Name: Bradley Owen
Job Title: Senior Reliability Technologist
Company: Cameco Corp.
Location: Saskatchewan, Canada
Length of Service: 10 years
Nearly four years ago, the Cameco Corporation’s Cigar Lake uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan, Canada, performed an audit on its lubrication program. At the time, the program was almost non-existent, with lubricants stored outside, no follow-up on oil sample results, equipment not labelled and many other issues. Initially, one of the mine’s mechanics was put in charge of starting and running the lube program. After he was promoted to supervisor, Bradley Owen took over the program and continued to build on the groundwork that had been laid. During the past three years, Owen has seen firsthand the tremendous financial benefits that can come from implementing and maintaining an effective lubrication program.
Q: What types of training have you taken to get to your current position?
A: I have taken courses on basic and advanced lubrication and condition monitoring, as well as participated in webinars on various topics. Our lubricant supplier and oil analysis lab also offer training and information sessions that I have attended. I also try to attend at least one lubrication or reliability conference each year.
Q: Are you planning to obtain additional training or achieve higher certifications?
A: A person must always continuously train to stay current and aware of new developments in industry. There is a huge body of knowledge out there and so much to learn. My next target is to achieve a Level II Machine Lubricant Analyst (MLA II) certification through the International Council for Machinery Lubrication (ICML) and follow that up with the MLA III.
Q: What’s a normal work day like for you?
A: We are a remote mine site, so I spend one week at the site, followed by a week off at home. While onsite, we work 11-hour days. A normal day consists of analyzing results from the previous samples, entering follow-up work notifications where required and preparing the next batch of samples to go out to our contract lab. I also review new equipment to ensure we have lubricant onsite that will meet the specifications required and spend time with the lube technicians in the field discussing areas that need improvement.
Q: What is the amount and range of equipment that you help service through lubrication/oil analysis tasks?
A: We have a massive variety of equipment onsite. Our surface mobile equipment fleet consists of graders, semi-tractors, loaders, excavators, cranes and man-lifts. Underground we have scoops, drills, bolters, header machines and skid steers.
Our mining process equipment includes numerous gearboxes and a huge variety of pumps. Our ore is moved as a slurry and pumped through our processing circuit. We have pumps that generate up to 15,000 pounds per square inch of pressure and others that can pump slurry 500 meters to the surface. Our mining process also requires us to freeze our ore body, so we have a fleet of 10 ammonia freeze compressors, which we closely monitor. Last year, I sent out and reviewed results from more than 900 samples.
Q: On what lubrication-related projects are you currently working?
A: Cameco has four operations in northern Saskatchewan that have operated fairly independently from each other. As this is changing, I will be working with our other sites to standardize our lubrication programs. I am continuously looking for opportunities to standardize products and reduce inventory, as well as working with our inventory review team to optimize lubricant stocking levels.
Q: What have been some of the biggest project successes in which you’ve played a part?
A: We were stocking multiple grades and formulations of hydraulic oil. I was able to reduce six products down to two, which allowed for more efficient ordering and storage as well as less confusion in the field. Our lube supplier was not offering our selected oil in bulk totes, only drums. With the increase in consumption, I was able to get the supplier to deliver in totes, eliminating a large number of empty drums onsite.
In addition, our freeze compressors each hold 600 liters of oil. As the compressors were installed in phases by various contractors, we ended up using three different types of oil, even though the compressors were the same. I standardized this to one type of oil across all units, eliminating oil mixing and maximizing our purchasing and inventory settings.
Q: How does your organization view machinery lubrication in terms of importance and overall business strategy?
A: It is very important. Cigar Lake has been very proactive in making the recommended improvements to the lube program. More importantly, our management team is aware of the work we do and its effect on equipment reliability. As we work toward becoming more condition-based rather than time-based with our maintenance work, the lubrication program will be critical.
Q: What do you see as some of the more important trends taking place in the lubrication and oil analysis field?
A: Technology and skilled, certified workers are becoming more important. We have trained and certified lubrication technicians in the field performing the tasks. A person needs to be trained and willing to learn skills like ultrasonic greasing and proper techniques for oil sampling. An “oiler” or “greaser” is no longer a valid description of this role.
Q: What has made your company decide to put more emphasis on machinery lubrication?
A: With Cigar Lake being a remote site, everything must be trucked to and from the site. With our lubrication program, we have been able to reduce inventory and decrease the volume of waste oil, lessening our environmental impact. In terms of equipment reliability, lubrication is the No. 1 cause of failures. If you do lubrication correctly, your assets will run reliably for a long time.