Switching From Grease to Oil: Packing Lube Change in the Frac World

Situation

A pressure pumping company running 6 fleets of Frac Pumps in the Permian Basin has successfully transitioned from grease to oil as a Packing Lube.

Over-greasing had led to an unacceptable housekeeping mess throughout their entire fleet and was creating multiple problems for all involved. They were constantly shoveling grease out of their catch pans and most of the time their pump mechanics were covered in grease from head to toe. At one point, The Department of Transportation had an entire fleet shut down, unable to move to the next pad until the grease was cleaned off. Not to mention the huge environmental issue they had on their hands. With packing failures escalating and the mess building, their Maintenance Manager decided it was time to make a change.

Bill Spitzer & Associates was asked to assist in the transition from using grease to oil. This presented a challenge since this particular client is running both Lincoln and Graco 24 VDC Injector Systems, as well as the BEKA Box Greasers.

Step 1: Specifying the Right Lubricant

Since none of these systems are designed for a continuous feed of oil, we knew we had to specify a product engineered specifically for the application. Conventional rock drill oil was not going to be able to get this done.

We had worked with a lubricant provider in the past and consulted their Well Service Team on what their recommendation would be. They had a product that was being used by other pressure pumping companies in air-over-oil systems and from the success that they had with those companies we chose to move forward with their product.

Step 2: Trial Run on One Unit

We started with a Lincoln System on a Quintuplex Pump. We maxed out the injector output settings and set our cycle time to every 15 Seconds.

The first sign of success was after the very first stage. We took temperatures on the packing nuts and the system running oil was 81 degrees F, while the pump next to it running grease was 97 degrees F. This was very promising.

Our goal for this trial was 50 stages or 100 pumping hours. This seemed to be about the average packing life with the grease systems.

We checked on the unit daily and after a month of pumping we reached 242 stages and 415 pumping hours before the packing was replaced due to concern of hours, NOT failure!

Step 3: Cut Back on Lubricant Consumption

We trialed another unit on the same pad with the injectors set at half-output and the same cycle time, cutting our lube consumption in half.

We reached 146 stages and 238 pumping hours when their Maintenance Manager decided this test was a success and it was time to move forward!

Step 4: Implementation

With all 6 fleets pumping 18-hour days, the implementation proved itself to be very challenging. Each system had to be adjusted and setup to work with oil.  We did not change any parts on these systems or even clean out the reservoirs. Bill Spitzer & Associates assisted in adjusting the injectors and setting the controls as well as applying a sticker to each unit that had been transitioned. Repairs were made during this time and after a couple of weeks all 6 fleets were running oil.

Step 5: Cutting Back on Lubricant Consumption (AGAIN!)

In an attempt to improve upon the already huge success of this project we worked with the Maintenance Manager at the packager to run a unit on test line with our pause time set at 80 Strokes instead of 15 Seconds. Packing Temps stayed below 105 degrees F so we decided to take this setting to the field.

They ran one fleet at this set point for a few weeks with no issues. They made the change across all six fleets and are now running their systems based off of stroke count instead of time.

Value Proposition

When we started this project the main goal was to get rid of the mess. In doing so, we also increased the average packing life, as well as saved on lubricant consumption.

The client was originally using one (1) tote of grease every fifteen (15) days per fleet.

They are now using one (1) tote of oil every twenty-one (21) days per fleet.

Conclusion

The success of this project is hard to overstate. The transition addressed all of the environmental issues they were dealing with and improved upon up-time, efficiency, and performance.  It cut costs on lubricant spending, as well as made it easier for the mechanics on pump maintenance. The client is ecstatic with their decision to switch from grease to oil and Bill Spitzer & Associates is now a huge believer in the use of oil in our packing lube systems!

Contact Steven Logan @ (832) 858-1616 to discuss making the transition and getting rid of the mess!

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BSA and Kluber help plant improve bulk grease dispensing methods

Situation

A global producer of wood pellets, a product that is used as a fuel in industrial ovens and power generating equipment, made the decision to transition their Texas plant from 400-pound grease drums to larger capacity tote (2200 pound) containers. The grease was previously pumped from 400-pound drums by a Lincoln 50:1 ratio PowerMaster® pump to the second floor that supplies the grease to multiple Lincoln Auto-Lube systems.

The customer’s goal with this project was to reduce human involvement, minimize safety issues, and create a sustainable grease storage and dispensing solution.

