It is mystifying that even seasoned industry professionals fall for this presumption: that new oil received in sealed, steel barrels is clean and ready to use. The reality is that even new oil needs thorough cleaning before you put it to use in your engine or any other machinery.
And how does unfiltered, new oil affect your asset reliability management?
New oil is already contaminated through various sources in the manufacturing, distribution and storage processes. This contaminated oil is a blight upon your engines and other machinery. When the system’s lifeblood has been transmitted a “contaminant,” it harms the system. As it is for the blood in the human body, you need clean oil to keep your engine running fit all the time. This can be achieved through engine oil condition monitoring.
How is New Oil Contaminated?
Contamination can cumulatively build up in new oil from the manufacturing process till you open the barrel for usage.
- Manufacture: This refers to the remnant impurities that occur at the point of manufacturing of the original base oils and additive packages through air, pipes, lines, pumps, and storage tanks and reservoirs.
- Blending: These refer to the airborne contamination, container wall contamination, or cross-contamination that occurs at the blender’s plant, during and after the mixing of base oil and additives in the blending vessel, down to the storage tanks and drums.
- Transport: When distributed in tankers, epoxy-painted drums, and large cans, there could be further cross-contamination, container wall contamination, and air contamination.
- Storage: When stored in humid and dusty conditions, the micropores of the seal/ container may allow moisture/ dust/ atmospheric oxygen to seep into the barrel.
At each of these junctures, the contaminants entering the oil keep accumulating. Till the time you are ready to open the barrel and use the oil, your oil may be substantially contaminated.
How Contaminated New Oil Harms Your Engine:
Oil is like the lifeblood of your engine and determines the reliability and efficiency of operation. However, the contaminants in the oil can damage the part in your engine and in the worst scenario lead to the breakdown. In the absence of real-time oil condition monitoring, you can be blindfolded towards the following problems caused by the contaminated oil:
- Excess oxidation
- Viscosity imbalance
- Thermal Degradation
How to Protect Your New Oil:
- Filtering: Given the incidence of contaminants explained above, assume all new oil should be sampled and filtered, preferably with a 3 µm absolute filter, before being introduced to your engines. Though often overlooked, this is the best preventive solution. However, one must carefully select the right filtration system configuration with a high beta ratio and pay attention to the “absolute” rating of the filter. A high-depth cellulose filter using the bypass kidney-loop configuration gives the best results since it not only removes the ultrafine, particulate matter, but is also effective against the moisture and varnish.
- Storage: Store the oil in closed containers and avoid exposing it to air whenever you can afford it. It is also preferable to store the containers in a sterile, indoor space, and not on the deck of the rig or ship where air contamination and other ambient changes will contaminate the oil.
- Seals, Inlets, & Breathers: Further, to avoid ingress of airborne contaminants, make sure all the seals, inlets, and breathers are without leakage.
Your engines and other machinery can enjoy high levels of reliability, efficiency, and operating life when you take care of oil hygiene, especially through online oil condition monitoring.
Research by various experts and a study done by a European insurance major has shown that 56% of all engine breakdowns are associated with poor lubrication. So next time you top up your engine oil, do not just use the new oil as it is. Ensure it is cleaned with the right filtration system. Prevention is always better than cure as a part of asset reliability management.