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As machine reliability strategies evolve, the transition from reactive to preventive maintenance has emerged as a critical step for organizations seeking to enhance efficiency and minimize costly downtime. Amidst this paradigm shift, SKF RecondOil has developed a technology that is revolutionizing the way industries look at oil cleanliness and equipment maintenance. I had a chance to sit down with RecondOil Business Development Manager, Jade Thompson, to shed light on this technology’s potential to reshape maintenance strategies and introduce a new era of proactive asset management. In her experience, RecondOil has played a significant role in helping organizations go from a break-fix mindset to a proactive, cost-effective, and sustainable preventive maintenance program.
Q: What is SKF RecondOil, and how does it differ from traditional oil filtration?
A: SKF RecondOil was developed with the intention of improving both reliability and sustainability through circular use of lubricants. To achieve this goal, 3 challenges needed to be addressed: contamination, degradation and additive depletion.
The use of a cellulose-based mechanical filter allows for efficient and effective removal of all types of contamination 1um and above. We can even remove particles smaller than 1um via adsorption down to 0,1 micron, due to the large surface area of our filter inserts. Our inserts have a huge 5kg dirt holding capacity which not only increases reliability by reducing the need to expose the system to the external environment, but also has a positive impact on carbon footprint! Less miles are travelled delivering filter inserts, less packaging is produced to house the inserts and less trips are made to the assets to change the filters.
To address oil degradation, we must not only remove degradation byproducts but prevent degradation from occurring. SKF's DST (Double Separation Technology) works by accumulating particles smaller than 0.1um into larger particles allowing them to be entrapped within the physical filter media. Until now, there has been no way of removing these particles via mechanical filtration without removing vital additives and possibly shearing the lubricant. These nanoparticles are huge catalysts for both degradation and additive depletion. The effective removal of these nanoparticles allows us to drastically reduce the potential for degradation within the lubricant. Removing the potential for failure in a lubricant improves the reliability of the lubricant and asset substantially while improving sustainability, conserving energy, and performing less oil changes.
Additive depletion is inevitable; however, by incorporating SKF's DST lubricants, we can top up the additives in the lubricant while maintaining circular use of the base oil. We are working alongside major lubricant manufacturers to hopefully replicate this across other lubricant brands. This means we are only delivering the additives to site—no waste removal, no oil deliveries, less packaging, less manufacturing! We are circular, and your carbon footprint is sure to thank you!
Q: What lubrication-related issues can RecondOil address?
A:The only lubrication-related issue RecondOil cannot cure is incorrect lubrication or mixed lubricants; however, having a RecondOil Box and service prevents these issues. Using the RecondOil solutions combined with our "Oil as a Service" packages gives you circular use of lubricants with maintenance of the lubricant handed over to SKF. SKF RecondOil engineers will ensure the correct lubricants are used with the highest handling standards, and oils, additives and filter inserts will only be changed or topped up when required.
Oxidative and thermal degradation are the most devastating of the lubricant failures and the ones most difficult to control. Particles of all sizes within the lubricant disrupt flow and cause increased temperatures, air entrainment and additive depletion. By removing general contaminants and the nanoparticles from the lubricant with the RecondOil Box, we are reducing the likelihood of degradation by reducing the amount of heat, oxygen entrainment, debris and wear debris.
Q:What happens when oxidation occurs in oil, and how does it affect machinery?
A:Oxidation is a chemical reaction caused by the presence of high temperatures, oxygen and wear metals. The oxidation cycle leads to catastrophic byproducts such as sludge, varnish, acids and water. These can be easily removed by the RecondOil Box, however, we much prefer to prevent degradation from occurring and causing permanent damage to your machinery and lubricants.
If the additives present cannot neutralize the chemical reactions, the physical and chemical characteristics of the lubricant are altered permanently during oxidation. The viscosity of the lubricant will increase significantly, temperatures will correlate, and additives will either be denatured or depleted during the process. This leaves us with a vulnerable system of components which now have a much thicker lubricant running through them with little to no anti wear additives to protect them. Sludge and varnish residues will adhere to the component surfaces around the system reducing the components capacity to function. Acid and water byproducts will corrode the metal surfaces within the system.
