The Savannah River Site is located in the southeastern coastal area of the United States. Located in South Carolina, it is bordered to the west by the Savannah River. As a U.S. government Department of Energy facility, it provides safe management of nuclear materials and the environment.
The Site Utilities Department (SUD) is a department within Solid Waste and Infrastructure that is within the Operations business unit of the Savannah River Site. The oil lab, in the SUD, routinely samples and tests new oil for cleanliness. Generally speaking, new oil is considered clean if fewer than 100 particles per milliliter are found (approximately ISO 19/16/13).
In September 2003, two 55-gallon drums of R&O 68 on different orders were received in the SUD oil lab. One of the drums of oil was in use from September 2003 to May 2004. This drum was tested when opened and found to be clean. In May 2004, the other new 55-gallon drum of R&O 68 was opened and tested. It was found to be highly contaminated with ferrous particles (Figure 1).
Although the drum had been received in September 2003, it was stored indoors and remained unopened until the following May. Because of the immediate need for the R&O 68 in the field, the contaminated drum of oil was filtered to remove the ferrous contaminants.
The procurement department followed up to determine how many more drums of the R&O 68 had been ordered. It found that between February 2003 and May 2004, eight 55-gallon drums of the R&O 68 had been received on five different orders. Users across the site were contacted to determine if any of the other drums were still in use. Five of the eight drums had been used. Of the remaining drums, SUD had one drum in use that had been filtered, and requisitioned another drum to keep on hand.
The newly requisitioned drum received in May 2004 tested clean. The third 55-gallon drum of the R&O 68 was found in the Effluent Treatment Facility (ETF), another facility at the site. The ETF drum was received in October 2003 and was still in use. A sample of oil from the ETF 55-gallon drum was tested.
Although the drum was protected from rain by a clam shell, the oil tested highly contaminated with water and particulate (Figure 2). ETF maintenance personnel replaced the contaminated drum of oil and changed the oil in the equipment where it had been used.
These findings have raised concern over the cleanliness of the drummed oil received at the site. Contaminated oil, such as that found above, can interfere with machine lubrication properties and cause premature wear of components. Although SUD has established the practice of testing new oil, the practice is not common across the site.
Because of these findings, procurement departments are working to establish expected oil cleanliness levels from the suppliers. Such efforts could result in revisions to the oil procurement specifications to help prevent contaminated oil from being delivered to the site and provide a basis for returning oil that does not meet cleanliness specifications.