Oil Analysis Services

Monitor Performance & Identify Potential Problems

Oil analysis services are a relatively inexpensive and simple way to help monitor the condition of the oil & the equipment used within a system.  One of the largest advantages of sampling & analyzing oil is the early detection of system issues – potentially preventing larger problems in the future.  Our state of the art testing laboratory is equipped with automated processes, instruments, and advanced technologies that enable us to deliver consistent and accurate test results. We apply our technical expertise to an extensive range of analytical, physical, and mechanical testing capabilities, demonstrating our commitment to keeping your valuable equipment running efficiently.

Oil Analysis Services Can Increase Efficiency & Reduce Operating Costs

Routine analysis of oil samples properly taken from your compressor(s) can offer many benefits.  Some of these include:

  • Extend equipment life & improve reliability by ensuring that proper lubrication is present within the system & detecting potential issues before they become worse and cause excessive wear or worse yet – system failure
  • Prolong lubricant life through proper sampling and analysis to determine if it needs to be treated for any number of issues – potentially maximizing the drain cycle time at longer intervals
  • Improve operational efficiency and minimizing machine downtime through identification of problems before they affect the system
Oil Analysis FAQs

What is oil analysis and what are the benefits of doing it?

Oil analysis is a relatively inexpensive and simple way to help monitor oil condition and equipment condition while possibly preventing big problems from showing up down the road.

During an oil analysis, a small amount of oil is analyzed for additive elements and contaminant and wear metals. The oil is also tested for its physical characteristics, such as viscosity, and for chemical properties, such as TAN. The results of these tests can give the user an indication of the condition of both the oil and the equipment. The main purpose of oil analysis is to generate information about the condition of the lubricant and the equipment. This information can be used to:

  • Reduce unscheduled downtime – Oil Analysis can cut down on unscheduled equipment downtime and maintenance costs by spotting equipment problems before they become serious and costly to fix.
  • Extend drain intervals – Regular testing allows the user to monitor the oil’s condition. By knowing the condition of the oil, the user can make informed decisions about how long it can remain useful.
  • Increase equipment life – Oil analysis can provide detailed information about the condition of the equipment, such as the wear levels and contamination. By detecting problems early, oil analysis allows the user to address problems early and extend equipment life.

What is Trend Analysis and why is trending important?

Trend Analysis is based on current and past sample results where changes in the tested result can indicate the development of problems that can affect the lubricant and compressor performance. The result may be within the products specifications. Trend Analysis plays an important role in determining proper drain intervals as well as in predicting equipment failure.

What does “marginal” mean?

Marginal means that the results are still within specifications but are close to the condemning limits.

How much oil sample do you need to test?

Four ounces is need for routine oil analysis.

When do I take a used oil sample?

Although the original equipment manufacturer’s (OEM) recommendations provide a good starting point for developing preventative maintenance practices, sampling intervals can easily vary. Extreme conditions and applications can affect the sampling interval. The completed oil analysis report can provide guidance on when a new sample should be taken.

What information needs to be included with the sample?

All customer, distributor, lubricant, and equipment information needs to be entered onto the sample label in order to process the sample. Include on the sample label if there was a lubricant or filter change during sampling. It is imperative that the sample label be applied directly to the plastic sample bottle, not the cardboard canister. The mailing label can be applied to the cardboard mailing canister or if using a box to send in more than one sample, it can be attached to the outside of the box and therefore, does not need to be applied to the canister. Missing information from the sample label can result in a longer turn around time as the laboratory will need to request the information before the sample can be processed.

How long does it take to process a sample?

The laboratory processes most routine samples within 2-3 business days. An Oil Analysis Report will be emailed to the customer contacts with recommendations or customers and distributors can access their reports through the website. The website will show if the sample is completed or in process. If you do not receive your report within the 2-3 business days and the tracking number shows we received the sample, please call 1-800-637-8628 to inquire about the delay.

Why do we need to run a cleaner or an additional fill of cleaner?

A compressor cleaner is used to remove varnish, dirt, and oxidized fluid from a compressor. They are also used to flush a system when converting to a different lubricant to prevent contamination between the two different fluids. A compressor cleaner has a short life, <500, hours so additional fills of compressor cleaner could be needed depending on the cleanliness of the system. More varnished systems will require multiple fills of compressor cleaner.