Components such as bearings, gears, and pistons will be enduring metal on metal contact due to insufficient lubrication, creating the perfect environment for cutting, abrasive and adhesive wear. The larger and harder wear debris generated from these wear modes will lead to erosion in circulating systems causing more debris to be generated and weakening the pipework and components within the circulating system. Valves will "stick" due to the increase in viscosity and varnish deposits leading to operational issues and potential catastrophic failure.
Q: What are some of the wear modes associated with contamination that RecondOil can help prevent?
A:Water contamination reduces the lubricant’s ability to lubricate by reducing its load bearing capacity. Water also has a corrosive effect on metal surfaces within machinery which generates small rust particles which breakaway and circulate the system leading to abrasive wear. This leads to wear and degradation both of which we can prevent with the use of SKF's RecondOil technology.The RecondOil Box can remove up to 3 liters of water per filter insert.
Debris within a lubricant can lead to component wear, additive depletion and increased temperatures. Abrasive wear causes fragments of the metal surfaces to break away leading to cutting wear which produces much larger metal particles and more catastrophic damage to critical components such as bearings. The increased surface area of metal within the system also leads to inefficient additive consumption and can contribute to increased temperatures. The 5kg dirt holding capacity of the RecondOil Box ensures debris down to 0.1um is removed without having to frequently change filter inserts.
Q:SKF RecondOil offers two methods for oil regeneration—continuous and batch/periodic. What is the difference between the two and how do you know which is best for you?
A: The SKF RecondOil Box is an offline system which allows for continuous regeneration of lubricants in use. The RecondOil Box can be retrofitted to any system for permanent installation to ensure your circular lubrication goals are maintained. Every element of the RecondOil Box can be tailored including power source, digital displays, online sensors, and even the filter insert. We have DST and non-DST inserts to ensure we cater for all situations and applications. The RecondOil Box method can be used in any situation, however, it is important to understand this is an ongoing offline treatment which initially takes time to process and regenerate the lubricant in the system, especially with large systems such as a gas turbine! If your lubricant is already in poor condition, we would recommend either changing the lubricant before we start or using one of SKFs RecondOil batch treatment processes.
SKF's RecondOil batch treatments are upscaled systems which are designed to treat lubricant systems as a whole. The oil is completely drained from your system and sent to one of our 4 processing plants around the globe. The oil is then treated, tested before and after and sent back to the plant to be readministered into your circulating system. This option is ideal for large quantities of oil in poor condition but with additive levels still functional, customers needing a quick turnaround on large quantities of oil, or pretreatment before the RecondOil Box is fitted. The treatment of the entire volume of oil is much quicker with the batch treatment, however not maintained once returned to the system.
Q: RecondOil can be a large part of a preventive maintenance program. What advice would you give to a team transitioning from a reactive approach to a preventive approach to maintenance?
A:Taking the leap from Reactive to Preventative maintenance is scary! It requires investment, time, skills, technology and products! Time being the most scarce and sensitive as we must keep the site running while we deploy our new maintenance strategy.
My first piece of advice would be to ensure there is a thorough plan set out for the whole site and all the departments concerned before you make the transition. Usually tackling one system or area at a time leads to failure, the time set out for the PM tasks is usually overridden by the need for continuous reactive maintenance in other areas.
Preventative maintenance doesn’t mean we cannot use data to drive our decisions. Utilizing operational and condition-based data to determine the intervals for preventative maintenance tasks ensures success and efficiency, and by using data to ensure optimized maintenance, it gives you time back, improves reliability and can reduce your carbon footprint.
Training and skills are vital in the success of any maintenance program, as is culture. Use training and skill development to get the buy in from your maintenance staff to ensure everyone is onboard with the mission and the tasks are delivered to the best standards.
SKF RecondOil offers a powerful solution to the age-old challenge of shifting from reactive to preventive maintenance. As industries continue to recognize the substantial benefits of proactive asset care, SKF RecondOil's ability to maintain and reuse lubricants cannot be overstated. With this technology at their disposal, organizations can not only improve their bottom lines but also contribute to a more sustainable future. Learn more at https://www.skf.com/group/services/recondoil.