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African Petrochemicals is South Africa’s leading quarterly print and digital trade magazine for the past 16 years. Featuring all the latest petrochemical industry news, special reports, technological advances and much more.

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Achieving energy efficiency with correct lubrication

With colder winter weather setting in across the country and the possibility of electricity supply uncertainties arising again as South Africa’s COVID-19 lockdown eases, companies will be looking for ways to take the best possible care of their equipment and reduce their energy consumption. The economic blow of global shifts in supply and demand in the wake of the novel coronavirus also means that businesses are aiming to manage their operational costs down to the finest detail. Good lubrication has the dual benefit of keeping machines in good functioning order and running to maximum efficiency, saving on energy costs.

Lubrication can improve energy consumption in multiple ways, says Lubrication Engineers (LE) South Africa National Marketing Manager, Callum Ford. “Energy savings are measured in a variety of areas, including production output, temperature changes, electrical reduction and fuel consumption.” Good lubrication can contribute to achieving positive performance in all of these capacities.

To minimise friction-induced energy loss, it’s best to use a high-quality lubricant designed for the required function, applied correctly and monitored well. Poor quality lubricants can often turn into expensive maintenance problems. This is because an inferior product won’t provide maximum lubrication performance and may require higher energy consumption to keep a component functioning.

achieving-energy-efficiency-with-correct-lubrication
Stacked coin on Kilowatt Meter

“Companies that upgrade their lubricants and reliability practices have been able to document a 5 to 15% reduction in power requirements – more than enough to justify opting for a better-performing lubricant,” says Ford.

Application and monitoring

Correct application of a lubricant for optimal energy efficiency can also be managed by using an automated single-point lubricator system. These work by discharging the correct amount of product into a lubrication point over a pre-selected timeframe, ensuring that a key component doesn’t run out of lubrication before its scheduled maintenance.

Inadequate maintenance, such as a lubrication deficit, can increase energy consumption and lead to high operating temperatures, poor moisture control, excessive contamination and unsafe working environments.

Lubricants need to be monitored to ensure ongoing efficacy and screen for contaminants. LE supplies tools like oil sight glasses and desiccant breathers that can assist with the necessary monitoring of a lubricant. 

Environmentally appropriate

Lubricant suppliers formulate their lubricants according to unique recipes intended for specific purposes, meaning that the right lubricant needs to be used for each application. While there are some lubricants that can be used across applications, they will still need to meet an operation’s environmental and performance conditions. In harsh settings, for instance, a lubricant that can withstand the environment will help equipment perform at optimal levels, rather than it having to work against the grain of dust, cold temperatures, or harsh environmental chemicals, for example, and using more energy as a result.

Energy efficiency has been a long-term priority for South African industry, given energy supply fluctuations, and the combined pressure of this and the current global economic uncertainty means that operational and maintenance teams want to get the very best value for money on equipment maintenance, while ensuring optimal energy use. Lubrication is key for achieving both these things, provided the right product is used.

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