Lubrication Program Yields Fewer Machine Failures for Sinclair's McNees

Noria Corporation

Name: Jon McNees

Age: 26

Title: Maintenance Engineer

Length of Service: 2 years

Company: Sinclair Wyoming Refining Co.

Location: Sinclair, Wyo.

In just two short years as the maintenance engineer for the Sinclair Wyoming Refining Co., Jon McNees has seen significant changes at his refinery. Previously, Sinclair struggled to keep machinery running. There were equipment failures on a daily basis. When a vibration program was implemented, the failures decreased dramatically, as issues were discovered before a failure occurred. However, McNees and the refinery wanted to get to the root of the problem to further reduce failures, not just detect them at an early stage. The implementation of a lubrication program solved many of the issues that were causing the equipment failures. Now machinery runs longer, failures happen less frequently and the root causes are fixed before they become bigger problems.

Q: How did you get your start in machinery lubrication?

A: I started working in machinery lubrication about six months into this position. I was asked by my supervisor, the maintenance manager, to start investigating our lubrication failures and how we could improve our lube oils. We were having a lot of machinery failures, and we needed a solution.

Q: What types of training have you taken to get you to your current position? 

A: I graduated from the University of Wyoming with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. While employed with Sinclair, I attended machinery lubrication and oil analysis courses provided by Noria Corporation. I have also had training in vibration analysis, gear technology and maintenance, steam turbine maintenance, and safe bolting principles. 

Q: What professional certifications have you attained?

A: I am certified as a Level I Machine Lubrication Technician, Level I Machine Lubricant Analyst, Category II Vibration Analyst, Level I Reciprocating Compressor Analyst and Certified SolidWorks Associate. I also have achieved certification in safe bolting principles and practices and in reliability-centered maintenance.

Q: Are you planning to obtain additional training or achieve higher certifications? 

A: I plan on achieving the highest level of certifications in oil analysis, machinery lubrication and vibration analysis. I also plan to work on getting my master’s degree in mechanical engineering in the near future. 

Q: What’s a normal work day like for you?

A: It is normal to have multiple issues or items from day to day. A work day might consist of interpreting oil analysis and submitting work requests to fix and investigate any problems. I also maintain our laboratory information management system for oil analysis and manage lubrication projects such as oil mist installations, sample valve installations, equipment modifications and equipment installations. In addition, I may go out to troubleshoot any lubrication and filtration issues or assist in troubleshooting vibration issues that occur in the plant.

Q: What is the amount and range of equipment that you help service through lubrication/oil analysis tasks? 

A: Through oil analysis, we monitor nearly 120 assets and help in troubleshooting all other equipment in the plant. However, with vibration analysis, we monitor all plant equipment - 2,700 assets - including centrifugal pumps, reciprocating pumps, centrifugal compressors, reciprocating compressors, gearboxes, crushers, drill stems, diesel and gasoline engines, hydraulic systems, steam turbines and electric motors. We also sample all new oil that is delivered to the plant to verify that it is suitable for use. 

Q: On what lubrication-related projects are you currently working? 

A: Currently, I am training all new personnel on our program and making sure the word is spread that lubrication is vital to our refinery’s success. I am also redesigning our oil analysis program at the refinery to make the program more streamlined and to reduce any bottlenecks that exist as well as installing oil mist systems on four different units, which should help increase our reliability and mean time between failures.

Q: What have been some of the biggest project successes in which you’ve played a part? 

A: The most successful project that I have been a part of is the designing and implementation of our lubrication program. We reviewed all of our equipment to make sure the appropriate oil is used in each piece of machinery. We also examined our warehousing to verify appropriate inventory levels of lubricants and lubricating equipment. The first quarter after implementation we cut back our oil usage by 20,000 gallons. So far, this program has been extremely beneficial to the refinery, both monetarily and through increased reliability. 

Q: How does your company view machinery lubrication in terms of importance and overall business strategy? 

A: Sinclair has moved machinery lubrication to a top priority. After witnessing the savings that can accrue with a lubrication program and the increase in reliability, both refinery management and corporate management view this program as part of its regular operation.

Q: What do you see as some of the more important trends taking place in the lubrication and oil analysis field?

A: Oil handling and warehousing have made major strides in the few short years that I have been involved in this industry. I think equipment accessories have improved the most in the last year. Moving from the old oilers to level monitors and 3-D bull’s-eyes is making condition monitoring easier for operators and technicians.

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