The International Paper plant in Courtland, Alabama, has had an on-site oil analysis program since 2003. “We have seven people doing predictive maintenance, all of us are vibration analysts, but I’m the only one who does the oil,” explains Jeff Tucker, predictive maintenance, lubrication analyst, at International Paper. “We have four paper machines. We’ve got three electric generating turbines and three recovery balers. It’s a pretty good-sized place. We probably have about 1,000 employees. The whole maintenance department is more than 200 people.”
Before 2003, the plant would collect about 80 oil samples and send them out to the Mobil Lab in Kansas City for analysis on a quarterly basis. The oilers collected the samples with very little training on how to properly handle them, lab result sheets were returned to the mill, and the engineer responsible for the sample program would look them over, distribute them to the proper areas and write work orders as needed. Lubrication work orders seemed to get a low priority.
“As part of PdM program, our management had enough foresight to realize that was another PdM tool we could use,” says Tucker, who now runs samples internally with the Emerson Process Management CSI 5200 Trivector Analyzer. “We bought the analyzing equipment. We already used CSI vibration equipment and had the software. They shopped around and decided to go with the oil analysis equipment, too.”
The equipment arrived in 2003. “Someone from CSI came out for four days and brought the instrument with him and set it up,” remembers Tucker. “When he left after four days, I could go out and draw a sample and run it through the instrument and analyze it. You have to set alarms. The CSI also has a four-day class at the training center in Knoxville. That class taught me how to set alarms and parameters. It was probably mid-2004 before I was confident I was making the right call because of something I was seeing in the oil.”
The minimum frequency of analysis the plant runs is monthly, he explains. “We started out doing 48 samples/month on the most critical equipment on four different paper machines,” he says. “I’m analyzing about 120-125 samples/month now. And I have an additional 60-65 samples quarterly. I’ve grown this program now to where we’re going to have to re-do our frequencies or add an analyst.”
The earliest documented results the plant received were cleaning up oil. “But as the workforce got educated, we learned that dirty oil was causing most of our failures,” says Tucker. “We set targets, and we started cleaning up. Occasionally I’ll detect enough wire metal in a system and eliminate the problem before it starts. If it goes too far, a vibration analyst picks it up.”
The plant has developed a calculator to measure savings. “We use a cost-avoidance calculator that takes into consideration downtime, manpower and other things,” explains Tucker. “We plug our numbers into that calculator to determine cost avoidance. This group is documenting savings of $4-6 million annually. More than $900,000 of that was from the oil in 2010.”
Tucker cites a couple examples of specific failures that were avoided through in-house oil analysis. For example, in January 2009, the plant added main drive gear reducers on three sheeters to the monthly sample list. On April 1, 2010, a trace of wear debris was noticed. This was the first ferrous index on this reducer. Quick to act, the team collected vibration data within a week that indicated a bearing problem. By April 12, the gear box was torn down and a bad bearing was located and replaced.
In another example, displacement presses in the pulp/bleaching area are driven by two hydraulic motors, which are sampled each month and use synthetic hydraulic oil.
“We use Mobil SHC 526, which is an ISO VG 68 synthetic hydraulic,” explains Tucker. “The drums that are driven by these motors have a bearing on each end that carries a very high load. Since 2001, these bearings are lubricated with Royal Purple Thermyl-Glyde 1500 oil. This oil is a small amount and doesn’t circulate. They were not on any sample frequency at all.”
The lubrication mechanic in that area drains the filtrate and water off of these bearings weekly or as needed because they are not sealed adequately from the inside. In January, he noticed the appearance of the oil was different and caught a sample for analysis. “I built the point in RBM Oilview and analyzed the sample,” explains Tucker. “The high alarm on ferrous metal index in the bearing parameter is set at 10, and the sample had an index of more than 8,000. We monitored it to an outage, and the bearings were replaced, but this caused all seven presses to be added to the sample list. As a results, there were three other bearings found defective and they were all repaired without failure.”
More than 15 International Paper mills worldwide rely on CSI 5200 mini labs to monitor machinery, getting early detection of problems with contamination or deterioration of lubricants and finding evidence of abnormal wear in machinery.