Rotating equipment in process plants tends to be the Achilles heel for overall reliability. Much time has been spent on this subject and many strategies have been employed. At a basic level, as long as the equipment is well lubricated, it will last a long time. Unfortunately, many process plants to not have a good handle on their lubrication system or strategies.
First and foremost, it is important to select a lubrication that is both appropriate for the application and compatible with the process. As with instrumentation, there are tiers of lubrications for every application. Naturally, the more critical the application the greater the quality of lubricant required.
Keeping your lubrication clean and dry is of paramount importance. There are a number of manufacturers that provide both particulate and liquid filtration and separation solutions. Generally, particulate filters are installed on every system, whether it be inline or a kidney loop. More critical applications will require higher a ISO level which is achieved with a finer grade of filter. Both portable and fixed dryers are available to remove any free and dissolved liquids as they are just as detrimental to the equipment as particulate.
It is also important to keep you lubricant level up. If you run out of lubricant, it doesn’t matter how clean it is. Depending on the size of the reservoir and the critical nature of the application, either point or level measurements should be made. A low level switch will alert the operators that more lubricant is required. When the light comes on, it’s time to add oil.
However, a continuous level measurement will add to the overall reliability strategy. By monitoring the level the refilling of the reservoir can be predicted and scheduled. Continuos level can also provide a diagnostic tool. If the level is trended, an increase or decrease the rate of level change can signal a problem in the process.
There are a whole host of manufacturers that offer both both point and continuous level solutions. It is important to keep in mind the application and how critical it is to overall plant performance and reliability when selecting a level technology. Thought should be given to all applications so that the correct reliability strategy is employed.
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