Oil Analysis: The baseline for all condition monitoring.

If your business is dependent on the smooth running of machinery, you need to invest in a pro-active oil analysis program. This will ensure your lubrication is protecting your machinery and is cost effective. Clean Oil Services offers comprehensive oil analysis services as part of our condition monitoring program.

To get the best from the lubrication in your machinery, you need accurate data on the current rate of machine wear and tear, lubricant condition, and level and types of contaminants. This data allows you to optimise your oil usage and plan more effective maintenance. Oil analysis kits are provided to assist in taking uncontaminated oil samples.


Oil Analysis Methods

Microscopic allows us to see exactly which contamination is compromising your machine's health together with the type of wear it causes. We can determine if the correct oil is used for the application and take photographs for future comparison. An ICP Spectrometer is used to identify particle compositions. Another key test is for viscosity.
Engine oil analysis includes diesel testing to detect whether unburnt oil is entering the oil. When extending oil drains in engines, the engine oil analysis will also need to include a TBN. The condition of your lubricant is of such key importance that checking it is not something that should be done ad hoc. You need a structured and clearly defined program of oil sample analysis to obtain the information you need to make decisions.


Oil Analysis Program - Defining Limits

One key objective of the program is to define the limits beyond which remedial actions need to be taken. Our oil analysis services are structured to carry out these definitions in conjunction with the machine operators. We take into account such factors as the present condition of the machinery in question, along with the objectives for its performance. Each machine must be assessed individually according to its role and budgetary concerns. Conditions are unique for each operation so each report is tailored to suit the specific compartment. Lubrication technology has advanced much in recent years and continues to do so. Using the latest methods and starting with an oil analysis kit, you can benefit from machinery that runs sweeter, lasts longer and uses the minimal amount of oil. Just think how that would improve your bottom line. Clean Oil Services provides a comprehensive oil analysis program, incorporating various oil analysis kits for all your lubrication needs. We offer a one report system for condition monitoring, contamination control, lubrication and wear management.


Oil Sample Analysis:
  • Is the baseline for overall site improvement
  • Monitors machine condition and wear
  • Monitors oil condition and performance
  • Facilitates oil changes on condition
  • Identifies contamination problems specific to your site
  • Takes the risk out of trials and innovations.
  • Allows more efficient maintenance planning.

We lead the way:
  • By becoming part of your maintenance team.
  • Keeping you up to date with the latest technology.
  • haring successes for continued improvement.
  • Guaranteed 24 hour turnaround of results.
  • Supplying photos so you too can see what's going on.
  • Using our technology to provide you with recommendations to improve your machine health.

Our state of the art equipment ensures that you get the maximum benefit possible for your investment

Get the full picture with microscopic analysis:
  • Standard on all samples
  • The type of wear particles will tell you what is happening and how your internals are performing
  • Look at oil condition and monitor oil performance
  • See and monitor soot particles with engine oil analysis
  • See what really is going on inside
  • Trend wear with maximum precision
  • See the contamination that's affecting your equipment
  • Take the guess work out of oil sample analysis<

Our typical analysis service includes:
  • Microscopic wear debris analysis including particle count, particle size and wear modes.
  • ICP spectrographic analysis (PPM) of 14 elements including 6 wear metals, 2 contaminants and 6 oil additives.
  • Water, diesel dilution and viscosity measurement.
  • Diesel dilution included with engine oil analysis.
  • 24 hour turnaround of results including electronic download and full reporting with emergency response.

TAN and TBN are available as an extra.
Oil Analysis kits are available in various sizes


Grease analysis:
  • Microscopic analysis on wear debris in grease.
  • Acid digestion for accurate spectrographic analysis.
  • Wear metals as a percentage of weight.

Other analysis services available include:
  • Transformer oil testing including dissolved gas analysis and oil condition.
  • Diesel condition testing includes calorific value, density, wax point and contamination levels.
  • Bunker fuel oil testing including pH, contamination, flash point and heavy metals.

To order an oil analysis kit or for more information on engine oil analysis or tests for any other compartment, contact us today.

Oil Analysis: Why Bother?

Your equipment is an investment, costly to repair, and more often costly to have standing idle due to unscheduled stand-downs.

