Get the Most Value from Your Program: Advanced Testing

Oil Analysis: The First Question

The first question of any new, or redefined oil analysis program should be, what do I want to achieve from the program? The answer to this question will determine how the program is managed, and more importantly, what testing will be performed on the samples. All samples will receive an element of three groups of testing:

  1. Wear metal assessment
  2. Contamination
  3. Fluid properties

But the depth of testing in these three groups can change, depending on what you want to achieve.

1. Wear Metals

Every oil sample tested will receive an evaluation of wear metals and elements, this is taken as standard in the industry. But the number and type of tests performed in addition to this determine what level of testing is performed, and therefore what level of information you will receive on a sample report. Many companies will go with testing the minimum, so the price per sample is lower.

Does basic testing add significant value to a program or improve reliability?

An example of this could be testing a diesel engine oil without including a base number. This means a true evaluation of the optimum oil drain interval is not possible. Another example would be testing a hydraulic oil with performing an ISO code & particle count so that the laboratory cannot assess the true cleanliness of the fluid. Both of these examples could be considered vital tests in terms of improving reliability and reducing maintenance costs, but are not always included in some basic testing programs.

2. Contamination

More importantly, monitoring and reporting actual accurate levels of contaminants present within oil samples is critical because the amount and type of contaminant present will pose a different set of problems at different levels as shown in Tables 1 and 2  below (related to acceptable levels of water contamination in oils). The majority of OEMs provide guidelines for various contaminants and acceptable levels for contamination for their specific systems. Below are a few examples of results of water contamination results and findings from standard testing compared to advanced testing methods.

  • Diesel Fuel Dilution
    • Stating that diesel fuel dilution is present in engine oil by a simple Flash Point or FTIR evaluation is not an effective method for determining contamination. Diesel dilution condemning limits stated by OEMs can range from 3% to over 5% and therefore an accurate amount of the contaminants present via Gas Chromatography in the oil (diesel in this case) is also now a pre-requisite when looking to monitor contamination levels in samples.
  • Water Contamination
    • Performing a test on an oil sample using the hot plate test method may not always able to detect the exact amount of water within the sample. An advanced test, such as Karl Fischer, would give you more accurate results, especially the lower levels of water.

Table 1

Water Content Result ReportedMaintenance Action & Decision
Lab 1 resultWater presentCheck unit for source of contamination, but as quantity of contaminant is not known, do I change oil?
Lab 2 resultWater > 0.2%Check unit for source of contamination, but as definitive level of contaminant is not known do I change oil?
Lab 3 resultWater = 0.35%Check unit for source of contamination, but as level is below OEM recommendation of 0.45% no oil change required.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 2

Water Content Result ReportedMaintenance Action & Decision
Lab 1 resultWater presentNo problem reported, continue to monitor as normal
Lab 2 resultWater <0.1%No problem reported, continue to monitor as normal
Lab 3 resultWater = 432ppmCheck unit for source of contamination and change oil as level is above acceptable level of 350ppm for this application.

Is it best practice to simply state that ‘water is present’, or would an accurate result in either percentage of parts per million (ppm) add significant value to maintenance decisions?

In addition, when looking at reporting the samples’ cleanliness levels via ISO code & particle count, what aids the customer more, the simple ISO code, or the code complimented with a full breakdown of the number of particles at each micron size?

ISO CODE
22/19/13
ISO CODE>4 μm>6 μm>10 μm>14 μm>21 μm>38 μm>70 μm>100 μm
22/19/132095936563407322200

3. Fluid Properties

The analysis of a lubricants’ overall condition helps determine the future health of equipment and subsequent oil changes or top-ups that may be required. Every laboratory should offer a wide range of fluid condition analysis services based on the machinery that the oil has been sampled from. These tests are a great barometer for the overall condition of the component and the actual lubricant itself. Performing testing on condition is not only an economically viable option, but it should be considered standard for any oil sample. In today’s cost-conscious climate and increased environmentally concerned conditions, extending lubricant life will help decrease costs and protect the environment from early lubricant disposal.