How long can I run a compressor cleaner?

The maximum life of a compressor cleaner is 500 hours. It is recommended to test the compressor cleaner every 200 hours to monitor the condition of the compressor cleaner.

What is viscosity?

Viscosity is a measure of a fluid’s resistance to flow. It is one of the most important physical properties of a lubricant. If a lubricant does not have the proper viscosity, it may not flow to the equipment parts that need protection, or have sufficient film thickness to provide adequate lubrication. Kinematic viscosity is the measure of a fluid’s resistance to flow under gravity at a specific temperature.

What causes the viscosity to increase?

The main cause for a fluid’s viscosity to increase is due to oxidation. Contamination and evaporation can also cause the viscosity to increase. If the viscosity is too high it can result in:

  • Increased flow resistance, preventing the lubricant from properly lubricating
  • Increased temperature, which can promote oxidation and degradation of the lubricant
  • An increase in power consumption.

What causes the viscosity to decrease?

Decreased viscosity can be caused by chemical ingestion, solvent contamination, or different fluid contamination. If the viscosity is too low it can result in:

  • Increased fluid leakage
  • Increased wear because of metal-on-metal contact

What causes the Total Acid Number to increase?

The main cause for a fluid’s TAN to increase is oxidation. Lubricant hydrolysis and contamination can also cause the TAN to increase.

What is oxidation?

Oxidation is a process that occurs when a lubricant is exposed to oxygen. The negative effects of oxidation on an oil product include acid formation, sludge and varnish formation, increased viscosity, and lubricant decomposition. Since the major component of a lubricant, and base oil, is also the component that is most susceptible to oxidation, controlling this process is particularly important. A number of factors can accelerate the oxidation process, including increased temperatures and the presence in the lubricant of acids and metallic catalysts. Two of the most common causes of accelerated lubricant oxidation are high operating temperatures and over-extension of the drain interval. Oxidation stability is the ability to resist the oxidation process. Oil with good oxidation stability will typically have a longer working life than an oil with poor stability, and may hold up better under extended drain operation conditions.

What does it mean when the fluid has varnished?

The by-products of oxidation can lead to the formation of a varnish contamination. The varnish is what causes the smell of crayons. There are many problems associated with fluid that has varnished but one of the main problems is increased component wear due to varnish attracting dirt and contaminant particles. There will also be increased maintenance costs due to cleanup and disposal of oil.

Why is my antioxidant level below normal?

Antioxidants are one of the primary additives used in lubricant formulations. The main function of the antioxidant is to prevent the lubricant from breaking down. When a lubricant breaks down, it will typically result in polymerization or volatilization of the oil. The antioxidant prevents this by reacting with the breakdown product of the lubricant to prevent further decomposition. For this reason, the antioxidant level in a lubricant will drop with time or is considered sacrificial. An increase in Total Acid Number is a direct correlation to the depletion of antioxidants.

Why is moisture content of a lubricant important?

Moisture content of a lubricant is important as the presence of water, even at low levels, can:

  • Reduce the efficiency and useable lifetime of lubricant additives, especially at elevated temperatures
  • Contribute to premature corrosion and wear of bearings
  • Support undesirable bacterial growth
  • Reduce the load carrying ability of the lubricant
  • React with the lubricant and some additives to form undesirable by-products (varnish, sludge, organic and inorganic acids).

What does the ISO code mean for PC?

The results formulate the ISO (International Standards Organization) code fraction. The ISO code (i.e. 3/2/1) represents the ratio between particles present at levels greater than 4 micron (the denominator(1)) versus the particles present at levels greater than 6 micron (the middle number (2)) versus the particles present at levels greater than 14 micron (the numerator (3)).

Why is the PC ISO code high when there are not metals present?

The particle count test is counting metal particles and non-metallic particles. Non-metallic particles could consist of water, dirt, or any solid material. The particle count test can not distinguish from metallic and non-metallic particles.

What is the difference between wear metals, contaminant metals, additive metals, and particles?

Wear metals are minute particles of metal formed from the erosion between moving parts, abrasion, or corrosion. Wear metals are related to surface interactions and more specifically the removal of material from a surface as a result of mechanical action.