Communicate with and monitor your machinery through oil sampling

Trending wear metal levels over set time intervals, gives us a signature from which we monitor the wear rates of a compartment. We can then work on reducing wear levels, which converts to extended component life, longer oil life and higher production through lower maintenance costs and reduced downtime.


Maximise lubrication life

More often than not, oil is changed unnecessarily. Changing oil on condition achieves the optimum life from your oil, maximising your machines protection and completely eliminating any risk associated with guesswork through oil analysis. Our filtration systems will maintain a cleaner environment for your machinery, equating to lower wear rates.

Keep contamination under control and monitor key issues and oil life can be extended indefinitely.


Protect your warranty

Monitor your wear and detect any abnormal wear before your machine runs out of warranty or breaks down. Trending stores your history and allows you to calculate wear rates and forecast component life.


Program your shutdowns

Working with a properly controlled oil analysis program enables you to plan and minimise lost time due to unscheduled repairs and downtime. With oil analysis you will plan your oil changes and repairs to fit your schedule.


Forecast failures

Reduce repair costs and be alerted to failures before they become catastrophic and often destroy entire systems. Oil analysis is widely recognised as the most effective form of early fault detection in rotating machinery, and is often the only form of fault detection in a wide variety of lubricated systems.


Protect your investment

The better condition you maintain your equipment the more reliable, the more productive the higher the profits.


Protect the environment

Using less lubricant means less dumping and better resource management, reducing the pressure on our fragile environment.


Save money

Reduce your lubrication and production costs by optimising performance with extended component life, minimal lube costs and planned shutdowns. More production = higher profits!


Better lubrication management

Your oil is like your machinery, look after it, maintain it and it will serve you better for longer. Look into your machinery and see what is causing wear and degrading your oil, you can then take positive steps to improve conditions.
Your bottom line is our business – a partnership with Clean Oil Services will increase it

Oil Analysis: The Tests

Water Test

Water is one of those contaminants that will sneak into your system unnoticed, usually by way of condensation, entry when hosing down or internal coolers leaking.

It is one of the most common causes of failure as it causes the oil to degrade, build up acid or base and under load, turns to steam with an expansion factor of up to 2,000 times, which causes mini nuclear explosions on the loaded zone of the surface.

IT IS CAPABLE OF TEARING METAL OUT, DESTROYING SURFACE INTEGRITY AND EVENTUALLY LEADING TO COMPOMENT FAILURE.

If your oil analysis indicates that your system has water contamination, do not under estimate the damage it can cause. Change the oil, identify and rectify the source of the contamination. In engines, water is more damaging as the sulphurs combine with water and oxygen to cause the formation of acids, which literally eat away at the bearings. Engine oils usually operate at high temperatures which will evaporate any condensation entering, hence any water in engine oil at any level usually indicates internal leaking.

NEVER IGNORE A POSITIVE WATER TEST, IT WILL EVENTUALLY LEAD TO COSTLY REPAIRS.


Diesel Dilution Test

Diesel dilution is also a common cause of engine failure as its effect on oil is that it causes viscosity to drop dramatically, the more diesel, the lower the viscosity.

The lower the viscosity, the weaker the film strength. Diesel readings of around 0.5% can often be reduced by controlling excessive idling times, however any reading over 1% should be acted on as this will cause a significant viscosity drop by around 20% or more.

The higher the diesel dilution, the lower the flash point which means that a crank case can ignite if the sump temperature reaches say 130degC with 6% diesel dilution, which is the temperature at which that concentration of fuel vaporises and becomes explosive.

On the other hand, care needs to be taken when interpreting diesel levels, as often the diesel in certain forms of unburned fuel will cause excessive sludging in the oil. This can cause the viscosity to increase and the oil can thicken to the point where it becomes un-pumpable in the engine, causing catastrophic failure due to oil starvation. New engines have been known to fail through this cause of inefficient combustion by over fuelling, which can also be indicated by excessive exhaust emissions.

Always check a positive diesel reading as the black smoke and high soot levels not only mean increased and excessive wear to an engine, but they also equate to money burning out the exhaust pipe. Soot particles are 4 times more abrasive than dust particles and are a major contributor to wear. They get larger as combustion efficiency decreases.

Never wash or flush equipment with diesel as any residue remaining will dilute the new oil reducing it’s viscosity and destroying the oil’s integrity.


