How clean is your new oil?
Whether you own and operate wind turbines, ships or oil rigs, if you are assuming that NEW OIL is clean, somewhere down the road it WILL be costing you money.
So here’s a question I ask lots of engineers – “How clean is your oil?”
And many times I’m met with a blank. “Well, of course it’s clean” almost all say, “It’s brand new, sealed and straight from the factory”.
But here’s the surprising thing, ‘brand new, sealed and straight from the factory’, doesn’t necessarily mean clean, pure and contaminant free. (And this can apply to most fluids in an industrial setting, I’m using the word ‘oil’ because ‘oil’ is what mostly comes to mind.)
Here are 4 reasons why your new oil might not be as clean as expected:
- Oil manufacturing facilities are not known for white glove cleanliness;
- At the manufacturing / blending / storage / filling facility, how clean were the drums, hoses, tanks, to start with?;
- When transferring the oil from drum to machinery or storage, are your pump, hoses, storage tank contaminant free?;
- The air we breathe, isn’t clean, it doesn’t come close to meeting any fluid power or lubricant system ISO code for moisture or solids contamination. Just think, that fluid when it’s in the tank, system or storage tank, it’s also ‘breathing’ the same air.
So what happens when you ‘feed’ your factory sealed – but unfiltered drum of oil – to your system? You’ll use up as much as 70% of your system’s filtration capacity almost straight away, meaning your filters don’t last as long, hastening failure, reducing life span and increasing frequency of repairs and overhaul costs.
And there’s another problem. Micron level filtration is usually on the pressure side, after the pump. This means your high performance, high tolerance, expensive pump has just been exposed to all the unfiltered ‘gunk’!
You may have heard about the ISO standard for fluid cleanliness, well there’s another standard to be aware of too: NAS (NAS 1638 – National Aerospace Standard)
When using ISO 4406 and NAS 1638 the higher the numbers, the more ‘Gunky’ the fluid is.
So let’s take a look at the figures for fluids commonly found in the shipping and offshore industries:
Occasionally, you’ll get lucky with the occasional New Drum having a cleanliness value of 21/19/16 (which is around NAS 10)
The following was taken from here;
During production of the lubricant, raw materials and manufacturing equipment can introduce particles.1 For example, 22 drums of hydraulic fluids, bearings oils and other products from six major oil companies were analyzed.5 Only three of the 22 (14 percent) drums could have passed a 16/14/12 specification, a reasonable general cleanliness target for oils in service in critical equipment. A typical cleanliness code, which is voluntary and not a requirement, for new oil is approximately 21/19/16. This can vary due to container type, manufacturing practices and storage conditions
Are you willing to risk your system to luck or chance ?
Want more detail, you’ll find it here: http://www.parker.com/Literature/EMHFF/ConMon/Guide%20to%20Contamination%20Standards.pdf
Here’s another, with Microscopic images of typical contaminants
I worked with a client who had been experiencing increasing system faults and equipment changes and as part of the solution I initiated an oil handling and cleanliness regimen. What an uphill battle I had with the onsite Technicians resistance to change! I’m sure you’ve come across the same ‘I’ve never needed to do this before, why now?’ or ‘I’ve been doing it this way for over 20 years and never had any problems, why change?’
Then there are those inclined as conspiracy theorists, who view what they consider as vested interests;
‘That report is from a filter manufacturer, of course he’s going to say that, he wants to sell more filters.’
But what about when the advice comes from renowned Fluid Power equipment manufacturers, who back the unclean ‘new’ fluid cleanliness message? Does it still bear the same lack of credibility, when they could sell more replacement parts for worn or damage components, caused by the introduction of contaminated ‘new’ fluid? Of course it doesn’t. And the companies who manufacture the good equipment, have a hard won reputation for quality and reliability and they are not going to put at risk.
For more hard core technical details have a look here:
Portable Testing equipment