The Correct Lubricant Can Increase Energy Efficiency
“Better lubrication can play a major role in this process. For instance, companies can choose products that increase the performance of their machinery,” says Anders Karlsson, Key Account Manager Industry at Fuchs Lubricants Sweden.
He particularly highlights outdoor machinery in the Nordic climate which can be exposed to temperature variations of over 40 degrees Celsius. Cold causes some lubricants to harden. This in turn makes machines run less smoothly and puts them under more strain, increasing energy consumption.
“The solution is to use synthetic lubricants. These work well all year round and help reduce energy consumption. Typical examples could be hydraulics and conveyors at sawmills, where electric motors, gears and bearings need to be correctly lubricated all year round,” says Karlsson. The same applies to quarries with crushing machines for grinding the rock. The gearboxes in the crushers run for large parts of the year.
“I would say that seven out of ten companies today use mineral oils in their gearboxes. The mineral oil is often pre-heated during winter season. This spoils the oil and consumes an unnecessarily high amount of energy,” Mr Karlsson says. Here too, synthetic lubricants can make a big difference.
“Also, with a synthetic oil, the drain interval can be dramatically extended, paving the way for further savings and energy efficiencies,” he explains.
Mr Karlsson stresses that conditions do vary in different industries, and it can be difficult to see where the potential for improvement is greatest. Another factor is that special products tend to be more expensive. The key is to know where an investment in better lubrication will pay off, for example, with clear energy saving calculations.
“It’s a good idea to ask your lubricant supplier for help in getting started,” Mr Karlsson adds. “Here at FUCHS, we have calculation tools that can accurately pinpoint potential savings and efficiencies. In practice it’s like an on-board computer that takes account of the product’s price, the achieved energy saving, as well as the cost of oil changes, maintenance, spare parts, and many other parameters. The end result is a comprehensive savings calculation which indicates if and how investing in a particular lubricant will pay off.”
More energy-efficient hydraulic systems
When it comes to tangible energy savings, Mr Karlsson provides a further tip which applies to some of the larger hydraulic systems being used in industry.
“This is a new area which targets systems that work under high pressure and varying temperature ranges,” he says. “There are new, better hydraulic oils to be had here. We have conducted field tests with hydraulics firms, and the results show that these lubricants bring clear energy efficiencies.”
“In summary, the key is to focus particularly on machinery that is outdoors all year round, and to invest in synthetic lubricants which will work all year round and contribute to energy efficiencies. In addition, they will extend the drain intervals. Your lubricant supplier can help you pinpoint the potential savings and efficiencies with calculations, which will indicate where it is worth investing in a particular lubricant,” he concludes.