Advanced lubrication: unlocking improvements in offshore operations

Paul Boughton
By combining the use of the latest high quality lubricants and an effective oil and equipment monitoring programme, companies can look to achieve a competitive advantage in their operation. Akram Reda reports.

Due to the tough operating conditions of oil and gas rigs the last thing companies want is unplanned downtime because if the machinery stops pumping, so do the profits. A typical oil and gas rig is reliant on a number of lubricants to ensure an efficient operation.

Turbines and reciprocating engines provides primary and auxiliary power, gears and bearings are crucial in draw works, cranes, mud circulating, top drive and rotary tables, and compressors power refrigeration and air systems. Whether it’s an engine oil, turbine oil, gear lubricant, hydraulic fluid or grease, one equipment failure can bring the entire operation to a halt.

The good news is that advancements in lubricant technology, especially fully-synthetic based products, has seen significant breakthroughs in regards to extending equipment life, oil drain intervals and improving the energy efficiency of equipment. For example, Mobil SHC fully synthetic lubricants can last up to six times longer, with upper operating temperature limits that can typically reach 50°C (90°F) higher than mineral oils.
Other research and development areas that leading lubricant providers have focused on in recent times is improving the energy efficiency of equipment while maintaining these extended operating periods. Recent breakthroughs from Mobil Industrial Lubricants include lubricants to improve the energy efficiency of natural gas engines used to power drilling & production rigs in addition to hydraulic and gear oils which are used in a variety of applications.

The natural gas engine oil, Mobil SHC Pegasus, uses breakthrough technologies to optimise equipment productivity and protection and is the first gas engine oil formulation on the market to deliver real energy saving potential. Extensive independent university laboratory and field tests have demonstrated that the product helps reduce fuel consumption by up to 1.5per cent.

The fuel efficiency of Mobil SHC Pegasus relates solely to the fluid performance when compared to ExxonMobil’s standard SAE 40 natural gas engine oils. The technology used in Mobil SHC Pegasus demonstrated up to a 1.5percent increase in fuel efficiency compared to Mobil Pegasus 1005 and 805 series when tested in standard natural gas engine applications under controlled conditions. Efficiency improvements will vary based on operating conditions. The energy efficiency claim for this product is based on test results on the use of the fluid conducted in accordance with all applicable industry standards and protocols.

The new Mobil SHC Pegasus formulation also delivers the potential for increased oil drain intervals of more than 16000 hours - three to four times that of premium natural gas engine oils. This can help reduce unplanned downtime as well as reduce the amount of waste oil generated.

Mobil DTE 10 Excel has been engineered to help increase productivity, reduce unscheduled downtime and improve the energy efficiency of hydraulic applications. Compared to standard hydraulic oils, Mobil DTE 10 Excel can provide up to a 6percent improvement in hydraulic system efficiency and three-fold increase in oil drain intervals.

Energy Efficiency of Mobil DTE 10 Excel relates to the fluid performance when compared to ExxonMobil’s standard hydraulic fluids. The technology used allows up to six per cent increase in hydraulic pump efficiency compared to Mobil DTE 20 series when tested in standard hydraulic applications under controlled conditions. The energy efficiency claim for this product is based on test results on the use of the fluid conducted in accordance with all applicable industry standards and protocols.

The latest addition to the Mobil SHC brand of high-performance synthetic lubricants, Mobil SHC Gear oils, are formulated to deliver a number of advantages over conventional gear oil chemistries. For example, the range’s high oxidation resistance of Mobile SHC gear oils enables extended oil life up to six times compared with standard mineral gear and bearing lubricants, especially when operating at elevated operating temperatures.

The new Mobil SHC Gear lubricants also offer valuable energy efficiency benefits across a wide range of industrial gearbox applications. In statistically validated laboratory tests and field trials, Mobil SHC Gear fluids exhibited energy savings of up to 3.6 per cent compared with conventional oils. Energy efficiency relates solely to the fluid performance when compared with conventional reference oils of the same viscosity grade in gear applications. The technology used allows up to 3.6percent efficiency compared with the reference when tested in a worm gearbox under controlled conditions. Efficiency improvements will vary based on operating conditions and application.

Mobil SHC Gear lubricants are approved by Siemens for use in Flender gearboxes and meet or exceed nearly every other major industry and OEM specification for industrial gearbox applications However, in order to help maximise the productivity of machinery and reduce costs, ExxonMobil suggests to operators the value of incorporating an oil and equipment condition monitoring programme alongside the use of high quality lubricants.

The oil analysis should include a measurement of fluid viscosity, water content, particle count and dissolved metals to determine how well the system is operating. Examining changes in the oil analysis data over time, also known as ‘trending’, is necessary to assess the condition of the lubricant. By trending oil analysis data it is possible to proactively address undesirable conditions before they become problems, which is crucial given the huge potential downtime costs associated with an rig being offline for any period of time.

For equipment maintenance professionals who want an effective oil analysis monitoring programme, there is ExxonMobil’s proprietary online Signum oil analysis programme. Signum oil analysis offers engineers immediate access and direct control of their lubricant sampling programme.

Beyond oil analysis, visual system inspections should be conducted regularly to check and document the condition of systems.  Inspection data can be used to establish the optimum time to perform maintenance on critical components such as filters, valves, hoses and pumps. Comprehensive leak detection should also be performed, especially if excessive oil usage is noted during a routine system inspection.

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Akram Reda, Industrial Marketing, Europe, Africa & Middle East, ExxonMobil Lubricants and Specialties, Brussels, Belgium. or

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