  • Three Types of Wear
    • Abrasion
      • Solid Contaminates-Sand (Silica)
    • Corrosion
      • Water reacts with the metal surface
    • Contact Fatigue
      • Metal to metal contact

Contaminant metals cause the fluid to be impure. These impurities can come from ground water, coolant, or another fluid type.  Additive metals are any material added to a base stock which enhances the existing properties of the base oil and/or imparts new performance properties. Additives are used as anti-wear agents, detergents, pour point depressants, rust and corrosion inhibitors, foam inhibitors, etc.  Particles include metallic and non-metallic, fibers, dirt, water, bacteria and any other kind of debris.

Where are the metals coming from?

Common Sources of metals:

  • Silver (Ag): bearing alloys
  • Aluminum (Al): coolers/heat exchangers, bearings, bushings, pistons, blowers and pumps
  • Copper (Cu): heat exchangers, tubing, bearings, bronze/brass, bushings, and pistons
  • Iron (Fe): bearings, cylinders, pumps, gears and motor walls
  • Lead (Pb): bearings
  • Barium (Ba): lubricant additive
  • Calcium (Ca): lubricant additive and ground water
  • Sodium (Na): water, coolant
  • Molybdenum (Mo): steel, lubricant additive
  • Magnesium (Mg): lubricant additive
  • Phosphorus (P): lubricant additive
  • Silicon (Si): sand, dirt, seals, lubricant additive
  • Zinc (Zn): galvanized parts, brass/bronze alloy, and lubricant additive
Testing Methods

OS Lab Testing Methods

 

WATER by Karl Fischer

Karl Fischer Operations

The Karl Fischer method is used for many substances as a reference method. It is a chemical analysis procedure which is based on the oxidation of sulfur dioxide by iodine in a methanolic hydroxide solution. In principle, the following chemical reaction takes place:

H2O + I2 + SO2 + CH3OH + 3RN -> [RNH] SO4CH3 + 2[RNH] I

The titration can be performed volumetrically or coulometrically. In the volumetric method a Karl Fischer solution containing iodine is added until the first trace of excess iodine is present. The amount of iodine converted is determined from the burette volume of the iodine-containing Karl Fischer solution.

In the coulometric procedure, the iodine participating in the reaction is generated directly in the titration cell by electrochemical oxidation of iodide until again a trace of unreacted iodine is detected. Faraday’s law can be used to calculate the amount of iodine generated from the quantity of electricity required.

Importance of the Karl Fischer Test

The Karl Fischer test is important because it informs the user how much dissolved water is in their system. High water can cause coalescing filter and bearing damage/failure. It also causes corrosion in the compressor.

 

Total Acid Number

Total Acid Number (TAN) Operations

The total acid number (TAN) is the number expressed in milligrams (mg) of potassium hydroxide needed to neutralize the acid in one gram of oil. The test is used to indicate the amount of oxidation that the fluid has undergone. The acid number increases as the fluid begins to oxidize.

Importance of the TAN Test

The TAN test is used to condemn nearly all fluid types, thus a precise and accurate analysis is crucial. The TAN signifies the basic condition of the fluid by giving a value that signifies the amount of oxidation that the fluid has undergone. The TAN can also indicate if a compressor is running too hot, or if the compressor is ingesting a foreign chemical that is harmful to the lubricant and/or the compressor.

 

Particle Count

Particle Count Operations

The particle count uses a laser diode as the illumination source and a photodiode as the detector. The particles pass through a sensor. When particles are present within the sensor’s micro cell, the particles block the laser beam from the photodiode detector. The loss of laser light generates an electronic pulse for each particle. These pulses are proportional in amplitude to the light intensity or light extinction, which is a measure of the particle size. The particle counter identifies the quantity and the height of the pulses by sorting the pulses into bins with predefined pulse amplitude ranges. The data is transferred to digital numbers and printed. The test breaks the size ranges down from 4-70 microns. The results formulate the ISO (International Standards Organization) code fraction. The ISO code (i.e. 3/2/1) represents the ratio between particles present at levels greater than 4 micron (the denominator(1)) versus the particles present at levels greater than 6 micron (the middle number (2)) versus the particles present at levels greater than 14 micron (the numerator (3)).

Importance of the Particle Count Test

The importance of particle count analysis includes: identification of solid material, identifying abnormal wear conditions, monitoring the effects of filtration, and measuring overall system cleanliness.