Including Base Number and Acid Number on an engine oil sample and Acid Number alone on industrial oils paired with the utilization of advanced data analysis and interpretation systems makes it possible to make a judgement on how much further an organization can safely extend an oil drain – if the correct parameters are being monitored and the associated recommendations are being followed. These services are not always included in some basic testing programs – this means you could be missing out on significant savings if these are ignored – both financial and environmental.

Any testing is better than none, but upgrading your samples to a more advanced testing will add significant value, proactively improve reliability and save more equipment.

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Published July 9, 2020

Is Your Grease Headed to Failure?

Many maintenance technicians can tell you the health of their equipment just by the way it sounds and their maintenances and lubrication schedules. However, if you ask about their greased components, most say we grease it either on schedule or when it sounds like it needs it. Unfortunately both of those answers cannot tell you the health of those grease components. Your grease could be headed to failure without giving you any external indication.

Problems with a Grease Schedule

If you grease on a schedule, you could be greasing that unit too much and as you add that grease, you have to ask how much is too much. If you happen to be greasing too much, then you could be over lubricating your bearings which can cause the balls or rollers to slide along the race rather than turning. Then, the grease could actually churn. This churning mechanism could ultimately bleed the base oil from the grease. What will remain to lubricate the bearing is a thickened grease with little or no lubricating elements. Since there is not enough lubricating oil, and there’s excess heat from the churning, the grease would start to harden. The final outcome is bearing failure and equipment downtime.

Waiting to Re-Grease

On the flip-side, if you wait until it sounds like it needs grease before re-greasing, then you have already starved the component and the damage is already done. Putting grease in will only quiet it down but the final outcome is bearing failure and equipment downtime.

Prevent Failure and Downtime

The proper way to prevent greased equipment failure is to monitor the component through regular grease analysis. By monitoring not only the wear but the grease properties, you can truly know how the grease is holding up. Under operation heat, load and external environmental influences can degrade the properties of the lubricant and its ability to provide lubrication of your greased equipment.

Learn more about our grease testing solution here.

 

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Published June 23, 2020

Dangers of ASTM D2896 Base Number Testing

 

ASTM D2896 Base Number

The first concern I have with ASTM D 2896 is a concern of laboratory safety, which I am quite concerned with and most customers are unaware of. Simply put, the safety concerns of ASTM D2896 are considerable. The reagents used for this test are basically some of the most hazardous I have ever encountered in my professional career.

Hazardous Chemicals

The titrant used in ASTM D2896 is Perchloric Acid. This is a very strong acid that is corrosive, an oxidizer and may cause organ damage over prolonged periods of exposure. As an oxidizer, it has been known to cause explosions. One of the solvents used in this test is Chlorobenzene, a chlorinated solvent that is extremely harmful to the environment. In fact, it is so harmful that it is banned in many countries around the world. Suffice it to say, the chemicals used in this test are dangerous to those who perform the test.

Perchloric Acid

On February 20, 1947, a violent explosion rocked the city of Los Angeles, California resulting in the deaths of 17 people and the wrecking of 116 buildings including the complete demolition of the O’Connor Electro-Plating Works, source of the blast. From the mass of information and misinformation, which varied from the early rumors of a powerful new army explosive, prematurely set off, to the decision, almost three weeks later, of the coroner’s jury that the explosion may have resulted from the contamination of a solution of perchloric acid and acetic anhydride with “easily oxidizable materials,” perchloric acid emerged as the nation-wide object of underwriters’ investigations.

 

Right Tests, Right Fluids, Right Equipment, Right Environment

My other concerns are with providing fluid analysis results that use the right tests on the right fluids for the right equipment in the right environment. Tests and test methods could change based on all of those factors, and too many customers request ASTM D2896 to measure an oil’s base number for good, yet misguided, reasons.

