The presence of contaminants such as water and particulates can badly affect the ability of lubricants to prevent wear. When the size of particles exceeds the running clearances between sliding surfaces, the wear rate increases rapidly. Particulates, therefore, is one of the reasons the service life of your lubricated equipment doesn’t meet the expectations. The term oil cleanliness is directly linked to the amount and size of particulate contamination present in a hydraulic or lubricating fluid.

The environment also plays a critical role in lubrication processes; the effect of particulate contamination varies with the lubrication environment and the type of system. For instance, clean fluid is absolutely critical for hydraulic systems to ensure smooth and durable operations. Industrial machines equipped with rolling element bearings are sensitive to factors that can contaminate the lubricants. Lubricant cleanliness can help you achieve extended machine life.

Types of contaminants

While some particulate can have a devastating effect on the equipment, there are other contaminants which lead to premature machine wear and oil degradation. Process fluids, water, and coolants are some of the non-particulate. Water, when combined with copper particles and iron, can cause significant damage.

How clean is your new oil?

From turbine oils and hydraulic fluids and bearing oils, new oils delivered to customers offer different degrees of cleanliness. Taking into account the relevant ISO codes, new oils delivered in drums are cleaner than that of bulk-delivered. While poor oil storage practices can add more contaminants to new oil, poor handling is another common source of new oil contamination.

Have you ever analyzed the way new oil is handled and stored in your facility? If you think oil handling and storage are trivial matters, think again. It has been reported several times that new oils are often the dirtiest. Having proper oil filtration systems in place is an advisable practice that will help you extend equipment life.

How clean does your oil needs to be?

How clean your oil should be depends largely on the nature of your machines. Each machine installed in your facility should be evaluated for oil cleanliness levels. Aeroderivative gas turbines and electro-hydraulic control systems are some of the industrial equipment that needs extremely clean oil to perform at an optimum level and achieve long service life. Most facilities use filteration systems designed to remove as small as 3 µm to 7 µm for sensitive applications.

For hydraulic systems, you should adjust your targets at cleaner levels for a higher system operating pressure. There are some base lubricating oil cleanliness targets which can be used for common machine elements. As you learn how your equipment reacts to cleaner lubricants, you can make adjustments based on your observation.

Filtration, handling, and storage procedures are some of the important areas which need to be paid due attention. Start with establishing a baseline by measuring and evaluating your current cleanliness levels so that you can make comparisons. Talk to Micro Lube to learn more about oil cleanliness and tools ideal for your machines.