A recent survey found that within the oil & gas and energy industries, the efficiency of a gas-powered engine is determined significantly by the industrial lubricant used, and this efficiency (or lack thereof) can directly impact a company’s bottom line.

The role of industrial lubricants in efficient natural gas engine operation cannot be understated. A recent survey found that within the oil & gas and energy industries, the efficiency of a gas-powered engine is determined significantly by the industrial lubricant used, and this efficiency (or lack thereof) directly impacts a company’s bottom line.

A good lubricant can help extend the life of a gas engine, increase power output, increase fuel efficiency, extend oil drain intervals and, consequently, reduce energy and operating costs.

Many of these benefits translate into less downtime – the highest quality expected of a lubricant, as indicated by survey respondents.

In the current climate of rising energy prices, they also value the significant energy efficiency potential of a high-performance industrial lubricant.

Last year, PennEnergy Research partnered with ExxonMobil Fuels & Lubricants to conduct a survey of members of the oil & gas and power industries. The survey questioned participants about their roles in the industries; their experience with gas-powered engines and industrial lubricants used in such engines; their professional needs with regard to industrial lubricants; preventive maintenance issues; and about practical necessities in avoiding engine downtime.

The survey had four goals:

  • To determine the types of engine oil used in gas engines, specifically in power generation;
  • To determine the factors which govern the selection and purchase of engine oil;
  • To determine potential customers’ expectations of high-performance engine oil;
  • To determine the impact of efficient gas engine operations and industrial lubricants on company business and financials.

Almost two thirds (65%) of survey participants indicated that they were either likely or very likely to install gas-powered engines for their power generation needs.

Of those companies currently using gas-powered engines, the vast majority surveyed (71%) use natural gas for power generation. Other gases used include biogas, industrial waste gas and landfill gas.

Engine optimisation

Clearly, the optimisation of a gas engine is important, but how do institutions maintain consistent engine optimisation? While a number of periodic measures may be implemented as part of a monthly or annual preventive maintenance regimen, few agents of efficiency actually reside within the engine itself, literally servicing the engine as it operates. One such agent is the gas engine oil being used.

The industry professionals agreed that engine oil is a key component in the efficient operation of gas engines. According to survey results, 65% of respondents felt that the role of the engine oil in gas engine performance optimisation is either ‘quite important’ or ‘very important’. An additional 20.5% believe it to be ‘important’. Thus, 85% of all respondents felt that the role of the engine oil was significant with regard to gas engine performance optimisation (see pie chart above).

Additionally, survey results also indicated that the respondents who felt most strongly about the importance of engine oil in optimising the performance of gas engines were those who are in maintenance roles in their companies.

Almost three quarters (71%) of those who perform engine maintenance feel that engine oil is ‘quite important’ or ‘very important’ to the optimisation of gas engines.

Commenting on the finding, Andrea Jacobsen, industrial marketing manager – Europe, Africa, Middle East at ExxonMobil F&L, said: ‘We had anticipated that many of the survey respondents would recognise the significant role lubricant selection plays in optimising the performance of gas engines, given their crucial role within the oil and gas and power industries.

‘In the current climate of rising energy prices, industrial organisations are taking more of an interest in ways to optimise performance. It is therefore key that decision makers understand that an advanced lubricant can help extend the life of an engine, increase power output, extend oil drain intervals, improve fuel efficiency, and, consequently, reduce energy and operating costs.’

Continuous operation

The importance of the continued operation of gas-powered engines in the oil & gas industry is somewhat obvious. When surveyed, more than half (52%) of respondents indicated that the consistent, efficient operation of their gas engines has an effect on their company’s business. A quarter of respondents ranked the importance of the consistent, efficient operation of their gas engines as a nine or 10, on a scale of one to 10.

Clearly, industry leaders recognise the correlation between continuous operations and their companies’ bottom line.

Perhaps less obvious is the important role gas engine optimisation plays in continuous performance. Engine optimisation as a step in the preventive maintenance process may, at times, be consciously disregarded by industry professionals as a discipline that provides only nominal benefits. Or, perhaps more worryingly, it is neglected unintentionally by those who do not understand the significant benefits it may offer.

Minimising downtime is one of the most important benefits of engine optimisation. More than half of all respondents (53%) believe that up to 25% of their engines have been offline due to unscheduled downtime in the last 12 months.

Moreover, a full 85% of respondents from investor-owned gas companies believe downtime to be up to 25%. These numbers are significant when considering the fact that production translates directly into revenue. Every time a gas engine goes down, so do a company’s profits.

According to Jacobsen: ‘Companies operating gas engines can look to reduce unscheduled downtime by switching from conventional mineral lubricants to high-performance mineral and fully-synthetic oils.

‘Upgrading from a conventional mineral oil can help to significantly reduce unscheduled downtime by ensuring engine components have the required protection under a range of operating conditions.’

When asked to rank five (given) expectations of a high-performance engine oil in order, respondents placed ‘less downtime’ at the top of the list.

This coincides with the earlier assertion that downtime has a significant, negative financial impact.

Extended engine life also ranked high in the survey. No doubt, the impetus for making these selections, whether directly or indirectly, was economic.

Efficiency saves money

Owners and operators of natural gas engines continue to seek ways to reduce their energy costs. While much can be said about a variety of aspects of gas engine efficiency, few benefits of efficiency are as compelling as its positive effect on an organisation’s bottom line.

The use of a well-designed lubricant gives a number of primary cost benefits including:

  • Extended oil drain intervals;
  • Extended engine life;
  • Increased equipment reliability;
  • Increased power output;
  • Improved operational efficiency, reducing energy consumption.

A strong confluence of this opinion was observed in the responses of those surveyed.

Nearly three quarters (72%) of respondents indicated five or higher on a 10-point scale that measured sentiment pertaining to the energy efficiency potential of an industrial lubricant on an organisation’s bottom line (see bar graph on opposite page).

Commenting on the finding, Jacobsen said: ‘The research clearly demonstrates that the efficiency of a gas-powered engine is significantly impacted by the engine oil used, and this efficiency, or lack thereof, directly impacts an organisation’s bottom line.

More than ever, customers increasingly understand the value and importance of selecting the most appropriate gas engine oil for them — and the potential financial implications of doing so.

‘The advanced technology used in the Mobil SHC Pegasus™ series can also increase fuel efficiency compared to conventional oils. In addition, high-performance gas engine oils can help to realise wider monetary savings.

‘For example, a customer was recently looking to reduce the amount of gas engine oil it purchased. We advised the customer to switch to Mobil Pegasus 1005, which can help to reduce oil consumption thanks to its high-quality base stock and advanced additive technology.

‘The customer reported that since switching to this product, it has experienced a 23% reduction in oil consumption — in 3500 hours of operation when compared to the performance of the previous gas engine oil.’

The results of this survey clearly demonstrate that the efficiency of a gas-powered engine is determined in large part by the engine oil used. Thus, the consistent, efficient operation of gas engines, supported by high-performance lubrication and oil condition monitoring, is therefore crucial to ensure trouble-free and efficient operation.

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