Tagged: strategicreliabilitysolutions

Obtaining my MLT I & II certifications

MLT-certs

The MLT (Machinery Lubrication Technician) exams are developed by ICML (International Council for Machinery Lubrication) and is seen as the entry level certification for those who are working in the field of lubrication. When I entered the reliability field (years ago!), it was one of the credentials I was told that I should obtain to allow others to take me seriously since I was a young female entering a male dominated world. Back then, the training for these exams usually took place as a week-long intensive course in the US followed by the exam. For me, this would have meant travelling to the US, studying for the exam, catching up on work, balancing some jet lag and then writing the exam. This approach didn’t work for me.

I may have taken the unconventional route and written my first book, “Lubrication Degradation Mechanisms – A Complete Guide” published by CRC Press and obtained my MLE (Machinery Lubrication Engineer) certification before thinking of these exams. After achieving my MLE and becoming the first person (and still the only female) in the Caribbean, I went on to secure the Varnish badges from ICML. These are the VIM (Varnish and Deposit Identification Mechanisms) & VPR (Varnish and Deposit Prevention and Removal) badges from ICML. I was the first female in the world to achieve these and to date, still the only female with these badges. I pursued all of these courses via On demand sessions from the master himself, Michael Holloway of 5th Order Industry.

MLT-right-time

Everything at the right time

At the end of 2020, Mike approached me to write a guide book for the MLT Level I & II exams. My first question to him was, “How can I write the book for these exams if I don’t have these certifications?”. He assured me that the MLE content covered the topics in MLT I & II and then a lot more. We decided to work on writing the book and get the certification before the book was published. Surely enough after we submitted the pages to the publishing house, I began my preparation for the exam using Mike’s On Demand videos and the book we had just developed for these exams! I was preparing myself to take the MLT I first and then the MLT II right afterwards. Plus, Mike had a really good deal on the course content! How could I refuse?!

Unfortunately, life happened, or in this case death. In November, one of my parents contracted COVID and did not survive. While taking care of them, we also contracted COVID, the one with the long haul effects. Needless to say during the following months, I could not retain any information nor sit an exam. One of the side effects from COVID was brain fog and even after a couple of months this did not clear up to the point where I felt that I was ready to retain any information. I had forgotten basic info which would have been at the forefront of my memory and really struggled for some time to come to terms with everything that had happened and the new journey which lay before us. Our lives were changed forever.

MLT-exam-prep

Exam preparation

In May, I finally began to feel a bit better and restarted my MLT Journey with Mike’s videos and our certification book as our guide. This time, I had a physical copy of the book on my desk as it was already published (maybe things do work out in their own special timings). Getting back into study mode while running the business and dealing with never ending paperwork and legalities which surround a death was tricky. I was so grateful for the on demand courses to allow me to study on my own time, at my own pace, when I was truly ready. Also being able to book the exam and complete it virtually from my own space was terrific! The time and anxiety associated with taking an exam is enough, we don’t need to include traffic, getting to a physical location and the environmental conditions of the exam room into the mix!

If you’re preparing for the MLT exam, you have to complete Level I first. There is no skipping ahead to Level II as during the sign up process for MLT II, you have to include your MLT I ID#. My advice for scheduling the exams would be to schedule one on the Monday and the other by Friday of the same week.

Exam scheduling

Here are some tips on scheduling your exam:

  • When you sign up and pay for the exam you should allow 1-2 business days for processing.
  • Once you have been approved, then you can set your exam date. You will be notified via email with instructions on the next steps.
  • MLT I & II are both 3 hours, so choose your timeslot carefully.
  • Exam results take 2-3 days to process. You will receive an email with your results and grades in the various areas of the BoK.
  • Once you have passed MLT I and gotten your ID#, you should sign up for the MLT II exam immediately, if you intend to pursue it afterwards.
  • This will then take 1-2 days to process again. You will receive another email letting you know that you can choose your exam date.
  • Then, it’s on to schedule your exam date.
  • After the exam, you will have to wait for 2-3 business days to get your results.

Ideally, one should schedule a 2 week window for taking both the MLT I & II exams and receiving the results. You cannot take both exams in one day (just yet!).

Exam day

Once you enter the Examity portal, you will be asked to suggest a couple of security questions. Please choose these wisely and remember your answers as they will be asked on the day of the exam by the proctor. My advice would be to check the exam portal one day before your exam to familiarize yourself with the questions and answers as these are blocked out on the day of the exam. You should try to log on to the portal 30 minutes before the actual exam just to make sure you can get in and everything works. You will not be able to enter the “exam room” until 15 minutes before your appointed time. Afterwards, the Proctor will do their checks and balances with you where they ask to see your government issued identification (be sure your picture and expiry date are on the same side of this identification). They will also ask to see a 360 view of the room in which you are sitting to ensure it is clear.

