Tom Schiff, Global Field Engineering Support Manager for ExxonMobil Fuels, Lubricants & Specialties Marketing Company, www.exxonmobil.com/lubricants
Wind turbine gearboxes are challenging to maintain because they are often in remote locations at elevated heights and they operate under extreme conditions. But, regular gearbox oil changes are required to protect components from micropitting and wear.
To make matters worse, these equipment interactions pose risks to the safety of maintenance personnel. In 2014, more than 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and accidents resulting from human-machine interaction (HMI) were among the leading causes of injury.[i] The 2013 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries says about one third of fatal workplace accidents reported resulted from incidents involving falls, slips, trips and contact with objects and equipment.[ii]
Such safety risks are inherent in mechanical maintenance. The risks can be even greater when considering the tight quarters and great heights associated with wind turbine maintenance.
To help wind turbine operators improve safety conditions associated with maintenance, we recommend:
- Converting operations to a high-performance, synthetic turbine gearbox lubricant
- Implementing a routine gearbox oil analysis program
- Using planned engineering services
Long oil life
A good first step in an overall maintenance plan uses a high performing, synthetic-gearbox oil, such as Mobilgear SHC XMP 320, formulated to help protect gearbox components from wear.
In addition to protection against wear, such as scuffing and micropitting, a high-performance synthetic oil can extend oil lifespan which helps minimize operator perform maintenance.
Not long ago, wind turbine gearbox oil carried an expected service life of 18 months. But today, advanced performance synthetic gearbox oils have been shown to last for up to five continuous years in service. And performance continues to improve.
Recently, ExxonMobil introduced its latest synthetic wind turbine gearbox oil, Mobil SHC Gear 320 WT, in Europe. It’s set for introduction to other parts of the world in the coming year. Extensive testing has shown the oil to deliver exceptional protection against traditional wear modes and smooth, trouble free operation in applications subject to water contamination. It is even backed by a seven-year limited warranty, ensuring that operators can trust the oil to support turbine operations over the long haul.
In addition, implementing a routine oil analysis program, such as our Signum service, can help operators identify turbine reliability issues and alert them to lubricant degradation and component wear, prior to critical failure. And when routine tests cannot provide enough detail into abnormal wear metals patterns detected in the oil, the company’s Lubricants Technical Support Laboratory can take a closer look at the morphology of the wear conditions, as well as assess turbine hardware and analyze deposits within the turbine, to help determine the source of the maintenance issue and offer insight into how to improve overall productivity.
Improving safety and maximizing productivity go hand-in-hand. For operators to truly get the most out of a lubrication program, they must take a holistic look at operational maintenance. Our engineering team partners, along with wind turbine operators to implement the Planned Engineering Service (PES) process, address individual lubrication needs and specific equipment reliability challenges in developing an overarching program to meet all wind farm goals and objectives.
For example, an operator experiencing shorter than expected bearing life in turbine operations can leverage ExxonMobil’s field experience and application expertise to develop a maintenance plan that will help extend component life and reduce HMI. Careful planning, program implementation, documentation of performance benefits, and an annual business review, can help this operator reduce instances of maintenance and improve safe and effective turbine operation.
About the limited warranty
ExxonMobil Petroleum & Chemical BVBA (ExxonMobil) provides this limited warranty to the purchasers who use Mobil SHC Gear 320 WT in wind turbine gearboxes from the date of delivery as established by the original equipment manufacturer industry requirements, as well as other conditions described herein. This limited warranty covers the lubricant and critical components it lubricates. ExxonMobil warrants that the Lubricant is free from defects and that the Lubricant you purchased will protect your gearbox lubricated by the Lubricant, provided that:
- The Lubricant is confirmed to be an unadulterated Mobil™ industrial lubricant product.
- The equipment has been operated within the limits specified by the OEM, and is duly documented.
Additional Terms & Conditions apply.
[i] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Employer-Reported Workplace Injury and Illness Summary, December 4, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/osh.nr0.htm
[ii] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2013 September 11, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/opub/hom/pdf/homch9.pdf
Filed Under: News, O&M