Options/Recommendations

The lubricant supplier, KLUBER©, worked with the Texas plant to provide the grease lubricant in an EZ-BULK® tote (2200 lbs.). The lubricant/tote is delivered to the plant ready for use in a recyclable and biodegradable container. Overall, this new method decreased the time and effort required by the plant in handling the KLUBER grease.

Secondly, the customer considered the “best practice” method to pump from the tote to the auto-lube systems. The plant and KLUBER representative compared the technical benefits of using a vertical mount pump (couples directly to the tote) to a horizontal mounted pump. Finally, the plant chose to move forward with the vertical mounted Lincoln PowerMaster® pump due to the ease of changing from tote to tote, minimizing contamination issues, the pumps proven reliability, less human involvement, and creating a cleaner and more organized storage and pumping area.


Implementation

Bill Spitzer and Associates coordinated with the local KLUBER© representative and the plant to install the vertical mount pump along with commissioning the tote. The system kit consisted of a Lincoln PowerMaster® pump, a 3” NPT Lincoln standpipe assembly, 3” suction hose with Camlock© fittings to quick couple to the tote, along with mounting brackets to secure the pump.  The entire installation process required approximately ½ day of two Bill Spitzer and Associates technician’s time to install and commission the system.

 Customer Savings/Value Proposition

The customer is benefitting with this process change both in time and effort required. The grease changeover process went from a daily event to once every five days.  With less human interaction required in the process, there are fewer cross-contamination issues, has helped with increasing the safety of plant personnel, and has eliminated the cost of drum disposal. Finally, this sustainable solution positively impacts the environment and benefits the plant’s community.

Oil Mist - Alemite EM Cabinet

Simple – Cost effective Solutions

Oil Mist lubrication has been in use since the 1930’s and has been historically seen as a low cost variant to the typical centralized liquid oil lubrication approach to lubricate bearings. The primary method of distribution for oil mist is simply compressed air or nitrogen delivering the lubricant to the equipment; thereby eliminating the need for expensive pumping mechanisms and metering devices.

Technology has driven many improvements in the operation, performance, and reliability of our lubricated equipment – that same technology has equally had an impact on the design of commercially available Oil Mist Lubrication Systems. Although continuous feedback of every operating condition within the given system may seem advantageous, it can often over shadow the beauty of oil mist lubrication. And that is the simplicity of Oil Mist - reduced installation and maintenance efforts, while delivering a continuous supply of fresh oil to the bearings at a very low cost.

Bill Spitzer & Associates and Alemite both recognize that there are applications where a more simple and proven path in the design of the Oil Mist System makes more sense economically and functionally. That system is our new EM cabinet.

This new design of EM cabinet has been developed primarily to get back to the basics of what you need to know about the operating status of your oil mist system. The system has alarm conditions for the oil heater, air heater, low oil level and air pressure. Those four conditions are the most important to monitor regularly while making oil mist. Although having additional forms of measurement can be nice, these non-critical conditions are rarely verified and can cause frequent nuisance alarms which are a problem for operators. Our EM cabinets are comparable to what was developed in the 1950’s and can still be found working in facilities today. By re-creating these cabinets we are getting rid of the idea that you have to spend thousands of dollars every 7-15 years to replace oil mist cabinets made “obsolete” by the newest marketing gimmicks.

The EM cabinet offers the end user a simple, cost effective and compact unit to reliably supply lubricant to your rolling element bearings - using the same technology that the Petrochemical industry adopted decades ago. Bill Spitzer & Associates has over 30 years of experience in the design, installation and maintenance of Centralized Oil Mist Lubrication Systems.

See our brochure: Alemite EM Oil Mist Console

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SKF CircOil Lubrication System

Safety Critical SKF CircOil Lubrication System for Critical, Hot Running, and Problematic Process Fans and Pumps

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Main Features:

  • (2) 460V, 60 Hz, 31 liter/minute Vertical Mount Gear Pump units
  • (2) 1 – 12 bar adjustable Pressure Regulating Valves
  • Oversized 400 liter Carbon Steel reservoir, allowing efficient convective and radiant heat transfer
  • Low Level Switch
  • Duplex 10 micron Oil Filter
  • Pressure Gauge
  • Reservoir Desiccant Air Breather
  • Oil Level Sight Gauge with Temperature Gauge
  • Shell and Tube water cooled Heat Exchanger – 15,000 BTU/Hour @ 20 F approach
  • Water Modulating Valve
  • All electrical components suitable for Class 1, Group C & D, Div 2