During the exam, you can flag questions which you are not sure about and always go back to those afterwards. When you get to the last question, the button turns to submit but you don’t have to use this button until you are ready. Use your time to go back to your flagged questions, decipher the best suited answer and then press forward with your exam. Once you have finished and clicked the “Done” button, you should notify your proctor that you have finished the exam. They also have to close off the session on their side, so this is important to remember. You will see a page which comes up saying exam results, don’t panic! These are not your actual results, just a statement of the time you took. You will get your actual results within the next few days.

The MLT I & II Body of Knowledge

Here’s a look at the BoK for MLT I and MLT II. You will realize that the MLT II builds on the content covered in MLT I. Depending on where you are on your journey to machine lubrication, you can opt to take the both tests (one after the other of course) or simply start with the MLT I and then work up to the MLT II exam. In our certification guide, we used a Unique 5 Step process for learning:

  1. Familiarize
  2. Find Socrates
  3. Be the Exam
  4. Practice Exam
  5. Explore

This unconventional method has proven to be exceptionally effective, not for only passing the exam, but to truly retaining the knowledge and becoming an expert in the content you’re studying. Certification requirements are discussed throughout the work, making this the ideal resource for prospective MLT I and/or MLT II certification candidates.

 

Here’s a quick overview of the content covered in the book:

  • Notes Outline: For the reader to complete. Aids in organizing ideas and thoughts.
  • Guided Cooperative Argument: A dialogue between authors concerning the topics. Helps answer questions that are asked on the job.
  • Statements of Truth and Exam Development: From the recommended Body of Knowledge, with space to develop your multiple-choice questions. Develops critical thinking process and understanding of how the exam questions are structured.
  • Body of Knowledge Outline: Works as a reference to help answer any questions that may arise.
  • Practice Exam: A mock exam designed to familiarize the reader with taking a multiple-choice test that is similar in structure and content to the real one.
  • Glossary & Appendices: List of common terms, charts, and tables with which all certification candidates need to be familiar.

 

I hope this helps anyone on their journey towards achieving their ICML MLT certifications. Good luck to those who are getting ready to take these exams.

Varnish Badges of Honour

Varnish Badges_honour

Varnish is widely known as a primary culprit of equipment failure. This sticky enemy effectively finds its way into most of our equipment and causes operators, maintenance personnel and plant managers a series of nightmares. From unplanned shutdowns costing millions of dollars to sticking of servo valves on startup, or increases in bearing temperature, varnish usually announces its arrival. Once it has been found, there is typically a cause for panic but perhaps it just needs to be understood rather than feared?

 

The ICML VPR & VIM Badges

Recently (August, 2021), the International Council for Machinery Lubrication launched two new badges. These badges are, VIM (Varnish & Deposit Identification and Measurement) & VPR (Varnish & Deposit Prevention & Removal). These were created after the culmination of 3 years of work from the global varnish test development committee. It has been designed for those involved in all aspects of managing or advising lubricant programs especially those with the responsibility of recommending, selling or installing appropriate deposit control equipment or other mitigation strategies.

Most of the readers will already be familiar with my enthusiasm for understanding lubricant degradation. Thus, when these badges came out, I knew I had to secure them! While the requirements for taking the test suggest the possession of the MLT I or MLA I certification or 1 year of experience, I figured that my MLE certification would be an asset (as I haven’t gotten my MLT I certification yet, it’s on the list!). However, I wanted to make sure that I covered all of the elements in the BoK for both the VIM & VPR badges, so naturally I turned to the varnish guru himself, Greg Livingstone!

 

Fluid Learning – All the way!

Greg is the CIO at Fluitec but he’s also the facilitator for the ICML VPR & VIM badges. What a treat! If you’ve never heard the name Greg Livingstone then you’re obviously not in the lubrication field. Greg has penned hundreds of papers on varnish and can be thought of as the varnish guru since he has extensive experience in this area. It’s a no brainer that I chose Fluid Learning to get me up to speed on what I needed to know for these exams!

Greg was an amazing facilitator and not only covered information relevant to the BoK for the exams but gave students a full overview about everything you needed to know about varnish. These on demand sessions kept me scribbling notes and nodding to myself and saying, “Oh that’s what really happens!” He presents the information clearly and adds some much needed humour into the sessions. It was an absolute privilege having him as my tutor for these badges.

 

VPR & VIM- What you need to know!

Varnish Badges_need-to-know

VPR - Varnish & Deposit Prevention and Removal

The VPR badge ensures that candidates understand proactive methods and technologies which can be employed to reduce the degree of degradation. It is also designed to confirm that they can sufficiently evaluate combinations of technologies to prevent and remove varnish including the proper steps to set up and implement an effective varnish removal system.

The topics covered in the VPR include:

  • Problems associated with Varnish & Deposits (20%)
  • Factors affecting Breakdown (28%)
  • Proactive Methods that can be used to minimize oil breakdown (16%)
  • Methods / Technologies that can be used to remove oil breakdown products and/or prevent deposits (36%)

The complete BoK for the VPR badge can be found here.

 

VIM (Varnish & Deposit Identification & Measurement)

The VIM badge on the other hand is more ideally suited for personnel responsible for recommending suitable oil analysis tests and mitigation efforts related to the deposit tendencies of various in-service fluids (application dependent). They would also be responsible for monitoring and adjusting these strategies accordingly.

