The right engine oil can lead to a healthier bottom line for plant operators
A gas-powered engine which performs consistently and continuously can help achieve strong efficiencies and greater profits in a plant. Operations and service managers need to focus on how to minimize engine downtime, maximize drain intervals and optimize performance. By taking a proactive approach to consolidating a plant’s lubricant product offering, additional savings can also be achieved.
In contrast with other fuel types, gas engines traditionally burn cleaner, hotter and operate at a constant speed. This means gas engine oils (GEOs) must be specifically formulated to address these unique characteristics.
The Importance of Drain Intervals
Drain interval – or oil change frequency – is closely linked to engine reliability. GEOs with extended drain capability can withstand factors that break down the oil and cause it to degrade. Longer oil life allows the engine to perform consistently, reduces maintenance cycles and provides cost savings.
Drain service intervals are designed to provide maximum engine protection under various conditions. Also referred to as “drain time,” it is measured as the number of hours an engine can efficiently run before the oil needs to be changed. The timing of the oil drain is determined by the results of a used oil analysis. The limits for the used oil are defined by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) of the gas engine. These intervals vary due to factors such as mechanical design of equipment, application, environment and condition of gas. Optimal drain intervals allow the engine to run for an extended period before an oil change is necessary without compromising engine durability.
“Yesterday, 8,000 hours between drains in such an engine was unthinkable. Suddenly, anything less could be unacceptable,” comments Sharanie Patterson, Marketing Category Manager at Petro-Canada Lubricants Inc.
SENTRON™ LD 8000, a revolutionary new GEO from Petro-Canada Lubricants, shatters the accepted drain interval standard and exceeds the standards of many different OEMs. The breakthrough technology in SENTRON LD 8000 helps operations extend drain intervals by up to 300% when compared with the leading global conventional competitor GEO.
As the oil degrades, it takes on certain characteristics; as it reaches specific maximum levels that are dictated by the OEMs, the oil is condemned and needs to be changed. Several factors cause oil to degrade; these can include oxidation, acid formation, nitration, trace metals and other contaminants found in used oil.
Using Oil with a Higher Oxidation Resistance
Oxidation occurs in engine oils when oxygen molecules chemically join with oil molecules. This causes the oil to thicken, form acids and lose fresh oil qualities. Oxidized oil can lead to deposits on pistons and valves, threatening engine life.
As with most chemical reactions, oil oxidation is accelerated by heat and pressure so oxidation is often an issue for gas-powered engines – both older engine types and new lean-burning engines in high-temperature, high-pressure operations.
Engine loads also influence the levels of oxygen and pressure within the engine, which can accelerate acid formation, corrosion, viscosity (oil thickening), deposit formation and, ultimately, wear. For this reason, the majority of new engines today require oil with higher oxidation resistance.
Increased Acid Control Contributes to Longer Drain Intervals
Oxidation is closely tied to acid, which forms as a result of the combustion process. Oxidation reduces the oil life and its ability to neutralize acid. If not neutralized, acid can attack metal engine parts, threatening service life and durability. GEOs need strong acid neutralization capability (Total Acid Number – TAN) and good base retention (Total Base Number – TBN).
As it relates to engine reliability, increased acid control contributes to longer drain intervals and minimizes wear. Total base number (TBN) retention is another measurement that helps define an oil’s acid neutralization properties. Put simply, the greater the TBN retention, the greater the ability of the oil to neutralize acid. By neutralizing the amount of acid attacking the metal of the engine, the formation of deposits can be minimized – as can pitting and corrosion.
Reducing Deposits to Operate at a Higher Efficiency
It is essential to reduce excessive deposit formation in order to operate at the highest efficiency and gain minimal downtime and maximum profits. When engines are burdened with deposits, engine efficiencies are impacted, which could result in even higher engine temperatures, loss of energy to either create power or compress gas, pre-detonation and engine damage. Due to this potential engine damage, operations de-rate the engine and reduce loads. This reduction of load will reduce engine outputs and may affect the bottom line.
Gas-powered engines are designed to run at 100 percent under optimal pressures and temperatures. As they work, however, deposits inevitably grow in the engine. As gas engines operate at a constant speed and temperature, they are also prone to creating deposits. The type of engine duty cycle and the environment it operates in also play a role in deposit formation.
Not all deposits are unwanted and harmful. Some deposits, in the form of ash, are needed to protect valves and prevent valve recession (the premature compression and wear of the valve seat in the cylinder head and valve tulip). Ash residue, which remains after the oil is burned during operation, helps to prevent premature valve recession by forming a protective, sacrificial layer on the valve seat and valve tulip to absorb the impact of the two coming into contact.
As the industry continues to design new engines, innovative lubricants with ground-breaking technologies are also developing to protect them. Plant operators need high-performing products that have a proven track record of successful use under a wide range of conditions.
From extended drain intervals to deposit control and engine reliability, advancements in gas engine oil mean that the industry is changing and what was once thought of as unattainable – up to 8,000 hours between drains – will soon be the new standard.
Petro-Canada’s SENTRON™ Gas Engine Oils are a family of premium performance, long-life engine oil products specially formulated to lubricate gas engines.
Find out here which SENTRON™ Gas Engine Oil is right for your operation.