Background on Base Number Testing

First, a little bit about base number and how it is measured. The results from a base number test is vitally important to you from a maintenance and reliability aspect. Alkaline elements are added to base oils to react with the weak acids formed during diesel fuel combustion. The alkaline reserve neutralizes the acids and form slightly basic degradation products that are no longer capable of reacting to the weak acids. Eventually the alkaline reserve in the lubricant is depleted to the point where the oil can no longer protect equipment from acid corrosion.

Brief History of ASTM D2896

ASTM D2896 was designed purely to determine alkalinity reserve in new lubricants. I’ll repeat that last bit, as it is the crux of the issue; new lubricants. The test uses Perchloric Acid as a titrant because it reacts quickly and reliably with the large alkalinity reserve in new lubricants. ASTM D2896 then measures the titration product to determine the strength of the alkaline reserve. This method is reliable, which is why it is still used by oil manufacturers and listed on oil spec sheet.

However, perchloric acid is too strong to use when weakly-basic degradation products are present, especially oils used in internal combustion engines. When ASTM D2896 is applied to in-service fluids, the perchloric acid reacts to every basic element available. Instead of measuring the alkaline reserve like we want, it also titrates with the degradation products. This can result in what ASTM refers to as a “falsely exaggerated” or sometimes even “falsely understated”. For these reasons, ASTM says:

“When the base number of the new oil is required as an expression of its manufactured quality, Test Method D2896 is preferred, since it is known to titrate weak bases that this test method (ASTM D4739) may or may not titrate reliably.”

 

ASTM D4739 – A New Method?

The solution required a new method for base number testing in in-service fluids. ASTM D4739 substitutes Hydrochloric Acid as the titrant rather than perchloric acid. Because hydrochloric acid is weaker than perchloric acid, it only reacts to the alkaline reserves and not the slightly-basic degradation products.

 

 

Further, ASTM D2896 can give very poor inflection points or even multiple poor inflection points on in-service lubricants, especially if they are seriously degraded. This makes giving accurate and reliable results challenging at best, and flat out wrong, at worst. To make this scenario even worse, perchloric acid will react with wear metals in the in-service fluids. This will result in more titrant being consumed, giving a higher base number results. This can result in hiding a problem that could be resolved if you knew the real value.

The ASTM methods are pretty clear on this. ASTM D2896 should be used for new lubricants and ASTM D4739 should be used for in-service applications. However, many customers request ASTM D2896 on in-service lubricants. Why is that? I believe the main driver of this is the fresh lubricant specification or certificate of analysis lists ASTM D2896 as the method for base number testing.

ASTM D4739 / ASTM D2896 Scenario

An important part of the discussion is this essential fact- not all the tests performed on a lubricants certificate of analysis are pertinent for condition monitoring of in-service lubricants. Many tests performed on fresh lubricants are designed to prove that all additives have been added to the blend as a quality control test. As a result, if you only request testing based on your certificate of analysis from the manufacturer, you are not getting the right data to make an accurate and reliable maintenance recommendation. Best case scenario, you are paying for testing that gives you no or limited information on the maintenance and reliability of your equipment. Worst case scenario, you could be getting misleading results. This is particularly the case in the ASTM D4739 / ASTM D2896 scenario.

Change to ASTM D4739

As a result, ASTM D4739 is definitely the method of choice for in-service fluids. Do yourself a favor, make the change today and improve the quality of the information you can use to improve your reliability.

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Published July 7, 2020

The Importance of Submitting a Baseline Reference Sample

What is a Baseline Reference Sample?

A baseline reference sample is a sample of new or unused product submitted to the fluid analysis laboratory. Submitting a baseline sample allows you to gain an understanding of the starting values of the product in use. It is important that the baseline sample being submitted has not been introduced into a system as this can introduce variables such as commingling, contamination or degradation. Ideally the sample should be pulled from a verifiable source such as a bulk tank, tote, pail or bottle.

What are the benefits of submitting a Baseline Reference Sample? 

It is important to have an understanding of what the starting values are for your lubricant. Knowing where the base number (BN) and/or acid number (AN), oxidation and nitration values start will provide a more precise prediction of how the used oil sample should be flagged as the lubricant degrades. Likewise, if the additive levels are known then it is easier for the Data Analyst to determine if the lubricant was actually installed in the machine.

