In Focus

Tribological Solutions for the Chemical Industry

Tribological Solutions for the Chemical Industry

High-performance lubricants and specific services

High-performance lubricants and specific services can be effectively combined to attain a measurable and lasting increase in the reliability and efficiency of chemical production processes. 

Whether in the pharmaceutical or cosmetics sector, the production of plastics or other chemical industries - choosing a lubricant that is just right under the conditions of the individual manufacturing process is always a vital task. The foremost criteria to be observed are thermal stability and resistance to media - the lubricant must not decompose when exposed to high temperatures and chemicals. A high-quality lubricant used in the right application, however, offers more than that. Tribological solutions suited to the specific requirements of chemical industry processes have proven to produce more efficiency and reliability as well as to reduce energy consumption.

High resistance to aggressive media

Operating conditions in the chemical industry are a complex field. Among the challenges encountered are extreme temperatures and the risk of interaction between process chemicals and other substances. Chlorine gas or process gases containing hydrochloric acid, for example, tend to corrode the plain bearings in screw-type compressors. This is why some compressor oils were developed specifically for acidic process gases: they contain special additives protecting the oiled bearing surfaces against the corroding effect of these gases. Conveyor belt plain bearings, e.g. for the transport of inorganic salts, may also be exposed to aggressive substances that are dissolved from the salts by the air humidity and may form sulphuric vapours. These vapours then tend to corrode the plain bearing surfaces and decompose the bearing greases. The use of hybrid greases has proven successful in such applications as they offer better resistance to media than mineral oil-based greases because their base oils contain ester or PAO, but also PFPE oils. The composition of these hybrid greases therefore combines the know-how available for traditional hydrocarbon-based greases with the benefits of PFPE-based lubricants, thus offering the best of both product families.

Make full use of potentials

While changing over from a mineral oil-based to a synthetic lubricant alone can bring rapid improvements, the potential for additional benefits is vast. A systematic approach for identifying and implementing potential for optimisation was developed by Klüber Lubrication, a company specialising in tribology: the KlüberEfficiencySupport programme. In the course of this programme solutions suited to the specific conditions encountered are developed together with the users. These solutions involve much more than just lubricant recommendations. In fact the programme combines high-quality products with services such as consultation, cleaning and inspection as well as the measurement and evaluation of the attained savings. The result is higher efficiency in the long term and a measurable reduction of energy consumption and operating costs.

High-performance lubricants combined with professional services

Reducing energy costs - an example from the field

The chemical industry is one of the sectors where the consumption of power and gas is highest, offering considerable potential for saving energy and resources. In a single large gearbox operated in a chemical plant in Brazil, for example, a reduction by 2,300 MWh, amounting to savings of more than 200,000 euros p.a., was attained. It was achieved by changing over from a mineral oil-based lubricant to a synthetic high-performance lubricant that was just right for the application, in combination with professional services. The synthetic lubricant was selected following a thorough analysis of the gearbox application and shows optimised friction and viscosity ratings, which in itself led to considerable energy savings as the multi-stage gearbox was several metres long. In addition, the changeover helped eliminate the substantial vibrations in and around the gearbox, which enabled more energy savings. Further effects such as the reduced foam formation additionally enhance the gearbox's efficiency. The lubricant changeover was assisted by professional services in the form of cleaning and safety measures. The whole process as well as the results obtained were comprehensively documented.

Lubricant-related services

All of Klüber Lubrication's services are aimed at a long-term enhancement of the tribological system involved. This includes regular and continuous monitoring of the lubricant condition and that of the tribological system, which are decisive for the reliable operation of machines and installations. The experts at Klüber Lubrication analyse oils, greases and the lubricated components to detect unwanted influences e.g. from contaminants. The facilities of the company's comprehensive testing section are used to model the lubricant's behaviour in the friction point under extreme conditions without exposing machines or processes to unwelcome risks. The results are combined with those of a professional surface and material analysis to enable sound recommendations regarding maintenance intervals and optimisation of the tribo-system.

Both the lubricating oils and greases and the lubricated components are analysed

By changing over from a simple mineral oil-based grease to BARRIERTA L 55/2, the maintenance intervals for the rolling bearings in paddle dryers (operating temperature 150 °C) were extended from two to four years thanks to the product's excellent thermal stability. The rolling bearings in a rotoformer used for the production of sulphur pellets in a refinery are exposed to similarly high operating temperatures. When used for other, highly viscous products, these rotoformers may operate at a temperature up to 300 °C. For such applications exceeding 260 °C, Klüber Lubrication developed the perfluorinated lubricant Klüberalfa HPX 93-1202.

KlüberComp Lube Technology for maximum gearbox requirements

Also for gear oils, the product range offered by Klüber Lubrication is complemented by specific services. Besides an all-comprehensive consideration of all gearbox components - i.e. gearwheels and teeth, rolling bearings, seals - Comp Lube Technology comprises also consultation and services at the customer's site. These services can help optimise process conditions, extend maintenance intervals and reduce energy consumption. KlüberComp Lube Technology is a comprehensive package of services and speciality lubricants for gears that can be tuned to the individual requirements of customers from the chemical industry.

Authors:
Alexander Dörner, Service Business Development, Klüber Lubrication
Helga Thomas, Market Manager Pharmaceutical and Chemical Industry, Klüber Lubrication