Testing New Gear Oil

Matt Spurlock, Noria Corporation
Tags: gear lubrication

A look back in history can illustrate how oil discovery, use and technology have changed over time. From the Chinese digging wells up to 800 feet using bits attached to bamboo poles in 347 A.D. to the 1849 distillation of kerosene that would eventually replace whale oil as an illuminant, to the current process of using computers, horizontal drilling and 3-D seismic data to locate and extract oil, there has been an increase in technology that has literally changed the world.

Time can easily be spent reading the history of oil discovery and production and the methods used in oil refinement. The information that is not readily available is the history of additive usage and formulation change timetables among the different lubricant manufacturers.

Finding ways to identify when changes occur, such as formulation or product replacement, can relieve a large amount of stress involving condition-based oil changes. Sampling new lubricants and tracking their information can help identify both incorrect lubricant deliveries and product replacements.

Table 1. New Reference Oils

Case in Point
A manufacturing facility is dedicated to getting its oil analysis program up and running. It is implementing contamination control measures on all critical equipment and has installed appropriate sample valves on equipment deemed critical enough to monitor via oil analysis. Critical components are being sampled on a 30-day interval while noncritical components are monitored on a quarterly basis or during scheduled lube changes.

Aware of the need to monitor incoming oils, the plant also established a documented new oil sampling procedure. When new drums are delivered, on-site viscosity and particle counting is performed prior to acceptance. In addition, a full sample is sent off to a commercial laboratory for properties testing.

Table 1 shows a five-sample history of new reference oils. All samples are from an EP ISO VG 220 Group I gear oil (GE-220-M-G1-EP).

During a typical delivery of new lubricant, the established sampling procedure was followed. On-site viscosity testing and particle counting were not out of the ordinary; therefore the lubricant was accepted and set aside until the commercial lab results could be reviewed for final product verification prior to use.

Table 2 shows the results of the two drums tested. As can be seen, there was reason for alarm. The additive values were significantly different than the historical samples of this new lubricant. Additionally, the acid number implied a problem with the original lubricant.

Table 2. New Oils Table

Because office personnel do not have direct access to the lubricant tested, a comparison to sample data from other lubricants used on-site was made to see if a mix-up could have been made in labeling.

Table 3 shows data from two other types of ISO VG 220 lubricants; neither of which matches the results from the two new drums of oil. As can be seen in Table 3, these are samples from synthetic gear oils, one with an EP additized oil and the other consisting of AW additives.

Table 3. Synthetic Gear Oils

Finding Answers
Performing a visual check on the oil drum revealed a partial answer. The lubricant was in fact a different product than what was believed to have been ordered. The product name was similar to the original, which explains the oversight during the initial delivery. After conducting the appropriate phone calls and research, it was determined that the product delivered was indeed the new product line from the lube manufacturer. Luckily, the new lubricant is compatible with the previously used lubricant and the product is now part of the lubricant list with the appropriate lubricant identification designator assigned.

From an evaluation standpoint, the lubrication technicians closely monitored the equipment that received top-ups from this new lubricant. Due to the differences in additives and acid number, it is important to take this information into account when evaluating the time for a complete lubricant change.

This case can speak volumes for the people in charge of the lubrication program for this facility. The days of "oil is oil" are long gone and have been replaced by close attention to results and a drive to "make things right."