What does the laboratory do with my Baseline Reference Sample?

Baseline samples are account specific, meaning they will be used on the account for which they were submitted and appear on used oil sample reports using the same product. When submitting a baseline sample, it is important to correctly fill out the sample paperwork to indicate it is a baseline sample by checking the box labeled “baseline reference”.  Selecting this box will automatically enter baseline sample as the component type.

Being careful to provide the complete product information (manufacturer, product name and viscosity grade) and using a specimen from a known, verified source will ensure the information generated by the laboratory will be useful and reliable for comparison against future used or suspect samples. Once an account has an established baseline reference sample, it is important that used samples with the same product have the product information listed exactly the same as the baseline sample. This will ensure the baseline and the used samples are linked for comparison on your reports.

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Published June 9, 2020

Optimizing Intervals in Energy-Producing Turbines

Wind turbines are playing an increasingly important role in greener energy production. This means it is vital that these units operate at optimum capacity for longer periods. This requires a high level of equipment reliability and, due to the remote locations or access difficulties, all types of maintenance need to be planned at optimum intervals to ensure maximum uptime and reductions in total cost of ownership (TCO).

The operating fluids inside a turbine (lubricating oil in gearboxes and hydraulic systems, fluids used in the cooling systems and the greases used) all play a significant part in optimizing operation of the wind turbine. All of these operating fluids should be monitored closely to determine fluid condition, levels of contamination and measure levels of wear metals generated within each system.

What is also becoming more important is the connectivity and integration of all of these fluid sample results with other measurements and operational readings taken from the turbines. With the importance of planning maintenance at optimum operational intervals and reducing unscheduled downtime, monitoring these sample results within OEM asset management or ERP systems, ensures the whole O&M process is made far more efficient.

Using POLARIS Laboratories® unique DataConnect service, companies can benefit from work orders being automatically generated from critical samples within your own operating system, as well as assessing the sample reports alongside other readings to ensure maximum uptime of the turbines.

Using a global fluid analysis laboratory will also ensure operators benefit from having all of their data in a single silo, again making the process of monitoring and mining sample data more consistent and efficient.

 

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
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Published May 27, 2020

It’s More Than Fluid Analysis

You’ve made the decision to use POLARIS Laboratories® as your trusted fluid analysis provider, a great start to a successful fluid analysis program. Now are using all the features available? POLARIS Laboratories® provides more than fluid analysis. Learn about how our convenient mobile app can help you manage your program in real time.

Real-Time Alerts

Did you know you can monitor your fluid analysis results, receive real-time alerts on high severity reports and submit online data  for your fluid analysis directly from the HORIZON® mobile app?

The HORIZON® mobile app is just another great feature provided by POLARIS Laboratories® to help you manage your fluid analysis program. With customizable settings to receive alerts of the reports that are most vital to the success of your program. Once an alert is received you have the ability to review a summary of the report or with a single click see the full report details.

Submit Your Sample Online

MOBILE SAMPLE SUBMISSION HOW TO VIDEO

The online sample submission capability of the mobile app is a time saver. Your mechanics now have the ability to select equipment from their phone, scan a QR code with their phone, enter a few fields of information (such as component time and lube time) apply a QR sticker to the bottle and then obtain the sample and mail it directly to the laboratory.No more errors from hand written labels and a much faster process!

But the great features don’t end there. Do you have equipment that you need to transfer from one location to another? You can now keep the data accurate for your fluid analysis program mirrored with physical transfers, and you guessed it, you can do this directly within the mobile app.

Easy Equipment Transfer

What about adding new equipment/components? With just a few fields of information to enter you can add this from the mobile app as well!

At POLARIS Laboratories® we consistently strive to help our customers not just simplify their fluid analysis program but help ensure that your data is always timely and accurate.

The mobile app is free and available for iPhone or Android. Give it a try today, you will not be disappointed.