Particle Count Values

The rule for all fluids that are completed is based on the ISO Code. If the third number is greater than 19 we will ask for a filter change or a fluid change depending on fluid type. (>XX/XX/19).

 

Kinematic Viscosity

Kinematic Viscometer Operations @ 40ºC

The term viscosity is defined as the internal resistance of a liquid to flow over a certain amount of time with larger numbers relating to thicker fluids. Kinematic viscosity is the measure of a fluid’s resistance to flow under gravity at a specific temperature. The S.I. unit for the measurement of viscosity is the centistoke (cSt). A fixed volume of liquid flows under gravity through a calibrated viscometer capillary, under a reproducible driving head and at a closely controlled and known temperature, 40ºC. If the oil increases in viscosity, it means that the oil is becoming thicker. The most common cause of increased viscosity is oxidation. Oxidation is a normal process of a lubricant and is the reason for most oil changes.

Importance of the Viscosity Test

The viscosity test is considered the most imperative property of lubricating oils, and an active indicator of the oils’ functionality. The viscosity can be used to indicate high operating temperatures, contamination of another fluid, overloading, and water/coolant contamination conditions. An increase or decrease in viscosity can lead to overheating, increased friction, and ultimately catastrophic failure.

 

Spectrochemical Analysis by Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP)

With ICP emission, elemental concentrations are determined by measuring light intensities at discrete wavelengths. Because the ICP is a very high temperature source, it emits many thousands of wavelengths – a “complex spectrum”. The job of the spectrometer’s optics is to make sense of this information and the best way to do this is to use an Echelle optical system with a large output format.

The ICP’s Echelle optics disperse the spectrum, widely separating the wavelengths thereby minimizing interferences and the need for inter-element corrections. The design also improves resolution – the ability of a spectrometer to distinguish between two closely spaced wavelengths – without reducing the amount of light that gets to the detector.

Metals analysis determines what wear and contaminant metals are present. The particles are <5 microns when in solution. The detection limit is 1 ppm. Al, Ag, Ba, Ca, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mg, Mo, NA, Ni, P, Pi, Si, Tn, V, and Zn are the significant metals being analyzed.

The importance of ICP Analysis is to monitor lubricant additive levels, identify abnormal wear conditions, and determine if contamination is present in the lubricant.

 

Sample Collection Guidelines

Guidelines for Successful Sample Collection

 

Consistently following proper sample-taking guidelines is vital to ensuring that the analysis data you receive is the best representation of the lubricant within your system. Utilizing proper sampling techniques will allow for better data consistency & accuracy when determining the condition of your lubricant. Inconsistent sampling will cause the trend analysis, which is used to determine the condition of the fluid, to be inaccurate.  This could compromise early detection of potential issues in compressor systems often identified with an accurate trend analysis.

There are several tools that can be utilized to help ensure the sample taking process is consistent over time. While specific tools will not be mentioned, the guidelines below focus on the appropriate locations & timing of collecting the lubricant sample.

  1. All samples should be taken by trained individuals utilizing all appropriate safety practices required.
  2. Use clean sample bottle kits and sampling tools.
  3. Obtaining a lubricant sample while equipment is running would be ideal. If this is not possible then shut the unit down and allow cooling for 5-10 minutes.
  4. The best location to take samples is past the lubricant filter. We are interested in the fluid that will actually be lubricating the equipment.
  5. If the equipment does not have lubricant filters or taking samples after the lubricant filters is not possible then take the sample from the sump. Be sure to drain off all water and debris before taking the actual sample that will be sent to the laboratory. Condensation is common as the equipment cools so it is very important that all liquids are drained.
  6. Taking a sample from an actual lubricant filter is the least optimal location or the last choice.
  7. All samples for a specific machine should be taken from the same sampling location and the procedure of taking the sample shall be consistent. This will allow for better trend analysis.
  8. The sampling label should be completely filled out before sending the sample to the laboratory. All customer, distributor, lubricant, and equipment information needs to be entered onto the sample label in order to process the sample. Include on the sample label if there was a lubricant or filter change during sampling. It is imperative that the sample label be applied directly to the plastic sample bottle, not the cardboard canister. The mailing label can be applied to the cardboard mailing canister or if using a box to send in more than one sample, it can be attached to the outside of the box and therefore, does not need to be applied to the canister. Missing information from the sample label can result in a longer turn around time as the laboratory will need to request the information before the sample can be processed. All the information on the information label is required for an accurate analysis.
  9. Prompt delivery of the sample to the laboratory is important. Oil analysis attempts to evaluate the current condition of the oil and the equipment, so it is crucial to get the sample to the laboratory for analysis quickly after the sample is taken.
  10. Follow your OEM sampling frequencies and the sampling guidelines noted on the lubricant analysis reports to determine when the next sample should be taken and sent in for analysis.
Flushing Procedures

