"We are planning an effective lubrication program for a 12,900-tons-per-day cement plant. Can you offer some advice on contamination and best practices for handling and transit storage?"
In the cement industry, 12,000 tons per day is quite impressive. Considering the process it takes to make cement, there is dust everywhere. Of course, contamination isn’t just dust. It can also come in other forms such as air, water, heat and antifreeze, just to name a few.
Contamination is typically the leading cause of bearing failure, but in the cement industry, this is magnified even more. It is important to understand why dust particles, especially clinker dust, can be so destructive to your equipment.
Consider the Mohs hardness scale.
As seen in the image above, silica dust is just as hard as and at times harder than the bearing metal. This is why it is imperative to keep out particles. Where possible, put in dust boots, remove dipsticks and install sight glasses. For refilling, use quick connects or sealable and reusable (S&R) containers. You should also fit appropriately sized breathers to your equipment. All of this is essential to keep the dust in the environment from getting into the system.
As for storage and handling, fluid contamination control targets the primary cause of wear and lubricant failure, forming the central strategy of a proactive maintenance program. New lubricants are not clean and should be analyzed to determine how dirty they are. Cleanliness targets should be determined for all of the selected lubricants and filters with the proper micron size, beta ratio and filter media.
There are numerous types of units that can provide adequate storage. Choose those that have dedicated level gauges, breathers, filters, pumps and quick connects for dispensing. These units offer the best opportunity for properly cleaning your lubricants to the desired cleanliness target.
Keep in mind that this process must be proactive. While there are many methods available to help develop a world-class lube program, it should always begin in the lube room. It is not by chance that properly stored and cleaned lubricants result in better equipment reliability.
When it becomes necessary to transfer the lubricant, use transfer carts with filters and quick connects. Quick connects are considered best practice because they eliminate particle ingression. Avoid funnels if at all possible.
Remember, education is critical in creating a well-developed lube program.