Lubrication: oiling the cogs of environmental management

Living in the shadow of more fashionable issues such as energy and packaging, the importance to sustainable management of lubricants is often overlooked. Martin Williamson of consultancy firm Noria UK points out the benefits in pollution and cost savings of this valuable resource.

Governments throughout the European Community are taking climate change and environmental concerns seriously with initiatives such as the Climate Change Levy and the ISO 14001 environmental standard. In the light of this trend, leading processors are starting to recognise the value of best practice lubrication managements as a means to reducing power demand and reduce the impact of their ‘ecological footprint’

Achievable benefits
Companies with effective environmental maintenance programmes who practice good lubrication management reap significant cost and process benefits. Typically these include:

  • reductions of at least 80% in lubricant consumption;
  • reductions of at least 50% in unplanned downtime and equipment failure;
  • life extension of at least three fold on capital plant;
  • overall equipment effectiveness rise to as much as 95%;
  • increased demand in production met without building new plants;
  • more competitive pricing but with increased profits;
  • reductions of 40% in maintenance budgets without impacting reliability; and
  • overall reduction in cost of lubricant per litre.

Steps towards best practice
Regularly documenting figures for your total system sump capacity, annual lubricant consumption and leakage will help in designing a plan to reduce leakage problems and extend the useful life of the lubricant.

Setting lubricant specifications requires expert input. Companies purchasing lubricants based on equipment manufacturers’ specifications should be aware this is derived as a baseline for an average user. Your site is unique so make sure standards are set according to your needs. It is you, not the equipment manufacturer, that pays the price of failure.

Taking responsibility on site for oil management and running an oil analysis programme will help companies understand the root cause of problems and practice proactive maintenance.

Reducing power consumption
A key benefit to a lubricant management strategy is reduced power demand. Some studies suggest as much as a 5% reduction in power consumption can be achieved, with good lubrication management.

Reducing lubricant disposal
Apart from obvious financial gain, using lubricants more effectively reduces demand on resources. Fuels and lubricants are derived from the same source and reducing the consumption of both is critical to achieving meaningful cost/process benefits. Lubricants, when exhausted, remain in liquid form and must be disposed of correctly or recycled. Severely exhausted lubricants are not suitable for reclamation; better management of the lubricants in service ensures that they remain fit for further use.

Management of leakage is another key area, especially outdoor or mobile plant. Consider a small drop of oil the size of a small coin leaking at the rate of one drop per minute, that is about two litres of oil lost per day. Multiply that by the number of guilty systems across Europe and the end result is devastating, and expensive.

Every company has the responsibility to manage its lubricants more effectively and to recognise the impact of lubrication on the environment.

The key to best practice and effective environmental maintenance is training your staff in a lubricant focused proactive maintenance strategy and ensuring they have the right tools and enough time scheduled to do the job properly.

Many of the companies in Europe who have taken a lead on best practice lubrication management are using independent experts to audit sites and to establish a Lubricant Efficiency Index (LEI). The process produces valuable results which help establish an improved environmental maintenance strategy. Implementing changes and continually auditing the site ensures LEI improves year on year and the impact of the company’s ‘ecological footprint’ is consistently reduced.

Martin Williamson is a graduate Mechanical Engineer and has managed an oil analysis programme in a mining environment, more latterly supported oil analysis products in a wide variety of industries, and is currently managing Noria UK Limited, based in Chester. Noria Corp, the parent company, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is an independent body of experts in all matters lubrication, providing training and consultation, and publishes two journals bi-monthly: Practicing Oil Analysis and Machinery Lubrication. Further information is available from and

Martin Williamson, Senior Consultant,
Noria UK Limited, P O Box 3156, Chester, Cheshire, CH4 7WE.
Tel:01244 659381
Fax: 01244 679482
email: [email protected].

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