How to prime your operation for an effective restart

Published:  04 September, 2020

John Smith* gives guidance to help optimise machine performance coming out of lockdown.

The manufacturing industry has been hit hard by COVID-19 stoppages. Operators have been forced to decommission valuable equipment for unspecified periods, exposing it to very real maintenance threats. Whilst machines have idled, chemical reactions promoted by moisture and contaminants have still been at work, increasing the risk of rust and corrosion. Coming out of lockdown, premium quality lubricants and greases can play an important role in reducing the effects of such damage, alongside vigilant maintenance practices.

With the start-up process now underway, here are 10 tips from the field to help ensure machinery is protected and primed[1].

1. Conduct overall system check

Inspect the equipment from a lubrication perspective for any signs of contamination or oil leaks. If it is a large lubricating system, consider taking an oil sample for analysis before restarting, in case any corrective action is required.

2. Remove any rust preventatives from equipment

Use a suitable solvent.

3. Remove any water from bottom of oil reservoirs

If a system has been left to stand, free water may have separated from the oil and settled at the bottom of systems. Open the lowest drain valve point to remove any free water. Wipe all accessible surfaces clean. Remove any bacterial growth.

4. Drain and fill with fresh oil if necessary

When draining the oil prior to a refill, always check that any dead areas in the system have also drained. Before re-commissioning, check oil is at normal levels.

5. Check seals and access covers

Any areas for potential ingress such as seals, dipsticks, and access covers should be checked for contamination.

6. Monitor equipment leaks

Pay particular attention to seals which may have been compromised after being left static for an extended period.

7. Only use heaters when oil is circulating

If a system operates with heaters, in start-up they should only be turned on when the oil is already circulating. This ensures that static oil is not exposed to high localised temperature.

8. Purge grease lubricated bearings with fresh grease

Before re-commissioning, bearings should be re-filled with fresh grease and then allowed to purge by removing grease nipples or purge plugs.

9. Drain and replace engine oil

For those engines that have been idle for some time, drain the oil and replace with fresh. Change the oil filter(s). Start operations under low load and bring slowly up to normal operating temperature.

10. Ensure thorough documentation and take representative oil samples

All actions taken during start-up should be recorded in maintenance manuals. After operating equipment for several hours, take a good representative oil sample. Send it to a specialist used oil analysis laboratory to confirm the condition of the oil, system and contaminants.

The choices being made today, and in the weeks to come, will have an enduring impact on business performance. This places significant pressure on internal decision makers in the face of unprecedented challenges. Collaboration can be the key to finding practical solutions fast, allowing operators to re-start their businesses efficiently.

[1] The recommendations offered in this article are made without any liability to ExxonMobil. Customers should conduct their own analysis before making a decision. All actions should comply with the machine manual and be in conformity with applicable labour safety regulations. Actual results can vary depending upon the type of equipment used and its maintenance, operating conditions and environment, and any prior lubricant used.

* John Smith is chief engineer (Finished Lubricants) at Exxo

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