The topics covered in VIM include:

  • Problems associated with Varnish and Deposits (20%)
  • Varnish and Deposit Composition (24%)
  • How Breakdown Products / Contaminants become Deposits (24%)
  • Oil Analysis Techniques that can be used to gauge Breakdown and Propensity towards Deposit Formation (32%)

The complete BoK for the VIM badge can be found here.

 

Exam tips!

Varnish Badges_exam_tips

The actual exams for both the VPR & VIM are set at 45 minutes with 25 multiple choice questions. Candidates must achieve 70% grade to attain the badges. Currently, the fee for the exam is USD75. Since there were overlaps of the content and the exam durations weren’t that long, I decided to sit both exams in one day. I will only advise this for those who are comfortable with doing this as exam anxiety and all that comes along with it can be stressful!

Here are a couple tips for taking these exams:

  • Log into the system 30 minutes prior to your scheduled exam time. This allows you to clear your mind, settle yourself and gives you an extra 15 minutes to figure out where the email is with your credentials! If you can’t remember your password to login to the system, this also gives you enough time to get that reset and sorted before the actual exam time.
  • The session only opens 15 minutes before the appointed time. During this time, you will converse with the moderator as they do the checks of the room and your National Identification. The moderators will engage with you and ensure that you are sitting the correct exam.
  • Ensure you have your National Identification on hand (your passport can be used as well). As long as it has your picture and the expiration date on the same side, it will be acceptable. For the Trinidadians, do not use your National ID card as we have our pictures on the front with the information on the back (I used my Driver’s permit).
  • Candidates have the option of “Flagging” questions to come back to them later. This is a great tool to help you to mark those questions you want to return to or double check.
  • There is a timer in the screen layout which helps you to keep track of your time. 45 minutes passes very quickly when you’re running through the questions!
  • Exam results for these badges come back very quickly as much as within a few hours or one day depending on the time of your exam.

Why do you need these badges?

Varnish Badges_need-badges

As long as you work within the lubrication sector or interface with machines requiring lubrication, then you need to get these badges! Oil degradation occurs throughout the life of the lubricant whether it’s a small or large operation. By understanding how it degrades and ways to mitigate that degradation, you can save your equipment and avoid unwanted downtime. These badges were designed for the personnel in the field to allow them to make decisions regarding the lubricant and to empower them in taking steps to avoid degradation or mitigate it should the need arise. Consider it as getting your passport stamped by the ICML!

The courses offered by Fluid Learning are perfect for those seeking to understand lubrication deposits, what causes them and how they can be mitigated. While the content covered during these sessions align with the ICML VPR & VIM badges, they also add to a more holistic approach to varnish and deposits. Fluid Learning is an official ICML Training Partner and is currently the only one (of which I am aware) offering training prep for these badges. I highly recommend them for anyone seeking to learn more about or avoid sticky varnish situations. 

At the moment of writing this article, there are only 8 people globally who have acquired these badges from ICML. I am the first female in the world to attain these badges but I will not be the only female for very long. Varnish is an issue which affects us all and we need to understand it, so we can prevent it and keep our equipment safe. I hope to see many more candidates with these badges in the near future!

Food Grade Lubricants

Food_grade

Q: What are the classifications for Food grade lubricants?

If you’ve ever dealt with food grade lubricants in the past, you would have noticed that not all food grade lubricants are made to the same standard. When we think about it from a manufacturing standpoint, we can understand the need for varying specifications.

For instance, in a facility there are components that will come into contact directly with the food while there are others that will never make contact with the product being produced for consumption. As with all specifications, the prices of the lubricants created for regular non-food grade usage will differ from those that are specifically designed for food grade usage.

NSF Standards

NSF International is the body responsible for protecting and improving global human health. They also facilitate the development of public health standards and provide certifications that help protect food, water, consumer products and the environment.

Here are the different specifications for each of the food grades (used in most countries)1:

NSF H1 – General or Incidental Contact

NSF H2 – General – no contact

NSF H3 – Soluble oils

NSF HX-1 – Ingredients for use in H1 lubricants (incidental contact) [usually additives]

NSF HX-2 – Ingredients for use in H2 lubricants (no contact) [usually additives]

NSF HX-3 – Ingredients for use in H3 lubricants (soluble contact) [usually additives]

 

Usually using a NSF certified lubricant goes hand in hand with an HACCP based food safety program (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points).

 

Here's a bit more info on the Categories and where they should be used3:

  • H1 - food grade lubricants used in food processing environments where there is a possibility of incidental contact.
  • H2 - non-food grade lubricants used on equipment and machine parts where there is no possibility of contact
  • H3 - food grade lubricants which are edible oils used to prevent rust on hooks trolleys and similar equipment.

 

ISO standards

There are ISO standards that govern food safety. These are;

ISO 22000 – developed to certify food safety systems of companies in the food chain that process or manufacture animal products, products with long shelf life and other food ingredients such as additives, vitamins and biocultures2.