 

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you.

Published April 8, 2020

Sink or Swim: Fluid Analysis + Marine

In today’s shipping environment, uptime, safety, equipment life extension and increasing oil drain intervals are, and should be, the focus of any fluids analysis program.

Realizing the most value from your programs, whether lubricants, coolants, fuels, grease or filter debris analysis can help avoid:

  • Unscheduled down time and unplanned maintenance and associated costs for repair
  • Urgent requirements for lubricant replenishment inventory on short notice or in remote areas
  • Extra lubricants expense incurred by changing the oil unnecessarily without the benefit of a historical analysis report
  • Undetected problems manifesting into eventual catastrophic equipment failure

Oil analysis has been around since the 1940’s but, has matured significantly since then. Equipment has also evolved as design or environmental pressures have placed requirements for some equipment to be lighter in weight, be more fuel efficient and be manufactured to higher tolerances with more exotic materials. The result often places more stress to the lubricant, often with a lower volumes of lubricant in circulation to save weight.

Standard Practices

Take for example, marine or power plant engines with anti-polishing rings in the cylinder liners. The use of anti-polishing rings result is lower oil consumption which is an advantage for the equipment owner, but already places higher duty on the lubricant due smaller oil sump volumes and less need for frequent oil top ups. Monitoring critical parameters such as base number with laboratory and onboard testing has worked well and is already proven to be an industry standard practice.

Seeing An ROI

The benefits of your fluids analysis program can very easily pay for itself by being able to more closely monitor equipment and fluid condition, help manage implementation of oil drain interval programs, and in all cases provides information on oil and machinery condition necessary to make informed decisions about operational reliability and future maintenance.

With management reporting tools, a fluids analysis program can bring all of this information onto one platform, making interrogation of key performance indicators across assets much easier to visualize. Used properly, outliers can be detected more quickly. Of course, oil analysis is only one part of a complete maintenance program and should be used in conjunction with vibration, acoustics and thermography where applicable.

Free webinar on Fluid Analysis in the Marine Industry

If you’re interested in learning about fluid analysis as it relates to the maritime industry, I encourage you to attend our upcoming webinar on June 16. There is no cost to join and open to everyone!

Sink or Swim: How Fluid Analysis Saves Marine Engines

June 16 at 11 a.m. ET

See what will be covered and register here.

To learn more about POLARIS Laboratories® please contact us. We will show you the POLARIS Laboratories® way of helping you build a custom fluids analysis program with all the benefits of linking to your CMMS program, providing you with actionable fluids analysis commentary, and an online reporting portal, all with the benefits of being an independent laboratory and helping you save money.

 

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you.

Published March 25, 2020

Keep Calm and Sample On

As governments try to slow the spread of COVID-19, businesses face new challenges involving logistics, shipping, border closures and quarantines. However, people are still counting on businesses like yours to continue transporting, producing, powering, mining and operating like normal.

So, where does that leave you? Keep sampling, that’s what!

If you are able, we encourage you to keep calm and keep sampling. After all, many years of feedback from our customers confirms fluid analysis is one of the most cost-effective ways to keep equipment operational, especially because it also saves maintenance technicians time. Knowing how helpful our service is to our customers, POLARIS Laboratories® has put new policies in place to keep workers healthy and our laboratories operational. Click here to read our official COVID-19 message to customers.

We’re Here to Help You

Circumstances may arise that close one of our laboratories or prevent samples from being transported to your normal laboratory. In that case, our “one lab, multiple locations” system will provide you with quality testing and analysis no matter which of our laboratories your samples arrive at. Ship your sample to whichever location you can get it to, and we’ll work quickly to get testing started and results back to you. A list of our six global laboratory locations is listed below. We’ve got you covered.