Total Base Number (TBN)

The sulphur residues which are a by product of the combustion process enter the oil by way of blow-by.

They then combine with oxygen from the air and moisture, to produce acids which if left unchecked will etch metal components in the engine.

Consequently, when we buy new engine oil, it has a ‘base reserve’ built in to the additive package, which is designed to neutralise the acids as they are produced. As with all acid base reactions, the ‘base reserve’ is used up in the process of neutralising these acids.

This Base reserve is called the TOTAL BASE NUMBER which is a measure of the level of BASE in the oil and is determined by measuring the amount of Potassium Hydroxide in mg taken to neutralise the base reserve in 1 gram of oil (mgKOH/gm).

In the average engine oil, the starting TBN is usually around 6 to 9, however if we are looking to extended drain interval oils, we need to increase the initial TBN so we don’t allow the reserve to be depleted before the oil is drained. In some oils, a starting TBN 15 is not un-common and a depletion level should never get below TBN 3, which is a signal to change the oil.

Total Base Number Test (TBN)

TBN is also a useful tool in assessing an engines combustion efficiency, if rapid depletion is observed. If an engine’s combustion is inefficient, unburned diesel will enter the oil as blow-by, forming acids and using up TBN reserves. Exhaust emissions will often be visible as excessive smoke which in extreme cases will form ‘wet’ soot with large soot particles on the exhaust which will have a detrimental effect on engine wear.

Have your TBN checked periodically in your engine to monitor combustion efficiency.

Remember when practicing extended drain intervals in engines, always have your TBN checked, which with viscosity is used as a drain indicator.


Total Acid Number (TAN)

In non-combustion situations, we don’t have the by products of combustion to cause acids to form; however to a lesser extent, we experience acid generation as the additive package of the oil is depleted due to use and the effect of moisture.

In gear and hydraulic systems, the Sulphurs and Chlorines in the oil will become available to combine with water and oxygen which can lead to the formation of Hydrochloric and Sulphuric acids.

These acids although usually at low levels can destroy metal surfaces if left unchecked, hence we need to monitor the acid levels, particularly in long drain interval situations such as Turbines, Hydraulic systems and gearboxes.

Any rapid rise in TAN should never be left unchecked. A TAN of 0.5 mgKOH/g should be watched, however this level will depend on the system application and limits set by OEMs which should always be known to the operator before any assessment is acted on.

Watch for sudden movements in TAN levels in non-combustion compartments and take action if it moves suddenly.

Microscopic Analysis

Microscopic Analysis opens a complete new world in used oil condition monitoring. It allows us to look inside the equipment and see what is going on.
From the microscope, we are able to get a full picture of –
Microscopic Analysis of Oil Sample
  • The type of contamination which is effecting your machine’s health
  • The concentration of wear particles within the machine
  • The type of wear which is being generated
  • How the condition of the oil is being maintained
  • Is the correct oil being used for the application
  • he condition of the oil in use
  • Collect a visual image to store results for later comparison purposes.

We are no longer relying on machines to select and tell us only what ‘they want’, as is the case with the commonly used spectrometer.

Microscopic analysis is generally accepted as the most effective method of wear debris analysis as it allows us to see what type of particles are being generated in the oil, accurately count the particle numbers, size group them and examine their morphology from which we can assess the oil’s performance.

Our experienced operators can tell from what they see, what needs to be done to improve the operating conditions within the machine.

The down side with an optical microscope, is that we do not have any way, other than colour, to try to determine the composition of the particles without going to an expensive Scanning Electron Microscope. Hence, in conjunction with the optical microscope, we use an ICP Spectrometer to help with identifying particle compositions. (See next section).

Our microscopic examination involves counting the particles, then size grouping them into 3 classes: - 0 to 10um, 10 to 20um and greater than 20um. Particle count and size grouping provides the basis for our wear trending.

We then determine the type of particle and sort them into their categories; it tells us a lot about your oil performance.

Rubbing Wear which is a normal wear type, caused by the asperities being torn off the surface under load. They are a normal wear particle unless they are visible in very high numbers where they indicate potential failure.