ISO 21469 – specifies the hygiene requirements for the formulation, manufacture and use of lubricants that may come into contact with products during manufacturing2.

 

 References:

  1. Quick Reference Guide to Categories, NSF USDA. https://info.nsf.org/USDA/categories.html#H1
  2. International Regulations for Food Grade Lubricants. Richard Beercheck. Lubes N Greases Europe- Middle East-Africa. June 2014. https://d2evkimvhatqav.cloudfront.net/documents/nfc_int_regulations_food_grade_lubricants.pdf?mtime=20200420102000&focal=none
  3. Chemistry and the Technology of Lubricants Third Edition by Roy M. Mortier, Malcom F. Fox, Stefan T. Orszuilk (Editors), Chapter 8 Industrial Lubricants, C. Kajdas et al. Springer Dordrecht Heidelberg London New York. DOI 10.1023/b105569

FZG Ratings

FZG

Q: What does FZG mean and why do gear oils have a rating?

FZG stands for “Forschungsstelle für Zahnräder und Getriebebau”, Technische Universität München (Gear Research Centre, Technical University, Munich), Boltzmannstraße 15, D-85748 Garching, Germany.

There are several FZG tests and these vary to establish different things. We will explore the two most common tests and what they mean.

The FZG tests were designed to accurately determine the types of gear failures that were influenced by scuffing, low speed wear, micropitting and pitting1. While there are load other tests for gear oils (such as Timken OK test) these do not accurately identify the actual failure stages that gears experience.

FZG A/8.3/90

One of the most commonly used FZG test is the FZG A/8.3/90 according to DIN ISO 14635-1. This is mainly used for evaluating the scuffing properties of industrial gear oils2. What do the numbers in the test mean?

The “A” represents an A-type gear with Pinion face width = 20mm, center distance = 91.5mm, number of teeth (pinion) = 16, number of teeth (gear) = 24. These are used in the test and are loaded stepwise in 12 load stages between Hertzian stress of pC= 150 to 1800N/mm2.

The “8.3” represents the pitch line velocity of 8.3m/s in which the gears are operated for 15 minutes at each load stage.

The “90” indicates the starting temperature of the oil (90°C) in each load stage under conditions of dip lubrication without cooling.

After each load, the gear flanks are inspected for scuffing marks. However, the fail load stage is determined when the faces of all pinion teeth show a summed total width of damaged areas which is equal or exceeds one tooth width. In the gravimetric test, the gears are dismounted and weighed to determine their weight loss.

 

FZG A10/16.6R/90

The FZG A10/16.6R/90 on the other hand is used for automotive gear oils (GL4). It is the standard FZG gear rig test but the speed, load, load application and sense of rotation have been slightly altered.

The “A” represents an A-type gear however, these now have a reduced pinion face width to 10mm (from 20mm above).

The “16.6R” represents the increased speed of the pitch line velocity of 16.6m/s in which the gears are operated for 15 minutes at each load stage in a reversed sense of rotation.

The “90” indicates the starting temperature of the oil (90°C) in each load stage under conditions of dip lubrication without cooling.

 

FZG S-A10/16.6R/90

However, the FZG S-A10/16.6R/90 is the shock level test done for the GL5 oils. In this test the gears are directly loaded in the expected load stage and a PASS or FAIL is issued.

 

References:

  1. ISO 14635-1:2000 Gears- FZG test procedures- Part 1: FZG test method A/8,3/90 for relative scuffing load carrying capacity of oils.
  2. Test methods for Gear lubricants. Bernd-Robert Hoehn, Peter Oster, Thomas Tobie, Klaus Michaelis. ISSN 0350-350X GOMABN 47, 2,129-152 Stručni rad/Professional paper UDK 620.22.05 : 621.892.094 : 620.1.05

Flender Specs

Flender

Q: Why should I use a Flender spec oil?

A lot of users ask about the need to use a Flender approved lubricant for their equipment! For a gear oil to be Flender approved1 in one of its units, the oil must be of CLP* quality according to DIN 51517-3 and motor oils must meet and ACEA Classification E2, API CF/SF. Additionally, it must meet the minimum requirements as per their specified “Proofs of performance / minimum requirements table” where the lubricants are tested at approved laboratories.

*CLP (according to DIN 51517-3)2 refers to an oil that contains additives which protect from corrosion, oxidation and wear in the mixed friction zone.

