All hydrocarbon processing industry (HPI) facilities use machinery, and every
one of these machines requires lubrication of some type.
Modern, profitability-minded plants thoughtfully manage their
lubrication practices and reap substantial benefits from the
resulting enhanced equipment reliability.
However, not all lubrication practices are cost and
value-optimized. A one-day audit of your lube management
practices may uncover near-zero-cost improvement opportunities
that, if implemented, have paybacks measured in days and may
quickly move the plant into the best-of-class grouping.
During an audit conducted by the authors at a world-scale,
state-of-the-art petrochemical plant in the US, the
lube program was generally judged to be well managed. The plant
had selected a competent supplier of both mineral oils and
synthesized hydrocarbon (synthetic) lubricants.
Management and the reliability group had engaged an
experienced oil analysis laboratory and were certainly aware of
the merits of sound lubrication management. Still, they had to
be encouraged to make changes and improvements. A few
illustrations will serve as examples here and convey part of
Storage and transfer
Examples of questionable transfer and storage practices are
shown in Figs. 1 and 2. Many
lube audits uncover unsatisfactory lubricant dispensing
practices; little oversights can have serious negative
consequences. For example, it is important to minimize
contamination on lube carts. Galvanized steel dispensing
containers are frequently attacked by certain lube-oil
additives; therefore, good practices mandate the use of plastic
dispensing containers. Leaving transfer containers open is
simply not acceptable, as shown in Fig. 1A.
Fig. 1A. Leaving a
transfer container uncovered
invites lube contamination and machinery
distress. 1B. Outdoor storage
notorious for collecting rainwater.
Storage drums should be located and positioned so that water
accumulation is ruled out, as shown in Fig.
1B. Changes in ambient temperature can cause rainwater
on top of the storage drum (see Fig. 2) to be
drawn into the drum via capillary action. Under these
conditions, a drum containing valuable lubricant is, thereby,
Fig. 2. Ambient
temperature cycling explains the
mechanism for water entering into oil
stored outdoors in the upright position.
Audit findings and recommendations frequently deal with
lubricant contamination. Also, the effective labeling of
points-to-be-lubricated is often found wanting.
Pitfalls of standardizing
Finally, we still find plants that are somewhat arbitrarily
standardizing on less-than-optimum grease
formulations. These facilities are applying incorrect
regreasing practices on thousands of electric motors. We have
seen superior plants experience as few as 14 motor bearing
replacements per 1,000 motors/yr; the average plant bearing
replacement is 156 motor bearing replacements per 1,000
motors/yr. We will spare the reader the statistics of
Suffice it to say that being unaware of best-available
lubrication practices can be expensive. Deviations from best
lubrication practices may incur significant, yet readily
avoidable maintenance and downtime expenses.
Periodic lubrication audits are recommended. Experience shows
that lubrication audits can be extremely cost-effective and
almost always pointing to areas of improvement.
The discussion continues regarding oil lubrication practices
and areas for improvement. HP
Heinz P. Bloch teamed up with
Raymond L. Thibault
(firstname.lastname@example.org). Mr. Thibault holds BS and MS
degrees in chemistry. In 2001, he retired from
ExxonMobil as a territory manager after 31 years of
developing lube programs and providing technical
support for numerous major HPI and other industrial
clients. Mr. Thibault is considered the most
knowledgeable independent consultant in the field of
lube reliability improvement,
and he teaches the subject worldwide.