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Energy Efficiency With Lubrication

Posted 20th June 2018

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When it comes to improving the energy efficiency of operations, plant managers turn to many of the same low-hanging opportunities, such as lighting or HVAC.

While these are certainly easy areas to address, some operators overlook another option that can have an even larger impact on total energy use – lubrication.

Lubrication can do a lot more than just keep parts clean and protected against wear, corrosion and contamination. In fact, using an advanced lubricant can help improve a machine’s mechanical efficiency by reducing friction at moving surfaces and reducing fluid losses from oil churn and pumping.

This is an important benefit because, in many industries, process equipment accounts for a significant percentage of an operation’s total energy consumption. Reducing equipment energy consumption by even a couple of percentage points can add up quickly when accounting for the entire system.

As an industrial operator, what are some things you can you do to take advantage of lubrication for energy savings?

 

Here are three basic steps you can take to help you get a head start:

 

1. Properly evaluate and measure the lubrication-related energy savings opportunity.

Before switching to a new lubricant, you should assess the scope of the energy savings opportunity. Energy savings can be defined in two ways – using less energy to do the same work or consuming the same amount of energy to do more work. For example, in a plastics operation, energy use may be assessed either by measuring the Δ kWh consumed for producing a set number of plastic bottles or by measuring the number of plastic bottles produced per kWh used.

With that in mind, evaluating and measuring the savings opportunity starts with determining the energy savings goals. Is the goal to reduce energy consumption or to increase production output for the same energy input?

To determine how to enhance equipment performance to reach those energy savings goals, you should collect as much information as they can about the target application, including historical performance data and typical operating conditions. Next, you want to define the relevant energy efficiency and production rate measurements, as well as the duration of the measurement campaign.

When defining measurements, you should consider key indicators (such as the energy consumed by the application and the production output of the application) as well as any other factors that may influence the energy efficiency of the equipment (such as operating temperature). You’ll also want to define the duration of the measurement campaign to ensure it provides you with the insights you need. You must establish a long enough measurement period to properly assess if the potential energy savings are being realized.

You should then develop a formal protocol to evaluate the opportunity, using the measurement parameters defined in the previous step. Often, you can work with your lubricant supplier to build the protocol – either using their preferred approach or leveraging their application expertise to build a protocol tailored for your operation. Once the measurement campaign is complete, it’s critical to formally document the results to help you assess if the new lubricant can help you achieve your energy savings goals.

 

2. Look for high performance lubricants that offer energy efficiency benefits.

Not all advanced lubricants offer efficient energy savings, so operators should work closely with their lubricant suppliers to identify the right lubricant technologies.

There are typically at least one or two technologies available for many of the most energy intensive applications.

For example, electric motors consume an enormous amount of energy, accounting for approximately 40 percent of total global energy consumption today. Switching the grease used to lubricate the bearings in these motors can have a much bigger impact than it may seem. 

That may not seem like a lot, thousands can be saved for a plant 100 electric motors.

Hydraulic oils – used across a range of industries – are another energy efficiency opportunity.

One plastics manufacturer in Wisconsin recently reduced the energy consumption of one of its plastic injection molding machines by 3.3 percent. As a result of that study, the specific hydraulic oil technology was verified as an energy efficient technology by Wisconsin’s statewide energy efficiency program, the first lubricant to receive that accolade.

 

3. It’s not a “set it and forget it” approach continuous monitoring is key.

Even after you’ve measured the savings opportunity and selected the right lubricant technology, sustaining term performance demands continuous lubricant monitoring.

Used oil analysis is a critical tool. It can identify the presence of wear metals and other contaminants while also flagging any concerning changes in key performance parameters such as increased viscosity, which may cause energy efficiency. By implementing a regular, consistent UOA program, you can address most lubrication issues before they become a problem, keeping your lubricants running strong and helping you optimize equipment efficiency.

One of the best lubrication systems for saving energy is the LUBE LHL System.

Benefits of the LHL system include: 

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