The manufacturer must also guarantee performance of the lubricant both for new oil and used oil up to a permissible range as per the following:

  1. Mineral oils (API I & II and ester oils) shall be 10,000 operating hours (2 years max)
  2. Mineral (API III) and Synthetic (PAO & PAG) oils shall operate for 20,000 operating hours (4 years max)
  3. All oil must produce the minimum requirements with an average operating temperature of 80°C

The following are a list of tests required by Flender which must produce specified minimum results:

  1. FZG Scuffing test in accordance with DIN ISO 14635-1 (A/8.3/90)
  2. FE8 rolling bearing test in accordance with DIN 51819-3 (D-7, 5/80-80)
  3. FVA micropitting test FV A 54 VII
  4. Flender oil Foam test in accordance with ISO 12152
  5. Compatibility with internal coating
  6. Compatibility with outer coating
  7. Filterability test FFT 7300 Rev.3
  8. Compatibility with liquid sealing component

Flender specifies the viscosity in the series to be tested for the minimum requirements.1

 

The Flender approval process ensures that the lubricant being used has been tested and can withstand some degree of micropitting, scuffing, foaming and is compatible with the surfaces in which it comes into contact. Thus, this makes the Flender approved lubricant more desirable for systems which place emphasis on the compatibility of all materials in the equipment (such as elastomers, paints etc). In conclusion, if you do have a Flender gearbox or equipment, it would be wise to use the Flender approved lubricant as they have gone the extra mile to ensure that the lubricant can protect your equipment.

 

Users can access a listing of approved Flender lubricants here: https://www.flender.com/en/lubricants

 

References:

  1. Specification for the gear oil approval for FLENDER Gear units (AS 7300) link
  2. Trends in Industrial Gear Oils by Jean Van Rensselar (STLE, Tribology & Lubrication Technology Magazine February, 2013) link

Lubrication Regimes

Regimes

Q: Is there only one type of Lubrication regime?

There are actually 4 types of lubrication regimes that equipment can experience and each component usually experiences at least 3 within their lifetime!

As per Noria 2017, the four different types of lubrication are; Boundary Lubrication, Mixed Lubrication, Hydrodynamic Lubrication and Elastohydrodynamic Lubrication.

Essentially, the best type of lubrication regime is Hydrodynamic as it provides the most ideal environment for both the lubricant and the surface. However, there are instances where other types of regimes can exist due to a lack of lubricant or contaminants.

Most components experience Boundary Lubrication on start up where there isn’t a proper layer of lubrication between the two surfaces. As such, the asperities of the two surfaces touch and can create wear. When we look at surfaces under a microscope, we can see tiny asperities (which we can liken to sharp or jagged edges) which are prevalent along the surface.

Even though a surface may appear shiny and smooth, when we microscopically examine them, the actual surface has a lot of asperities. Imagine, if two rough surfaces were sliding against each other, like a piece of sand paper against a wall, eventually parts of the wall will be removed due to the asperities of both the sand paper and the wall.

As more oil is gradually introduced to the component, it begins to experience Mixed Lubrication. In this state, the oil film is still not fully formed and is a bit thicker in some places than others. There are some contact areas where the surfaces will still experience boundary lubrication as well as elastohydrodynamic or hydrodynamic lubrication.

During this period, wear occurs due to the areas that are still experiencing boundary lubrication. However, it can be considered a transition phase as the surfaces move from tone type of regime into another as the lubricant film gradually increases.

When the component is full immersed in the lubricant, it usually achieves Hydrodynamic Lubrication which allows for a full film to be formed between the two surfaces and there is no longer any contact with the asperities. This is one of the most ideal forms of lubrication as it greatly reduces the wear between the two surfaces and the oil film safeguards that these can easily slide over each other thus, decreasing the friction between them. In this type of lubrication, the oil wedge is maintained in all operating conditions and guarantees that the asperities of both surfaces do not interact with each other.

On the other hand, with Elastohydrodynamic Lubrication, something quite special occurs with the lubricant causing the component to deform slightly ensuring that the film is maintained between the two surfaces. This happens at the highest contact pressure and ensures that the asperities do not touch whilst maintaining the oil wedge.

This type of lubrication usually occurs when there is a rolling motion between two moving surfaces and the contact zone has a low degree of conformity (Noria. 2017). Essentially, Elastohydrodynamic lubrication occurs when the lubricant allows the contact surface to become elastically deformed while maintaining a healthy lubricant film between the two contact surfaces.

 

References:

Noria Corporation. 2017. Lubrication Regimes Explained. https://www.machinerylubrication.com/Read/30741/lubrication-regimes

 

EALs?

EALs

Q: What makes a lubricant Environmentally Friendly?

There are many definitions of environmentally friendly. For instance, a lubricant can be environmentally friendly if it doesn’t pollute the environment which can either be understood as low toxicity or a reduced number of times that the oil is disposed.

However, there are three main factors which are considered when deeming a lubricant environmentally friendly2;

  1. Speed at which the lubricant biodegrades if introduced into nature
  2. Toxicity characteristics that may affect bacteria or aquatic life
  3. Bioaccumulation potential

Biodegradability

Biodegradability is defined as the measure of the breakdown of a chemical or chemical mixture by micro-organisms. It is considered at two levels namely;

  1. Primary biodegradation - loss of one or more active groups renders the molecule inactive with respect to a particular function
  2. Ultimate degradation – complete breakdown to carbon dioxide, water and mineral salts (known as mineralisation)3

Biodegradability is also defined by two other operational characteristics known as:

  1. Ready Biodegradability – occurs where the compound must achieve a pass level on one of the five named tests either, OECD, Strum, AFNOR, MITI or Closed Bottle3
  2. Inherent Biodegradability – occurs when the compound shows evidence in any biodegradability test.3

 

Toxicity

The toxicity of a lubricant is measured by the concentration of the test material required to kill 50% of the aquatic specimens after 96 hours of exposure (also called the LC50)1

 

Bioaccumulation

The term bioaccumulation refers to the build-up of chemicals within the tissues of an organism over time. Compounds can accumulate to such levels that they lead to adverse biological effects on the organism. Bioaccumulation is directly related to water solubility in that the accumulations can be easily soluble in water and not move into the fatty tissues where they become lodged.