Cutting Wear is generated when two surfaces come into contact (a barrier condition) and one surface gouges the other, giving rise to a gouged cutting particle. Alternatively a foreign body between the two surfaces can gouge giving rise to a three bodied cutting particle. Cutting particles are easily identifiable by their shape like a scoop of ice cream, lathe swarf or needle like slithers. They can indicate oil viscosity is too low for the operating conditions hence we need to look at oil type in use.

Laminar Wear. A large surfaced but very thin particle, which has literally laminated from the component surface, and usually indicates surface on rolling elements is failing.

Fatigue Wear is caused by the continual flexing of the load zone which eventually, due to fatigue cracking, causes a particle to be generated. The result is seen as common pitting of the surface.

Spheres are caused when two components enter into a barrier condition and when molten metal is generated under very severe load conditions and as the metal is carried off in the oil, the metal solidifies on cooling resulting in the formation of a sphere due to the equal pressures. They are a very bad sign in any oil sample and usually indicate oil film failure. In some cases, they can also indicate the presence of electric currents such as eddy currents and are very common in large motor bearings or hotter tropical environments.

Dark Oxides are commonly known as sludging and when at high levels, mean the oil is spent. They are helpful in determining the useful life of the oil. High numbers of dark oxides will usually cause an increase in viscosity and means the dispersant additive in the oil is spent. They are also a good indicator of severe operating conditions in an engine.

Particle Contamination. A good indicator of the dust ingression and the operational cleanliness of the compartment. Site dust contamination in coal or copper mines are readily visible as dirt particles.

Soot particle concentration and size are monitored visually. Soot particle size allows us to monitor the condition of the combustion chamber – if they start to increase, expect to see an increase in wear as soot has similar abrasive properties as does dust.

The microscope also allows us to visually assess the condition of the oil and whether it is in a suitable condition to continue operating, be cleaned or discarded.

IF WE REDUCE CONTAMINATION AND WEAR, THE AVAILABILITY, THE LIFE OF THE MACHINE AND OIL LIFE WILL ALL BE EXTENDED

Spectrographic Analysis

The spectrometer operates with a very intense plasma arc which burns the sample at approximately 13 000 deg C. The light emissions from each element are then measured in intensity and their concentrations calculated in parts per million (PPM) of the element monitored.

The Spectro analysis results give us an indication of the elemental composition of the wear metals present in a sample. However the Spectrometer is limited, due to its ability to read only particles smaller than 5um; Hence it is not a good failure forecasting tool because of its inability to accurately measure true element levels represented by the larger particles.

In the early stages of failure, larger particles will be generated which pass through undetected by the spectrometer. These particles will not be read until they have been in the system for long enough to be ground into fine particles bypassing through the bearings, gears and other components of the system, often destroying perfectly good equipment as they operate. Hence an entire system is now damaged in all component areas by the time the spectrometer picks it up.

Coupled with the microscopic analysis, which looks at all particle size and shapes, but cannot identify elements, and with the spectrometer identifying the elements but ignorant of size, we are able to monitor wear trends and forecast potential failures early with a very high degree of accuracy. Providing regular samples are taken from the trend, we can identify a potential failure before it becomes a major catastrophe causing severe damage and unplanned shutdowns.

In cases when it may be necessary to identify the predominant wear elements in large particles, we are able to digest the particles in a strong acid solution. This method is called Acid Digestion and is the method by which the spectro analysis results become very accurate. However, it is not a preferred practice due to the slow preparation time and consequently high labour cost per sample resulting in higher sample charges.

Acid digestion is however, a very effective means of measuring and monitoring wear levels in grease samples. The entire contents of the grease sample are digested into solution and all elements fully measured.

The spectrometer also allows us to accurately monitor contamination levels such as dust through Silicon and coolant through Sodium or in marine applications saltwater ingression.

We also look at oil additive levels with the spectrometer, which allows us to trend additive levels, or if the compartment has been topped up with the wrong oil as different types of oil have different element levels in their additives.

Remember regular scheduled sampling allows early failure detection and facilitates shutdown planning which equates to continued production which equal profits.

Results from the Spectrometer

One of the most commonly asked questions regarding wear metal analysis is: “What do the spectrographic analysis numbers mean”?

