRICO Mfg. Co.,
3. A modern indoor oil
dispensing layout. Source:
TRICO Mfg. Co., Pewaukee,
Not applying best available lubrication management practices
can be expensive. Good lubrication practices are described in
experience-based texts that recommend periodic
1 Bloch, H. P., Pump Wisdom, John Wiley
& Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey, 2011.
Heinz Bloch* teamed up with
Raymond L. Thibault
(firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.