Globally, the demand for power is increasing, driven by a growing population, mass urbanization, and rapid industrialization of nations like China and India.
The consequence for those in the business of power generation, transmission and distribution is a need to achieve greater productivity and reliability in a challenging climate of stricter environmental targets, severe penalties for supply interruptions, tighter budgets and tougher operating conditions.
Many companies are already well aware that reducing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) over the lifetime of machinery is key to extracting the best possible value from the investment.
However, the impact of industrial lubrication on TCO is too often underestimated.
According to an international industry study commissioned by Shell Lubricants, the savings opportunity is recognized but undervalued. Some 58 per cent of companies recognize that lubricant selection can help reduce costs by 5 per cent or more, but fewer than one in ten (8 per cent) realize that the impact of lubrication could be up to six times greater.
In general, the cost of lubricants accounts for less than 5 per cent of a power generation company’s total operational expenditure. Yet lubrication can deliver significant business value through improved system efficiency, reliable equipment protection and longer oil and equipment life.
When considering the potential savings, the definition we use for TCO includes costs related to lost production resulting from equipment downtime.
To quantify the cost saving potential, let’s look at an example from the wind power sector. Wind turbine insurance company GCube Renewable Energy Insurance reported that there are around 1200 incidents of gearbox failure each year among the 175,000 geared turbines in operation worldwide.
Some 76 per cent of these breakdowns are related to bearing failure, and the insurance claims commonly range between $200,000 and $300,000.
By helping protect bearings against wear and guard against premature failure, lubrication has the potential to deliver huge cost savings. There are two key elements to seizing this opportunity. The first is selecting the right lubricant; the second is effective lubrication management.
Whether it’s a turbine, transformer or stationary engine, every piece of power generation machinery or transmission/distribution transformer made by different OEMs has its own specific oil requirements.
OEMs define the minimum requirements for lubricants, but for critical equipment, lubricants that exceed – rather than simply meet – these standards can prove a worthwhile investment.
For any piece of equipment, the design characteristics, how it is fuelled, its operational parameters and the surrounding environment all pose different challenges for lubrication.
Below are some of the industry’s primary applications and examples of specific lubrication challenges. In all cases, selecting the right lubricant is a critical first step in improving productivity and realizing significant TCO savings.
Read more: The impact of lubrication on TCO