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Industrial air compressor lubricants - what affects the life of your lubricant?

Whether you are a distributor or an end-user of industrial compressor lubricants, getting the right compressor oil is essential to the equipment life, operating efficiency and up-time optimization. With so many options from which to choose, how can you be sure you are: a) getting the right product, and b) getting the best performance. Here's a few things to consider when analyzing the performance of lubricants, establishing Oil Sampling Program intervals, etc:

1. Discharge Temperature - Any fluid’s service life is halved for every 20°F increase in discharge temperature above 190°F.

2. Ambient - environmental conditions (chemicals, dust) most certainly affects the life cycle change frequency

3. Condition of the compressor - Sludge/varnish build-up

4. Condition of old oil at time of change out (acidity, dirty)

5. Maintenance practices (proper oil level, filter and separator changes)

6. Operating Temperature

Factors that contribute to degradation of a lubricant:

1. Oxidation -

  • Oxidation will cause a lubricant to degrade in service by a thermally induced reaction with oxygen

  • The process will speed up by heat, light metal catalysts and the presence of water, acids and solid contamination

  • Oxidation is a chain reaction. So the further it progresses the more rapid it becomes

  • Oxidation will increase viscosity and cause the formation of acids and sludge. All which can effect operation and even the life of the compressor

2. (TAN)Total Acid Number

  • (TAN)Total Acid Number is a measure of the amount of alkaline necessary to neutralize the inorganic acids present within the oil.

  • A (TAN) test should not be confused with a pH test. Although acids are being produced by the oxidation process, it is not significant enough to alter the oils pH level.

  • Range of TAN Results

  • TAN = <0.1 = Indicates a new fluid

  • TAN = 2.0 = Condemning Limit

3. Demulsibility

Demulsibility is a measurement of a fluids ability to separate from water. A fluid with good demulsibility (40/40/0) @ 40C should readily separate from water, resulting in clear distinctly separate layers of oil and water.

  • A fluid with poor demulsibility will not easily separate from water often resulting in cloudiness in both the oil and water layers.

  • Cloudiness in water layer can also indicate possible additive drop out (typically rust inhibitor)

4. Carbon and Varnish Control

  • Lubricants with excellent carbon and varnish control lead to cleaner operations, and lower repair costs

  • POE, Diester, and PAG based compressor fluids exhibit good carbon and varnish control

  • Carbon and Varnish will cause compressor discharge temperature to rise

5. Compatibility

Signs of incompatibility can include:

  • Combined fluids become murky

  • Incompatible fluids can cause foaming

  • Fluids can turn to jell and become very thick


Look for lubricants that have been formulated to withstand the high temperatures and pressures of air compressors:

  • Longer fluid life up to 12,000 hours at 200F

  • Great resistance against water contamination

  • Compatible fluids available for all OEM, and most aftermarket compressor fluids

  • No flushing required

  • Top off compatible

  • Enhanced cleaning properties

  • Resistance against carbon and varnish formation

  • Reduced downtime, maintenance, which reduce costs

  • Excellent protection against wear

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