This is a course subject on its own and will vary in every different type of unit. Mostly the concentrations of the elements are expressed in Parts Per Million (PPM) or occasionally as percentages. These elements will give us a guide to the origin of the wear metals. Very briefly, they go roughly like this:


Wear Metals
  • Iron. Cylinders, crank, gears, roller bearings, camshafts, gears, rings and valves.
  • Lead. Bearings (white metal), additives, bushing or petrol.
  • Tin. Bearings (white metal), bushing and piston skirts.
  • Copper. Bearings, bushes, thrusts washers, gears, brasses, bronzes and additives.
  • Aluminium. Pistons, washers, housings, bushing and clay dust.
  • Chromium. Hardening material from cams, rings, rollers, valves and shafts.
  • Nickel. Hardened or stainless steel shafts, valves and roller bearings.
  • Vanadium. Used with chrome coating and on valve stems etc.
  • Titanium. Aircraft components and lightweight, high strength parts.
  • Silver. Bearings, ring coating in some early engines and solder.

Contaminants
  • Silicon. Dust, sealant and gasket material, coolant and anti-foam additive.
  • Sodium. Coolant additive, salt water contaminant or detergent additive.

Additives

Additives are added to base oil to enhance the properties of the oil for different uses, hence are a helpful identifier to check for cross contamination and in some cases contamination levels.

  • Calcium. Usually high in engine oils as TBN, detergent or dispersant additives.
  • Magnesium. Detergent, dispersant additives (higher in engines).
  • Boron. EP and coolant additive.
  • Manganese. Detergent additive and lightweight metal.
  • Phosphorous. Anti-wear additive.
  • Molybdenum. Anti-wear additive with extremely low co-efficient of friction.
  • Zinc. Anti-wear, EP and anti-rust additive.
  • Sulphur. Naturally occurring in base oil, anti-wear additive, extreme pressure additive and combustion by-product.

Remember when interpreting spectrographic results, it is important to monitor the trend of the elements rather than the actual elemental levels. Check and stay below the manufacturer’s recommended limit but be alerted of a pending problem whenever wear trends move by more than 10% over similar oil hours.... always sample on a consistent and regular basis to maintain accurate trends - the key to a successful program.

Viscosity

The single most important property of oil.

Viscosity is a measure of a fluid’s resistance to flow to which many of the qualities of oil are directly related. It is a very good indicator as to whether or not oil’s life has been depleted; hence one of the key characters in deciding when to drain oil.

Film strength is directly related to viscosity and is a major value in hydrodynamic lubrication.

For monitoring purposes, viscosity is normally measured at 40 degC (100 degF) with the Australian accepted unit of the Centistoke (cSt), however some imported oils use different units, such as the US Centipoise (cP) or Saybolt seconds (SUS) which is the preferred US unit.

Sometimes we also measure viscosity at 100 degC (212 degF) which in many cases is closer to the operating temperature of the oil and can be a more useful value in higher operating temperature machinery such as engines.

The difference in viscosity between 40 degC and 100 degC is also used to calculate the ‘Viscosity Index’ (VI) of the oil which is a single unit measure of the change in viscosity relative to temperature change. The higher the V1 number, the less the viscosity variation between the two temperatures. A high V1 oil will have a typical value of around 140 and low values can approach 0.

Viscosity ‘shear’ with use as the oil condition deteriorates leading to a drop in viscosity. In some engines, this condition will be evident as an increase in oil consumption which means the oil condition is deteriorating with use. Shearing is less common with today’s high quality oil technology than it has been in the past, however using multi-grade engine oils (15w40) in some high performance hydraulic systems will lead to immediate shearing.

Our main interest with viscosity in used oil analysis is the movement in viscosity of the sample oil from new. As a general rule, a movement of plus or minus 10% up to 20% of original viscosity (depending on operation standards set) is a good indicator when oil change is due.

If viscosity increases the cause will be either particle contamination or oxidation (burning).

If viscosity drops, the cause will be either fluid dilution or shearing. Always check viscosity when monitoring oil condition.

Never ignore viscosity movements, there is always a reason. Identify and act on the cause to preserve your oil’s integrity which will keep your wear levels reduced.

Oil Analysis: What All The Tests Mean

Clean Oil Services comprehensive oil analysis program can be invaluable to the planning and operation of your business.
Be sure your oil analysis provider schools you and your staff on the interpretation of your results so that you can reap the benefits of the service you have paid for and use your oil analysis as an important tool for your lubrication management and preventative maintenance planning.

