Martine Jagger assesses how the right lubricant can lead to increased energy savings
With a worldwide usage of 100 million terajoules annually to overcome friction, it is fair to say that friction is the biggest enemy of efficiency. In the automotive industry, where the use of mineral oil is now obsolete, it is now possible to achieve incredible efficiency by using smaller engines without sacrificing performance. But what about other industrial applications; can a lubricant really influence the efficiency and performance of any type of machinery?
The chemical and petrochemical industries are the largest consumer of energy amongst all the industrial sectors, representing a little over 10% of the global energy demand. By including petrochemicals and all its other sub-segments, the chemical industry is one of the top greenhouse gases (GHG) emission-intensive sectors, accounting for approximately 20% of the total industrial GHG emissions. Despite being the largest consumer of both energy and fossil fuels, the chemical industry is constantly seeking new innovative solutions to improve operations and reduce the sector’s impact on the environment. This makes the chemical industry the perfect sector to prove that speciality lubricants and meticulous monitoring can result in considerable improvements in energy efficiency.
Klüber Lubrication understands the challenges and objectives of the chemical industry and offers many products and solutions to help customers achieve their sustainability and energy saving goals.
Reducing compressor energy consumption
Compressors can be found in almost every chemical and petrochemical plant. Air compressors, gas compressors and refrigeration compressors are active parts of many chemical processes, and usually operate under severe conditions. The choice of lubricant therefore has a direct impact on the reliability and the efficiency of compressors. Using the wrong lubricant in a compressor can cause poor efficiency at the very least and at worst, catastrophic failure. With gas compressors, the situation is even more critical as compressor oils can react with process gases or attack downstream catalysts causing production issues.
The use of mineral oils in industrial compressor applications is now obsolete as mineral oil is well known for its poor viscosity versus temperature behaviour and low resistance to oxidation. Mineral oil-based lubricants also have the tendency to quickly degrade in new technology and high output compressors. This degradation of mineral oil will most likely generate varnish and sludge, affecting the equipment efficiency.
Whatever the compressor type, Klüber Lubrication has a full range of Klüber Summit compressor oils to match. In Brazil, one of the company’s chemical industry customers achieved 4% energy savings on three 350KW Centac air compressors just by switching from a competitor mineral oil to the fully synthetic Klüber Summit Supra 32. That translated to over US$12,000 savings per year for each compressor.
Reducing energy consumption in gearboxes
Gearboxes are key components in many types of machinery. The chemical industry uses gearboxes on reactor agitators, mixers, extruders, conveyors, grinding mills, centrifuges, cooling towers, bucket elevators, rotary driers/coolers and other rotating equipment.
Gearboxes are designed to transfer power from an electric motor to equipment in motion, and lubrication can directly influence efficiency. Some gear oils are more energy efficient than others due to their special chemistry and their lower coefficient of friction. Polyglycol- (PAG) based lubricants, such as the Klübersynth GH 6 product family, are well known for offering the best energy efficiency, longest service life and the highest wear protection.
After converting extruder gearboxes from a mineral oil to Klubersynth GH 6-320 gear oil, a tyre manufacturing plant was able to shorten the time between production batches as the processing improvements made allowed the rubber material to warm up faster in the equipment, resulting in increased productivity. Klüber Lubrication has also proven that gearboxes mounted on cooling towers in a petrochemical complex can have their efficiency increased between 5.6 to 6.6% when converted from a conventional mineral oil to Klübersynth GH 6 series.
Keeping equipment clean maintains efficiency
Carbon deposits, sludge and varnish are the worst enemies of efficiency in the chemical industry. Many chemical companies still use mineral oils in most of their heavy-duty applications and in extreme conditions, which pushes mineral oils to their performance and service life limits, leading to varnish and carbon build-up in the entire equipment or circulation system. These sticky residues will cause higher energy consumption, stuck valves, overheating, clogged oil lines and filters and increased downtime due to maintenance.
Klüber Summit Varnasolv is a concentrated conditioner fluid that acts like a detergent/dispersant to dissolve varnish and carbon deposits during operation with no dismantling needed. It is miscible with mineral oils, synthetic hydrocarbons, ester oils and polyglycols and has been specifically designed for cleaning screw-type compressors, hydraulic systems, gearboxes, and other oil circulating systems like heat transfer systems.
By choosing high-quality synthetic gear oils the chemical industry can save energy and reduce operating costs through reduced maintenance, longer oil change intervals and less wear.
Martine Jagger is with Klüber Lubrication