Indianapolis
7451 Winton Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46268

Houston
10910 W. Sam Houston Parkway N.,
Suite 700
Houston, TX 77064-6314

Salt Lake City
3060 W. California Avenue, Suite B
Salt Lake City, UT 84104

Edmonton
5140 75th Street
Edmonton, Alberta Canada T6E 6W2

Guatemala
Calzada Atanasio Tzul 22-00 zona 12, 01012
Centro Empresarial El Cortijo II, Ofibodega 319
Guatemala City, Guatemala

Poznan
ul.Rubież 46H, 61- 612
Poznan, Poland

We will all face challenges with this crisis, but we can overcome them by working together. POLARIS Laboratories® is here when and where you need us.

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you.

Published March 24, 2020

How to Optimize Your Asset Health

The average asset manager runs an average of approximately 10,000 hours on the asset before it’s sold. So, you’ve had your asset for a while, but it has come time to sell it. Yet, you wonder how much life is left on that asset? If you keep it for another 10,000 hours, you can save a lot of money in replacement costs and maintenance. Your asset has run well, you know its maintenance history and you ask yourself do I really need to sell it?

Deciding whether to repair or sell

Many fleets run equipment to about 80 percent of their life expectancy then sell off. But, did you know you can incorporate filter debris analysis to determine equipment reliability at that 80 percent life expectancy? If an issue is found, you can proceed with a rebuild/repair or they can sell. Things to consider when making the decision to sell:

  • Did you buy your asset used?
  • How was your asset’s maintenance history prior to you buying it?
Utilizing filter debris analysis

You can utilize filter debris analysis (FDA) to determine how your asset is and how it’s holding up. Here are a couple of recommendations how to incorporate FDA into your program, depending on the estimated life expectancy:

0-20%You could characterize this as break in or, in the case of used equipment, the baseline of your equipment. What is the wear pattern in the first 20% of your usage of the asset? Submitting three filters with oil samples on regular intervals can give you a pattern.
20-80% Recommended to test only when wear metal trends are increasing, or you see a significant jump in wear metals
80%> This is what is referred to a senior asset. Submitting three filters with oil samples on regular intervals can give you a pattern. Then review to determine retesting interval based on results of the FDA results. You may find you need to sell your asset before significant maintenance will occur, or you may find your asset has plenty of life on it.
See what’s being caught in your filter

FDA is a great tool to add to your asset reliability toolbox. It compliments fluid analysis testing by seeing not just the data circulating in the oil, but what is being caught in the filter. This data is crucial to understanding the reliability of your equipment.

See how one company was able to to save more than $250,000 by performing the testing and avoiding gearbox replacements.

Is filter debris analysis something you want to start performing on your asset? Contact your account manager or custserv@eoilreports.com to add it to your program.

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you.

Published March 18, 2020

Appearance May Not Tell the Whole Story

 

Appearances can be deceiving! During every PM you need to be monitoring your cooling system.

Your coolant should be clear of precipitate and have the appearance of new fluid when first put into the system. However, only monitoring the appearance may not tell the whole story of the health of the cooling system. Appearance can indicate some concerns when an odor or clarity change occur. However, with further testing performed at regular PM intervals, in conjunction with laboratory testing to monitor the health of the cooling system, concerns can be caught earlier rather than just monitoring the appearance.

Some early system concerns that will not be visible by just looking at your coolant:

  • Corrosion
  • Hard water contamination
  • Chemical reaction impacting pH levels
  • Inhibitor levels
  • Degradation due to overheating
  • Glycol concentration for adequate freeze point and boil point control

One of these coolant samples caused a $500,000 replacement on the equipment. Can you tell which one?

Utilizing proper testing to monitor the cooling system and fluid health are very important for maintaining your equipment.

The cooling system is critical to maintaining proper temperature for the equipment. Approximately 40 to 50 percent of preventable engine failures can be traced back to problems in the cooling system. Of those failures due to the cooling system, 80 percent of the concerns can be identified and corrected early before attributing to engine concerns leading to an unnecessary failure. Proper testing will detect problems that are not visible to the naked eye and determine if the cooling system is able to protect your equipment and prevent unexpected equipment down time and increase maintenance costs.

Learn more about the importance of field testing coolants at every PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you.

Published March 11, 2020