Used oil analysis will allow you many advantages, a few are as follows:

  1. Monitor and identify the contamination entering your machine
  2. Accurately monitor the wear rates of your machinery
  3. Early identification of premature wear or contamination in the compartment
  4. Check for excessive wear and predict failure
  5. Check practices to enable wear rates to be reduced and cleaner operating conditions
  6. Monitor the condition of your oil and determine its life
  7. Monitor oil performance and maximise oil use
  8. Check that optimum oil type and grade is being used to suit operating conditions
  9. Plan maintenance to suit shutdowns or outages instead of unscheduled breakdowns
  10. Keep you up to date and at the forefront of technology advancement
  11. Identify the optimum methods of improving machine health and oil condition

Analysis result interpretations rely very heavily on trending for accurate reliable results and early failure detection, hence taking the occasional oil sample does not constitute an oil analysis program.

Variables such as contamination when sampling can cause discrepancies in the results, NEVER take corrective action based on the results of one sample alone; always resample to check a suspect result and sample regularly to maintain an accurate wear trend.

As part of your maintenance team, Clean Oil Services Pty Ltd staff will discuss with you any possible action which may be necessary in the case of a suspect sample. Should you suspect a problem, or notice any abnormality, advise your lab, as any information is critical in determining possible action from suspect samples. Remember we work with you as a team.

Study the photos supplied with your report and compare the current photo with previous samples. We like to see improvement, which means we are on the right track and getting results - we are saving you money.

If you do not understand or have any questions regarding your report, contact our laboratory.

You are paying us to provide you with results.

Tests: Setting the Limits

When do we raise the alarm?
The levels at which to set limits would be one of the most hotly debated topics in the condition monitoring industry and can be very much a personal decision which will vary greatly from operation to operation and machine to machine.

One of the main objectives of your oil analysis program, should be to set limits and parameters with which to work to for various actions to be taken and should be designed so as to target an overall improvement in machine operating conditions.

Many factors effect the levels set for limits, however most OEM’s have specific limits on wear debris levels and oil drain intervals which must be researched and adhered to by the operator, otherwise warranty can be jeopardised.

At Clean Oil Services, we prefer to sit down with the operator and set the limits for maximum wear levels and various other criteria such as maximum oil drain intervals to suit the operation and management.

The level of limits are based on previous results, OEM levels and are agreed upon by weighing up the current condition of machinery and the target levels the operation is aiming to achieve. They must be set to suit individual machines within the operation and must be budget orientated.

When setting the limits, the fleet average is usually set in favour of the older equipment, however in some fleets, old and new equipment may need to be graded to two or three sets of limits depending on age and condition of machinery. Oil drain intervals will also vary according to a particular operation and machinery condition and the requirements of management.

Never set your limits off those set at another operation.

Conditions will vary from one operation to the next and will not always suit. Your oil analysis provider is well equipped to discuss and advise you on the optimum limits to suit your operation and remember, don’t set your limits too fine; leave room for the unexpected. Your lab provider will notify you to flag a limit when reached or exceeded.

What is the point of all this extra work?

While today’s lubrication technology has advanced to unprecedented levels, many industries continue to use outdated practices handed down over generations.

The old coinage ‘Oil is cheap’ is no more as excessive lubricant consumption and downtime are major contributing factors to your profitability.

To ‘get better at what we do best’, includes decreasing costs and increasing production, we need to implement a reliability enhancing lubrication program which treats our lubrication as a profit centre …not just a mundane activity…it actually involves less work.

Your lubrication personnel need to be trained so that they can perform their job, from oil storage to disposal, with surgical precision while working under some of the most arduous conditions imaginable.

Remember in today’s world you get what you pay for; don’t let price be the deciding factor in your decision when selecting your condition monitoring service provider.

A well run oil analysis program and a close alliance with your oil analysis provider will enhance your bottom line in many ways by:
  1. Keeping you updated with today’s most advanced technology
  2. Identifying and reducing contamination levels
  3. Monitoring oil performance and improving operating integrity
  4. Reducing wear rates with better lubrication application
  5. Eliminating any risk involved in extending drain intervals
  6. Impacting on bottom line by optimising oil life
  7. Reduced downtime, increase availability - more production
  8. Better managing our environment with less waste.