 

Common Base Oils

There are three of the most common base oils that are Environmentally Acceptable2:

  1. Vegetable Oils
  2. Synthetic Esters
  3. Polyalkylene Glycols (PAGs)

These all have low toxicities and when blended with additives or thickeners for the finished lubricant, they should be retested to ensure that the additives / thickeners have not compromised the environmentally acceptable limits.

 

Labelling

Some lubricants can carry the “German Blue Angel Label” if all major components meet OECD ready biodegradability criteria and all minor components are inherently biodegradable.

Based on the requirements by Marpol, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and current legislation from the European Inventory of Existing Commercial Chemical Substances (EINECS), a product may be considered acceptable if it meets the following requirements:

  • Aquatic toxicity >1000ppm (50% min survival of rainbow trout)
  • Ready biodegradability > 60% conversion of test material carbon to CO2 in 28 days, using unacclimated inoculum in the shake flask or ASTM D5846 test 1.

 

References:

  1. Lubrication Fundamentals Second Edition, Revised and Expanded. D.M. Pirro (Exxon Mobil Corporation Fairfax, Virginia), A.A. Wessol (Lubricant Consultant Manassas, Virginia). 2001.
  2. United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Wastewater Management Washington, DC 20460. Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants. https://www3.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/vgp_environmentally_acceptable_lubricants.pdf
  3. Chemistry and Technology of Lubricants 3rd Edition, Chapter 1, R.M. Mortier, M.F. Fox, S.T. Orszulik)

Base Oil Groups

Base_oil_groups

Q: How many Groups of Base oils are there?

There are 5 groups of base oils as defined by the American Petroleum Institute (API). However, between 2003-2010, the Association Technique de L’Industrie Européenne des Lubrifiants (ATIEL) (Europe) included Group VI - All polyinternalolefins (PiO).

Groups I-III are typically mineral oils while Groups IV-V are synthetic oils.

  • Group I: Solvent refined
  • Group II: Hydrocracked / Hydrotreated
  • Group III: Hydrocracked / Hydro-isomerized
  • Group IV: PAO Synthetics
  • Group V: All other Synthetics

Here is a table that shows the different groups.

Reference: Lubrication Fundamentals Second Edition, Revised and Expanded. D.M. Pirro, A.A. Wessol, Chapter 2.

 

Group I: <90% Saturates, ≥0.03% Sulphur, Viscosity Index: 80 to 120

These were characteristically the most popular initially since they were relatively inexpensive to produce (solvent refined) and used in non-severe, non-critical applications. This Group has more double bonds (carbon) which allows for an increase in stability of the carbon chain.

 

Group II: ≥90% Saturates, ≤0.03% Sulphur, Viscosity Index: 80 to 120

These are hydrocracked and higher refined. However, due to hydrocracking, the double bonds are reduced greatly which decreases the stability of the carbon chain. (A lot of turbine users would have noticed this change around 2010 when most Group I base oils were replaced by Group II base stock. These users saw increased varnish as the oils did not have the level of solubility that they did before!).

Group II+: (yes, this exists!) These have VIs of 110-120 with improved low temperature and volatility Characteristics.

 

Group III: ≥90% Saturates, ≤0.03% Sulphur, Viscosity Index ≥ 120

There is an argument that this group should be placed in the synthetic category. However, by definition, this group is the severely hydrocracked and highly refined crude oil which can be used in semi-synthetic applications as it has similar properties to that of synthetic oil.  These are also called synthesized hydrocarbons.

Group III+: These have VIs approaching (or in some cases exceeding) those of synthetic PAOs (some even go above 140). They are also very pure with almost non-existent levels of sulphur, nitrogen, aromatics and olefins. Typically, Gas to liquid base oils can be found in this group as it approaches the Group IV categorization.

 

Group IV: Polyalphaolefins – these are very stable, uniformed molecular chains where there is a reduction in the coefficient of friction. Most are formed through oilgomerisation.

 

Group V: Ester and other base stocks not included in Groups I-IV such as silicone, phosphate esters, PAGs, Polyol esters, Biolubes and Naphthenics.

 

References:

  1. Chemistry and Technology of Lubricants 3rd Edition, Chapter 1, R.M. Mortier, M.F. Fox, S.T. Orszulik)
  2. Lubrication Fundamentals Second Edition, Revised and Expanded. D.M. Pirro (Exxon Mobil Corporation Fairfax, Virginia), A.A. Wessol (Lubricant Consultant Manassas, Virginia). 2001.

