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Lube analysis reveals major engine challenges

Wed 14 Jun 2017

Lube analysis reveals major engine challenges
“This problem is only likely to get worse.” Iain White, global marketing manager, ExxonMobil

Data analysis of cylinder oil by ExxonMobil has some sobering revelations for shipowners and operators

In-depth data analysis of more than 400,000 oil samples from ExxonMobil has revealed a wide range of potentially damaging engine issues facing operators.

The data, which was collected as part of ExxonMobil’s MobilGard Cylinder Condition Monitoring (CCM) programme, has revealed that 50 per cent of vessels are not operating at optimal feed rates, cold corrosion is present in 15 per cent of samples and that 43 per cent of vessels have a potentially catastrophic issue with cat fines.

Speaking to Marine Propulsion, global marketing manager for ExxonMobil Iain White indicated that he was surprised by the scale of the cat fine problem, saying: “If you’re running your purifiers properly, you shouldn’t have a problem with cat fines, so this data indicates that there are some serious problems with the skills and expertise of the crew.”

Another problem to which Mr White pointed is that, come 2020 and a potentially greater variance in local fuel blends, the cat fine problem has the potential to become more serious.

Mr White also went on to point out that the cold corrosion figure of 15 per cent had to be seen in context of the problem only affecting engines new enough to be at risk, meaning it was likely to become more widespread over time. “That problem is only likely to get worse,” he said.

In terms of feed rates, the most common scenario is over-lubrication resulting in wasted oil consumption and unnecessary expense. However, the results can be far more serious than this, generating excessive piston and liner wear that can ultimately lead to even more significant costs for operators.

The data gathered by ExxonMobil also revealed that 9 per cent of vessels see high levels of iron in the scrape down oil, something that is indicative of engine wear. Meanwhile, 25 per cent are experiencing water washing problems. The presence of water in the engine removes the cylinder oil from the liners and can cause high levels of wear.

Mr White said: “It’s no secret that the marine industry is facing challenging times. Operators are constantly under pressure to save money, so efficiency continues to be front of mind. The data captured by our MobilGard CCM programme has indicated that many are missing the opportunity to drive that efficiency, and some are even facing the risk of catastrophic engine failure.”

It was possible to collect this data because of the automation of the reporting function on MobilGard,, which can now deliver this information quickly for analysis.

The MobilGard CCM programme is designed to provide protection for slow-speed engines. Operators on the programme receive a tailored lubrication recommendation, based on extensive data samples that benchmark their specific engine and operating conditions. Regular MobilGard CCM analysis, coupled with support from ExxonMobil’s experienced engineers, helps customers to optimise their feed rates, maximise their engine life and ultimately reduce overall operating costs.

By tapping into the unprecedented wealth of data this system provides, combined with guidelines from key OEMs, ExxonMobil is not only able to optimise feed rates for its customers, but is also providing them with crucial insights into their engine performance, including a countdown to downtime.

 And, according to Mr White, it is possible to fine-tune this data even further and this is likely to be offered as a service to customers in the near future.

“We can slice and dice this data by vessel type, engine type or what kind of routes customers are sailing. This type of data analysis is currently only in its infancy, but we will be launching this as a service and it has the potential to save owners and operators a huge amount.”

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