Free Assessment

Talk to Clean Oil Services Pty Ltd for a free assessment and let us show you how we can impact your bottom line by becoming a partner in your maintenance and planning crew regardless of the industry you are in.

This publication is intended as a guide only and is designed to assist the operator in the most basic interpretations of a standard used oil analysis report. There are many other monitoring methods that have not been discussed here which are capable of producing accurate results. There is also a much wider range of tests for specific qualities, which are often required to suit individual operating conditions and specific machines.

The methods discussed in this publication are the basic methods adopted by Clean Oil Services P/L and have been selected as this combination of methods gives the simplest, most accurate and most reliable tests for monitoring wear metals and oil condition. They combine to give the most comprehensive guide to machine and oil condition in almost any type of unit, being it gearing, turbine, hydraulic or engine and is a ‘one system suits all’ monitoring system for daily monitoring which has proven accurate and reliable through the broadest range of situations.

As machinery operates under a varying range of conditions, we need to be able to vary the interpretation of our results. It is the final assessment of the report, which is individually interpreted to ‘fit’ the unit being sampled, which makes this system stand alone from other oil based condition monitoring methods. Our laboratory technicians are constantly striving to become familiar with your machinery so that they are in a position to comment on its operating condition.

Our microscopic system covers the void left by the spectrometer being “blind” to particles beyond the 5-7um maximum size. The microscope lets us look at your oil’s condition and contamination levels, hence we are able to tell if wear metal particles are newly generated or left over from the previous change and we can see the condition of your oil.

In addition to our standard methods, we are able to supply electron microscope scans, which identify the alloys in a particle and allow us to locate the origin of that particle by it’s alloying elements. This process is quite expensive and is only performed in special circumstances and by request.

Ask for a commitment free assessment of your operation and see what difference we can make to your preventative maintenance program.

Remember the Clean Oil Services’ commitment - We Will Cut Your Costs.
Our interest is in your bottom line, so talk to us now.... It’s Free.

Taking an Oil Sample

Step 1

Always store your sample bottles and sampling equipment in a clean, dust free environment. Prepare your sample bottles, taking care not to let dust or water contamination into bottles or cap. Be sure to place the cap in a way that it cannot get contaminated

Step 2

Be sure to completely fill out your data labels for all compartments to be sampled prior to taking samples, taking care that sample identification is correct. Oil hours are critical for accurate assessment.

Step 3

Make sure the machine is hot and at operating temperature and that all compartments to be sampled have been well agitated. Wherever possible leave machine running whilst preparing sample equipment and when sampling, although don’t idle engines for more than three minutes.

Step 4

Measure the plastic tube length off dipstick allowing enough length for the end of the tube to go approx half way into sump and leaving room at the top to operate the pump. Cut a new tube for each sample. Never re-use a tube.

Step 5

Insert one end of the tube into the top of the oil vacuum pump until approx 25mm is protruding into the bottle. Taking care that the ‘O’ ring seals the tube. Tighten the knurled nut and screw the bottle on firmly. Do not take the tube to the bottom of the sample bottle, leave only about 20mm protruding from the pump head. Place the cap down, taking care not to let it become contaminated.

Step 6

Insert the plastic tube into the dipstick guide measuring the length of insertion off the dipstick.

Step 7

rate the oil vacuum pump by holding the plunger out to create a vacuum in the sample bottle. Hold the pump steady with the bottle upright until 3/4 full. Do not try to fill the sample bottle and never allow oil to contact the pump, as it will contaminate the next sample.

Step 8

When the sample bottle is 3/4 full, withdraw the tube from the compartment, carefully remove the bottle from the pump and immediately place the cap on the bottle. Wipe any oil off the tubing prior to removing from the pump. Wipe all fingermarks and oil from the outside of the bottle. Be sure the cap is tight.

Step 9

heck that the correct label matches the sample. Peel the back off the adhesive label and place the label onto the sample bottle, then place the bottle into the canister for immediate delivery to the lab. Do not place labels on the black mailing canister.


Back at the Lab

Step 1

When the sample arrives at our lab, the first thing we do is log the sample in giving it a number. Throughout the entire procedure we only know that sample by the number, which eventually becomes your report number.