PAOs vs PAGs

PAO_vs_PAG

Q: What’s the main difference between PAOs & PAGs?

Let’s start off with definitions!

PAO: Polyalphaolefin

PAG: Polyalklene Glycol

While both are synthetic oils they are classified under different Groups of Base oils. PAOs have their own Base oil Group IV while PAGs fall into the Group V (catch all).

PAOs

PAOs are actually hydrogenated oligomers of an α-olefin and there are different methods of oligomerisation. Due to this process, PAOs have very good low temperature properties and the products are wax free! Additionally, their lower volatilities also allow them to operate over a wide temperature range. Usually, they can be used in a lot of versatile applications such as gearboxes, screw compressors, fans, motors and even automotive!

However, PAOs have a low polarity which gives rise to poor solvency of polar compounds and issues with seal performance.1

PAGs

On the other hand, PAGs can differ depending on their structure. For instance, Ethylene is water soluble while Propylene is not, however, neither are oil soluble. Both experience significant chemical reactions producing sludge like deposits when mixed with mineral oil.

Usually, their properties include a wide viscosity range, low pour points, good lubricity, low toxicity and non-flammable in aqueous solutions. PAGs are typically always found in fire-resistant hydraulic fluids as well as industrial gear oils, compressor lubricants, heat transfer liquids and metalworking fluids.1

Compatibility

Both products need to be tested for compatibility with mineral oils before any mixing occurs. Additionally, most lubricant suppliers deem PAOs & PAGS as “filled for life” solutions which last for a longer time compared to mineral oils. Typically, the purchase of these products are more expensive than mineral oils, however if one looks at the cost of waste disposal and reduced downtime (due to decreased shutdowns for oil changes) the overall cost of the lubricant is by far less than that of mineral oil.

 

References:

  1. Chemistry and Technology of Lubricants 3rd Edition, Chapter 2, R.M. Mortier, M.F. Fox, S.T. Orszulik

My MLE Journey

My MLE Journey

Ever since the MLE (Machinery Lubrication Engineer) exam was launched in April 2019, I was intrigued by it! It provided a certification where the dynamic duo of reliability and asset managers could be combined and infused with elements of lubrication and oil analysis. The perfect combination! However, since its launch, there have only been a couple of public sittings where the exam has bene conducted. Unfortunately for me, this would have required me to travel to the US for at least a week and run my business remotely. Every session that was announced directly clashed with my schedule and it was almost impossible for me to attend a session that didn’t clash with my crazy schedule.

Enter the C-19 pandemic that we’ve been facing that began in March 2020 (for us in Trinidad when our borders were closed). This pandemic caused (some much needed) downtime for all of us and helped to revolutionize the industry by allowing advancements in technology to finally be accepted. During the downtime, I decided to start studying for the MLE Exam with 5th Order Industry LLC. What a surprise, I had in store for me! After starting the course, I realized, I knew nothing about lubrication in the past! It was a definite eye opener and made me aware of the number of elements that I took for granted during my entire lubrication career.

Michael Holloway CRL, LLA (I,II), MLT (I,II), MLA (I,II, III), OMA, CLS, MLE was a great teacher and offered me assistance in all the areas in which I was unclear. He was also extremely responsive to all of questions at weird hours of the day when I got the time to study for the exam. His guidance was paramount to me achieving the MLE certification! The flexibility of On Demand modules allowed me to learn at my own pace and ensure that I understood each area before moving on to the next. The unique style of the delivery of the class really ensured that I benefitted from the bulk of the information provided as it allowed me to apply the knowledge in real life practical situations.

what_is_MLE

What exactly is the MLE?

The MLE exam was launched in April, 2019 along with the ICML 55.1 standard. Part 1 of the ICML 55 standard speaks to Asset Management, requirements for Optimized Lubrication of Mechanical Physical Assets. The MLE was mapped to this ICML 55.1 standard. This allows personnel within organizations who are studying for this exam to become more prepared for eventually attaining the ISO 55001 certification for their organization. The ICML 55.1 standard was drafted using the ISO 55001 as a guide however the 55.1 standard fills the gap with specific requirements and guidelines to establish, implement, maintain and improve consistent lubrication management systems and activities.

 

The MLE Body of Knowledge consists of 24 areas of knowledge and can be found here in greater detail. Additionally, the well documented Domain of knowledge is also accessible here.

