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


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.


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!