Oil Analysis - Water contamination testing
Step 2

The first test performed is to check for water, which we do by screening with a crackle test; if positive, then a Karl Fisher titration accurately measures water content.

Step 3

The sample is then thoroughly agitated in an Ultra-Sonic bath to be sure that all of the contamination is in suspension in the sample. After vigorous shaking, samples are ready for analysis to commence.

Step 4

lides are prepared for microscopic examination and samples prepared for spectrographic burns and viscosity is measured on all samples at 40 degC.

Oil Sample Slide Preparation
Step 5

Engine oil samples are checked for diesel dilution in a closed cup flash tester and diesel concentrations determined.

Step 6

Samples are burnt through the Spectrometer, where we measure 17 element levels in PPM (Parts Per Million) which includes 6 wear metals, 2 contaminants and 6 additives.

Step 7

Particle counts are performed under microscopic (X 200) examination using our particle analysis program which identifies particles by their shape and colour, with a complete breakdown of particle type and size grouping which is later used for trending and diagnostics.

Step 8

otos are taken of every sample for attachment to the report, which enable you to see your oil condition and wear metals rather than try to interpret the numbers on the report. You can clearly see the condition of your oil.

Oil Analysis - Oil Sample
Step 9

Titrations for Total Acid Number (TAN) for turbines, hydraulic systems and long life oils and Total Base Number (TBN) for engines are performed on samples requiring these values.

Step 10

All results are correlated on your report where comments and recommendations are performed manually to supply you with the ultimate recommendations to suit your operation conditions.

Step 11

Contact is made to discuss suspect reports and results e-mailed with hard copies posted. You now have your result downloaded within 24 hours of the sample arriving at the lab.

Download a PDF of a sample Oil Analysis Report.


COS Oil Analysis Sample Report (PDF format, file size: 1.3mb)

Oil - A Brief Run Down

The history of lubrication dates back through the ages when man used animal fats as lubrication.
Things have changed somewhat since those days, although the basic principle remains the same…to reduce the friction between two moving surfaces.

Oil serves several functions in a compartment which will vary widely depending on the application. Briefly engine and gear oils are designed to keep the moving parts apart (hydrodynamic lubrication); Remove heat (through heat exchanges/radiators) and carry away the contamination (through filtration and oil change) in the case of hydraulic systems; oil is used to transport power over large distances as well as to lubricate, flush and cool.

Oils generally consist of two parts, the base stock and the additive package.

Base Stocks
Most of the oils we are familiar with fall into three base stock groups, although there are others:
  1. Mineral Base which are mined from deep within the earth and are the most commonly used base stocks, the quality of which will vary according to where the oil comes from and the amount of processing of the base stock.
  2. Synthetic Base which are manufactured or man made, they are more thermally stable than mineral bases and are manufactured from a wide range of materials to suit a wide variety of applications. They are generally recognised as better quality than mineral oils but are also more expensive.
  3. Semi-Synthetic Base which are chemically fortified or a modified form of mineral base stocks which give the mineral base stocks specific qualities which may enhance their performance to suit particular applications.
Additive Package
Up to 20% of an oils volume can be represented by the additive package, which are chemicals added to the oil to give it desired characteristics and enhance the properties of the base oil so that it performs differently under different working conditions. Some of the more common additives are as follows:
  1. Detergents are a group of chemicals added to the base which are designed to stop the contaminants generated from settling inside the compartment, forming sludge and to keep them in suspension so that they are either carried to the filter or drained during change.
  2. Dispersants stop the contaminations from conglomerating and forming blobs of sludge.
  3. Viscosity Index Improvers maintain viscosity stability over the operating temperature range so that the oil flows at cold start-up and remains viscous at operating temperature.
  4. Friction Modifiers enhance the slipperiness of the oil to keep friction minimised: less friction = less heat = less wear.
  5. Anti-Foam and Anti-Vapour Additives reduce foaming and vaporisation.
  6. Anti-Wear Additives are designed to reduce the wear particularly under load.
  7. Corrosion and Rust Inhibitors reduce rusting and protect surfaces from chemical attack.
  8. Anti-Oxidants reduce oxidation of the base, particularly at elevated temperatures.
  9. Anti foam agents.
  10. Base additives to neutralise acids.
  11. Demulsifying agents.