The 24 areas for the BoK include:

  1. Asset Management, ISO 55001 & ICML 55; Basic Elements (3%)
  2. Machine Reliability; Basic Elements (5%)
  3. Machine Maintenance; Basic Elements (5%)
  4. Condition-based Maintenance; Basic Elements (5%)
  5. Tribology, Friction, Wear and Lubrication Fundamentals; Basic Elements (5%)
  6. Lubricant Formulation for Machine Types to achieve Optimum Reliability, Energy Consumption, Safety and Environmental Protection; Basic Elements (5%)
  7. Job and Task Based Skills / Training related to Lubrication and Reliability by User Organizations (4%)
  8. Lubrication Support Facilities needed in Plants and Work Sites (3%)
  9. Risk Management for Lubricated Machines; Basic Elements (4%)
  10. Optimum Machine Modifications and Features Needed to Achieve and Sustain Reliability Goals (5%)
  11. Lubricant Selection for Optimum Reliability, Safety, Energy Consumption and Environmental Protection based on Machine Type and Application (4%)
  12. Lubrication related Planning, Scheduling and Work Processing (4%)
  13. Periodic Lubrication Maintenance Tasks (4%)
  14. Inspection of Lubricated Machines for Optimum Reliability, Safety, Environmental Protection and Condition Monitoring (5%)
  15. Lubricant Analysis and Condition Monitoring for Optimum Reliability Objectives (8%)
  16. Fault/Failure Troubleshooting, Root Cause Analysis (RCA) and Remediation (5%)
  17. Supplier Compliance / Alignment and Procurement of Services and Products (3%)
  18. Waste and Used Lubricant Management and Environmental Compliance (3%)
  19. Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection (3%)
  20. Health and Safety (3%)
  21. Oil Reclamation, Decontamination, De-varnishing & Additive Reconstruction (3%)
  22. Lubrication during Standby, Storage and Commissioning (2%)
  23. Program Metrics (5%)
  24. Continuous Improvement (4%)
Candidate_req

Candidate requirements

As per ICML, candidates require at least 5 years education (post-secondary) or On-the-Job training in one or more of the following fields: Engineering, Mechanical Maintenance, Maintenance Trades, Lubrication, Oil Analysis and / or Condition Monitoring (Mechanical Machinery).

There are no prerequisites of an Engineering Degree or prior ICML certifications to attain the MLE certification. However, there are overlaps in the BoKs for the MLA & MLT exams that would prove useful in preparing for the MLE exam.

exam_scheduling

Scheduling the Exam

Once I completed the course from 5th Order Industry, I was awarded my Certificate of Completion which stated that I had achieved the required 40 hours of preparation for the exam. Looking back on it now, I spent a lot more than 40 hours preparing for the exam! In addition to completing the courses online, I started reading documents, manuals and books all outlined in the Domain of Knowledge (mentioned above).

In essence, it took me approximately 3 and a half months to fully prepare for this exam! It’s such a lengthy time span since I was studying at my own pace which the On Demand modules allowed me to do and I wanted to make certain that I was ready! After completing the online courses, it took me an additional week to schedule my exam as I had to make sure that there would be no urgent order of business during my 4 hour isolation and that I had reviewed at least 5 times the material covered!

To schedule the exam, one has to go to the ICML site. Then choose the mode of delivery (I chose Online of course and not Paper based). The site then allows you to choose the exam that you are applying for while giving you the guidelines that are specific to the exam type chosen (Online or Paper Based). For the Online sessions, they allow the candidates to verify whether their computer meets the requirements by clicking on some links provided.

After the exam type is selected, the candidate is moved to another page where they are required to provide some confirmations and upload their training certificate from one of the approved training providers. After submitting this information, the candidate is then directed to another page to fill out their profile information and make payment. An email will be received with the receipt from ICML. Afterwards, you will receive another email from Examity providing a link to fill out your profile and schedule your exam.

Exam_day

Exam day

The MLE exam spans a duration of 4 hours. These can pass in the blink of an eye in the exam room! For the exam, be sure to login at least 15 minutes before the scheduled time of your exam. Bring along a form of National Identification (ensure that the expiry date is on the same side as your picture). In my case, my National ID card has my picture on one side and all the details on the other side. The Proctor had to ask me for another form of ID and since my Passport had expired (the renewal date passed during the Quarantine Period!), I had to use my Driver’s permit which was upstairs! It took a bit of shuffling around (frantically, I’ll say!) but the Proctor was able to use my Driver’s permit after I retrieved it.

The desk area must be clean with no additional items. The only items on my desk were my 2 forms of ID. The Proctor will ask to view the entire room and ensure that all doors are closed. There is no need to walk with a calculator as one will be available in the virtual exam room on the screen as well as other tools that may be required. For this exam, you just need to walk with your brain, selection skills and your virtual knowledge base! The exam allows candidates to flag questions that they are unsure about and come back to them at a later time (which was absolutely terrific for me)!

first_mle

The Results

After completing the exam, the candidate has to inform the Procter that they have finished and then submit their answers. Thereafter begins the dreaded wait for the results! To my surprise, I got these results in two days after completing the exam! I can tell you, there was a lot of hesitation before opening that email! The email contained the results (yes I did pass! Yay!) and the score for each of the 24 sections of the exam.

At the time of writing this article, I am the first MLE in the entire Caribbean (I had to check twice to make sure)! I would highly recommend the MLE exam for lubrication professionals who want to challenge themselves and personnel within the reliability and asset management sectors who have a passion for lubrication. It is a wonderful exam and the knowledge that it will expose you to will be phenomenal!

 

Check out this article where our feedback was published by ICML!