Tag Archives: oil condition monitoring

Optimising mining operations with used oil analysis

To gain a competitive advantage, it is imperative to get the most out of your hydraulic fluid, Petro-Canada Lubricants’ Neil Buchanan* says.

It starts by selecting the right oil. This means not only using a high-performance hydraulic fluid, but choosing the correct viscosity for each pump and motor, as well as considering the temperature range the fluid must operate in.

For a mining operation, with the sheer range of equipment used – from 260 t haul trucks, to hydraulic shovels, front end loaders, right through to drills, bulldozers and cranes – and the tough conditions it is exposed to, there are a lot of individual components to consider and decisions to make; all the more reason to maximise the use of your fluid.

But it is not just about oil selection: what you do with the oil when the system is running can be equally important.

Running regular used oil analysis as part of a maintenance program can provide operators the opportunity to catch an impending failure before it becomes catastrophic. Unplanned downtime costs time and money; used oil analysis can help avoid it.

The basic principles

Used oil analysis enables operators to monitor and optimise the life of a system and its hydraulic fluid. Typically carried out in a simple three-stage process, used oil analysis involves taking a representative sample of the fluid, sending it to a qualified used oil analysis laboratory and then interpreting and acting on the recommendations of the results.

Most mines undertake used oil analysis, but, when incorporated into a reliability centred maintenance program, the process can enable lubricant technical service advisors and mine personnel to evaluate trends over time, which not only helps to get ahead of system failure but provides a basis for better informed maintenance decisions.

Monitoring key properties

Regularly monitoring the key properties within the hydraulic fluid can give an insight into hidden and potentially harmful contamination, invisible to the naked eye.

Viscosity, the fluid’s resistance to flow, is one basic property measured in used oil analysis. However, viscosity is a lagging indicator, proceeded by additive depletion and oxidation which increases the fluids acid number (AN). Acid number was previously referred to as total acid number (TAN).

Another property that should be regularly monitored is oxidation, which occurs when the fluid is exposed to high temperatures and air (oxygen) and is common in hydraulic systems. The rate of oxidation doubles for every 18°F increase from 150°F, which highlights the importance of hydraulic oil temperature to its life. The impact of oxidation is a darkening of the oil, an increase in viscosity and potential sludge, varnish and deposit formation.

Using the data

Perhaps the most important step – and the one that will give operators the greatest advantage – is to effectively manage and interpret the fluid data accrued from the analysis quickly to enable effective decision making. Digital diagnostics and customised asset management reporting are two of the tools used to secure rapid sample results. Utilising oil diagnostics keeps an operation one step ahead by using the latest technology to proactively track where maintenance is needed and predict where it will be needed in the future.

While used oil analysis is widespread among the mining industry, not every mine is using it to the full extent they could. Using oil analysis as a predictive tool can help operators ensure they get the maximum life possible from their hydraulic fluid and move away from time consuming, reactive maintenance.

*Neil Buchanan is Senior Technical Services Advisor for Petro-Canada Lubricants, a HollyFrontier business

The changing demand in oil condition monitoring technology

Chris Greenwood, Managing Director, at Tan Delta Systems, explains how the latest innovations in oil conditioning monitoring can create major benefits to businesses including positive impacts to the bottom line.

In this current commercial environment businesses are constantly looking for new ways to gain that competitive edge and support their bottom line long term.

Critical need

Sectors such as manufacturing, power, mining, quarrying and logistics might seem quite detached but they are similar in one key way. They all use oil dependent machinery or vehicles with hydraulics, engines, gearboxes and transformers, and need to ensure they are as reliable and productive as can be for business continuity.

With this in mind, it is fundamentally critical for these businesses to conduct regular health and status inspections to achieve operational efficiencies. This is especially important in extreme, and often harsh, climates such as dusty or humid mine sites, or freezing arctic natural gas processing plants, and everything in between.

Maintenance engineers and plant managers often prioritise condition monitoring inspections according to the equipment importance or value, focusing on these first and often overlooking other aspects.

Hydraulics, engines, gearboxes and transformers can all be at risk of even miniscule changes in oil condition which can have a big impact. As oil condition degrades with use or contamination by fuel, water or acid, it can quickly result in oil losing lubrication properties, subsequently leading to equipment damage.

To reduce the risks and costs associated with potential equipment damage, maintenance and plant managers are looking for improved methods of understanding the repair history of equipment, operating characteristics and failure probability. Through understanding this, it is possible to identify prevention measures and obtain substantial cost savings at the same time.


Businesses already using condition-based monitoring equipment demand a lot from it, and unfortunately not all sensors are comparable or even able to meet all of the requirements customers expect.

Real-time oil analysis provides important information about equipment wear levels, as well as the condition of the oil itself. Keeping machinery operating at the optimal level involves measuring, monitoring and analysing changes in lubricant and fuel oils for contamination and chemical content.

This data can provide insights into issues affecting performance and reliability, and operators can make cost effective maintenance decisions based upon these oil analysis results.

Therefore, the sensors needed must be highly accurate, with strong performance records in harsh and extreme conditions and be able to continuously monitor, detect and report on any oil quality change. They must be customisable and configurable to many oil types in multiple applications and, of course, be compatible with existing site equipment. What’s more, they must be able to provide real-time information to help pinpoint issues quickly, enabling precision in planning maintenance schedules.

Additional demands come in the form of what the sensors can deliver to the business as a whole: low operating costs, reduced downtime, optimised service intervals and improved safety. Also, knowing they can provide environmental benefits and allow managers to reconsider how they define business critical equipment through the use of intelligent data capture and support intelligent proactive decision making. All factors that contribute to the overall success of a business.

Overlooked − but highly beneficial

Monitoring oil condition across a facility can be easily overlooked due to practicality and the potentially high cost implications. However a ‘run to failure’ approach is fraught with risk, whilst scheduled preventive maintenance is limited in effectiveness, further emphasising the importance of implementing the latest technologies to ensure costly unforeseen issues are avoided.

The cost of such oil condition monitoring sensors is easily covered with the savings achieved from extended machine life, reduced wastage, improved energy efficiency, and, ultimately, satisfied customers.

With benefits like this and the advanced technological developments, it is hard to think why organisations would not be looking to increase their competitive edge and bottom line by employing this technology.