John Smith, Chief Engineer (Finished Lubricants) at ExxonMobil, gives guidance to help optimise machine performance coming out of lockdown
The manufacturing industry has been hit hard by COVID-19 stoppages. Operators have been forced to decommission valuable equipment for unspecified periods, exposing it to very real maintenance threats.
Whilst machines have idled, chemical reactions promoted by moisture and contaminants have still been at work, increasing the risk of rust and corrosion.
Coming out of lockdown, premium quality lubricants and greases can play an important role in reducing the effects of such damage, alongside vigilant maintenance practices.
With the start-up process now underway, here are 10 learnings from the field that ExxonMobil engineers are sharing with customers to help ensure machinery is protected and primed.
Conduct overall system check: Inspect the equipment from a lubrication perspective for any signs of contamination or oil leaks. If it is a large lubricating system, consider taking an oil sample for analysis before restarting, in case any corrective action is required.
Remove any rust preventives from equipment: Use a suitable solvent.
Remove any water from bottom of oil reservoirs: If a system has been left to stand, free water may have separated from the oil and settled at the bottom of systems. Open the lowest drain valve point to remove any free water. Wipe all accessible surfaces clean. Remove any bacterial growth.
Drain and fill with fresh oil if necessary: When draining the oil prior to a refill, always check that any dead areas in the system have also drained. Before re-commissioning, check oil is at normal levels.
Check seals and access covers: Any areas for potential ingress such as seals, dipsticks, and access covers should be checked for contamination.
Monitor equipment leaks: Pay particular attention to seals which may have been compromised after being left static for an extended period.
Only use heaters when oil is circulating: If a system operates with heaters, in start-up they should only be turned on when the oil is already circulating. This ensures that static oil is not exposed to high localised temperature.
Purge grease lubricated bearings with fresh grease: Before recommissioning, bearings should be re-filled with fresh grease and then allowed to purge by removing grease nipples or purge plugs.
Drain and replace engine oil: For those engines that have been idle for some time, drain the oil and replace with fresh. Change the oil filter(s). Start operations under low load and bring slowly up to normal operating temperature.
Ensure thorough documentation and take representative oil samples: All actions taken during start-up should be recorded in maintenance manuals. After operating equipment for several hours, take a good representative oil sample. Send it to a specialist used oil analysis laboratory, such as Mobil ServSM Lubricant Analysis, to confirm the condition of the oil, system and contaminants.
The choices being made today, and in the weeks to come, will have an enduring impact on business performance. This places significant pressure on internal decision makers in the face of unprecedented challenges.
Collaboration can be the key to finding practical solutions fast, allowing operators to re-start their businesses efficiently. ExxonMobil’s Field Engineering team is highly skilled in working with manufacturing operations – both onsite and virtually – to develop tailored Mobil lubrication solutions that offer peace-of-mind at every stage of production.