Recommended Flushing Procedures

 

Flushing Non-Varnished or Non Oxidized Units

  • The first recommendation would be to flush all units prior to converting to the new fluid from the competitor’s fluid. Separating elements and oil filters should be changed after the flushing fluid is removed. This will eliminate all potential compatibility issues and it will also help to eliminate liability issues of draining and filling as well as mixing fluids. Mixing fluids that are manufactured by different companies is not recommended. We recommend filling with compressor cleaner and running for 200-250 hours. After 200-250 hours send a sample to the oil analysis laboratory. The laboratory will issue a report with instructions on how to proceed.
  • This process can be used for Mineral Oil, PAO, Polygylcol (PAG), and silicon base fluids.
  • When converting from a PAO or Mineral Oil to a PAG or vice versa a flush is required. These basefluids are not compatible.
  • If flushing is not an option then at a minimum it is asked that you take a sample of the lubricant being used and send the sample to the oil analysis laboratory to determine if a flush is required based on the total acid number. If the fluid’s oxidation levels are low and the basestocks of the fluids are compatible then a drain and fill may be appropriate. Additive incompatibilities are a possibility if a drain and fill is completed.
  • If a drain and fill is necessary we ask that you follow the following guidelines.
    • While hot drain the compressor thoroughly. Be sure to drain all the low lying areas. Detach and drain the lines. Inspect the machine, if clean, change filters and separator elements.
    • Refill with the fluid you are converting to.
    • Sample the new fill after 500 hours.

 

Flushing Slightly High Total Acid Number Machines (TAN 1.5-5.0)

  • Always clean the compressor with a compressor cleaner using the following procedure:
    • While hot drain the compressor thoroughly. Be sure to drain all the low lying areas. Detach and drain the lines. Inspect the machine, if clean, change filters and separator elements.
    • Fill the machine with compressor cleaner and run for 300 hours.
    • Take a sample at 300 hours and send it to the oil analysis lab for analysis. The analysis will determine if further flushes of compressor cleaner are needed.
    • If clean, and the oil analysis lab confirms that the fluid is clean, drain the machine, change filter and separator elements and fill the machine with new fluid.
    • Send a sample to the oil analysis lab at 200 hours to verify the condition of the new fill.

 

Flushing Medium to Heavy Varnished Machines (TAN >5.0-10.0)

  • Always flush the machine with compressor cleaner using the following procedure:
    • While hot drain the compressor thoroughly. Be sure to drain all the low lying areas. Detach and drain the lines. Inspect the machine, if clean, change filters and separator elements.
    • Fill the machine with a full charge of compressor cleaner and run for 200-300 hours.
    • Take a sample at 200-300 hours and send it to the oil analysis lab for analysis. The analysis will determine if further flushes of compressor cleaner are needed.
    • If the laboratory confirms it is not clean, use the draining technique above at 500 hours.
    • Refill the machine with another full charge of compressor cleaner and follow the steps above until the oil analysis lab confirms that the machine is clean.
    • Once the oil analysis lab confirms the sample of cleaner is clean, drain the machine, change filter and separator elements and fill the machine with new fluid.
    • Send a sample to the oil analysis lab at 200 hours to verify the condition of the new fill.

 

Extremely Varnished Machines (TAN >10.0)

  • Machines should not be put into service until mechanically or chemically cleaned.
  • After proper cleaning, fill the machine with new fluid.
  • Send a sample to the oil analysis lab at 200 hours to verify the condition of the new fill.

 

Flushing Varnished Vacuum Pumps or Vane Air Compressors

  • Consult the OEM for instructions

 

Flushing Food Grade Application Machines

  • The machine should be taken off line prior to using any compressor cleaner.
  • Follow the instructions above depending on what the TAN is.

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