In this interview, Ben Bryant discusses why new grease formulations can cut lubrication use up to 50% in challenging marine environments like the North Sea.
Q. What’s the advantage of using an eco-compatible grease that is specially formulated to handle tough marine applications?
A. Marine operators of jack-up systems, cranes and other open gear equipment require a high-performing grease. Switching to a biodegradable product that performs as well as the best non-biodegradable products on the market saves your equipment and the environment. With proper application from a spray system the savings can be significant.
Q. So is it just a matter of economics for the end user?
A. That’s just one reason. We wanted to develop an advanced grease formulation that also offers:
- 100% renewable resources in an eco-friendly base oil and additive package
- Excellent low-temperature behavior
- High load-carrying capacity
- Good antiwear and anticorrosive effect
- Excellent adhesion to surfaces.
All these advantages are vital in the extremely challenging North Sea environment.
Q. What makes lubrication equipment in North Sea operations so challenging?
A. A lot of entities must be satisfied. The operator is dealing with the expectations of:
- The oil exploration and extraction industry
- OSPAR requirements for protecting the North East Atlantic
- The U.S. Vessel General Permit
- Local and customer requirements for Environmentally Acceptable Lubricant (EAL) products
Q. As a lubricant manufacturer, how do you go about meeting that criteria?
A. With this set of challenges in mind, Klüber Lubrication developed Klüberbio LG 39-700 N / 701 N—a biodegradable, non-toxic grease made from renewable base oil stocks. It performs as well as or better than existing open gear greases. We focused on achieving three lubricant advantages:
- A wear rate that is comparable to existing high performance non-biodegradable products.
- The versatility to be applied by spray or automatic lubricator due to an NLGI grade 0 or NLGI grade 1 “stiffness” level.
- A wide operating temperature range that enables grease performance down to -22°F (-30°C).
Q. Okay, let’s start with the first: What is the wear rate and usage rate?
A. For Klüberbio LG 39-700 N / 701 N, we used in-house testing in a modified gear test with slow RPMs and high loads. This test indicates minimal wear over the test period. The results were comparable to Klüber Lubrication’s best open gear greases and significantly better than other open gear biodegradable products on the market.
In addition, the product was tested to ASTM standards for water spray off and showed less than 20 percent loss over repeated tests. While the target application is jack-up vessels with rack and pinion gear types, other on-deck applications include crane slewing gears and bearings and anchor handling winches on offshore support vessels.
Klüberbio LG 39-700 N / 701 N has also been approved as a sealing and/or bearing grease for below-the-water-line applications such as rudder systems, steering shafts and propeller-cap void spaces. Additionally, it can be used for tow wire level winding diamond gears.
Q. That’s a lot of uses. How do you handle application? Must it be applied manually, or can you use a spray or automatic lubricator?
A. Only a thin film is required to be effective. Generally, this product can be applied with an automatic lubricator. The rate of application will depend on the area of the gear face, the speed of rotation, and the exposure. Klüber Lubrication engineers can assist with calculating an initial application rate that can then be modified by the operator, based on experience.
Klüberbio LG 39 700 N / 701 N products have been approved by one spray-applicator equipment supplier. A jack-up-system OEM has approved the product for wind turbine installation vessels. Other OEM approvals for steering, rudder, cranes, and seal systems are also either available or in progress.
Q. Okay, that brings us to a big challenge–cold weather. What’s the temperature range for this product?
A. Klüberbio LG 39-700 N / 701 N can be used over a wider temperature range than mineral-oil-based greases of the same base oil viscosity. The grease withstands cold climates, because the natural ester oil was modified by a patented process to improve low-temperature behavior. The process allows the base oil to be produced in viscosities up to and greater than 700 cSt, which are very effective for open gear applications. At temps below 14°F (-10°C), the spray applicator may require a heating source; however the grease will perform on the gears at temperatures of -22°F (-30°C).
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