In the current context of sustained low prices of crude oil and natural gas, the pressure to find savings is mounting on organizations and plants. Savings can sometimes be found in areas of Operations and Maintenance where practices have remained relatively unchanged for a long time. One such area, in many plants, is the handling and maintenance of lubricating oils.
In some instances, lubricating oils are still replaced at fixed intervals. In other cases, the practice of “bleed & feed” or partial oil replacement, is still common. From an accounting standpoint, oil is considered as an expense whereas, with proper care and maintenance, it should be considered an asset, similar to any part of a turbine or compressor. This particular asset happens to be liquid instead of solid- and its life must be maximized, with the realistic objective of keeping the original oil for the life of the equipment (“Fill-for-Life”), once a number of best practices are implemented.
In other instances, some downtime is, at least partially, caused by degradation of the lubricant, and this is not always fully understood especially when all of the latest Condition Monitoring methods have yet to be implemented. Also, best practice techniques, training and experience of combining mechanical Condition Monitoring as well as chemical Condition Monitoring of the lubricant, can greatly contribute to savings.
To find lubricant savings that can be rapidly (and in some cases immediately) realized in the current context of low oil and gas prices, here are some important tips:
Decontaminate immediately: any contamination in your lubricant, be it water, dirt, incompatible fluids, hard particles, soft particles, soluble and insoluble contaminants, is accelerating the aging of your lubricant and shortening its life. This has the potential to cause unplanned downtime or to force an oil change earlier than necessary. Look for the right decontamination technology, and ideally for a flexible technology that can remove multiple types of contaminants.
Adopt up-to-date condition monitoring: the field of oil condition monitoring has been making progress. Newer tests such as RULER and ASTM D7843 MPC test (Membrane Patch Colorimetry) have become recommended and standard practice from the standpoint of the main OEMs, the main lubricant suppliers, the main laboratories and the main upstream & downstream Oil & Gas companies. The reason is that these methods give better predictive, forward-looking signals than traditional test methods, thereby helping reduce the aging of the oil, extend its life and prevent unplanned events.
Fully clean lubrication systems: when preparing for an oil change, the complete lubrication system needs to be fully cleaned. Otherwise, the life of the new oil filled into this equipment will be shortened, with associated unnecessary costs. Fortunately, such complete cleaning can now be achieved with spectacular results online, while your equipment is still running, avoiding workload, such as flushing, during you equipment’s shutdown. This gives you more uptime and greatly reduces risk, including SHE exposure.
Extend oil life: In most instances, the reason your oil eventually gets near the end of its life is because some of its additives are depleting, whereas 99% of the oil, the basestock, is still good. In such cases, guaranteed technologies are now available to keep the oil instead of changing it. This can bring you immediate savings. Also, at sites with difficult supply chain situations, such as offshore, this can bring large logistics savings. As an important note: oil life extension is often attempted by implementing “bleed and feed”. Whereas this may be the only solution is some instances, for example where there is some oil loss by leakage, from a general standpoint, bleed and feed is very inefficient and costly. In many cases, replacing it by a boosting of oil life, and aiming for Fill-for-Life oil, will bring you immediate, or at least very fast, savings. Finally, where there is a cost for the disposal of waste oil, keeping your oil instead of changing it saves you this particular cost.
In the current context of low oil and gas prices, which may continue for longer than the industry wishes, it’s essential to find savings that are significant and can be implemented soon. Such savings, possibly not always as clearly identified as they could be, might be available for your plant today in the critical area of lubrication. Please contact us about these 4 important tips to identify which of them can help you save costs, now and in the near future.