Canadian Mining Journal


The real world benefits of used oil analysis

Enjoy lower costs and better machine performance

Dominion Diamond Mines’ Ekati mine, in the Northwest Territories. CREDIT: DOMINION DIAMOND MINES

Decreasing equipment downtime and its associated costs is a constant focus for owners and operators. Increasing efficiency and productivity is key to improving the business’s bottom line, meaning that equipment owners must reflect on equipment maintenance and design to secure efficiency gains. Along with factors such as idle time and the equipment design, there are also proactive measures that can help effectively schedule maintenance and prevent sudden equipment failure; one such measure is used oil analysis.

Regular used oil analysis could present the opportunity to extend oil drain intervals* by predicting engine wear throughout service life and highlighting maintenance needs before they have the potential to affect engine performance or become too serious and expensive to repair. By monitoring the levels of key properties in used engine oil, the impurities can reveal how and why machinery is wearing, as well as identifying the underlying reasons for wear.

A closer look at used oil analysis

Extending oil drain intervals is only one of the benefits of used oil analysis. An effective program can help reduce unscheduled downtime and improve equipment reliability, while extending vehicle life and reducing maintenance costs.

By closely examining the oil for traces of environmental contamination, including dust, dirt and waste, and system contaminants such as fuel, glycol (coolant) and soot, used oil analysis can identify the source of increased engine wear which can lead to equipment failure.

Measuring the level and concentration of these impurities can help detect how and why an engine is wearing and reveal the source or cause of the contamination. If monitored at regular intervals over time, fluctuations in analysis results can isolate minor mechanical problems so that they can be fixed quickly and cost effectively.

It must also be noted that any oil analysis should always be supported by recommendations from the vehicle’s original equipment manufacturer (OEM) manual, as well as advice from technical experts – this is extremely important when considering extending drain intervals. Any deviations from the OEM recommendations could void a warranty and result in expensive repair costs.

The process behind used oil analysis

The process of used oil analysis typically consists of three simple steps:

  1. Take an accurate sample – this is the most important step in the process as incorrect sampling can result in inaccurate interpretation of the results and potential equipment damage or failure. A clean, dry container suitable for holding used oil should be used, and the sampling point wiped clean with a rag before a small amount of oil is flushed to ensure no foreign contamination makes its way into the sample.
  2. Submit sample to a used oil analysis laboratory – once the sample has been taken, it should be submitted promptly to an oil analysis laboratory certified to perform the testing required. The laboratory will test in accordance with oil standards to provide accurate results and diagnosis in a report that can be sent by email or viewed online.
  3. Interpret used oil analysis results – a technical services advisor can help evaluate the results and provide maintenance recommendations based on wear rates and the properties present in the sample as well as whether it is possible to extend oil drain intervals.

Used oil analysis in practice: Dominion Diamond Mines Canada’s first surface and underground diamond mine, Ekati, began production in October 1998. Dominion Diamond Mines owns and operates the Ekati mine, which is situated approximately 200 km south of the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories. To date, the mine has produced approximately 80 million carats worth of diamonds.

Dominion’s Canadian diamonds are among the most responsibly sourced in the world as all certified diamonds are carefully selected and inscribed with Dominion’s Canadamark certificate number and trademark. This offers a unique assurance of diamond quality and a guarantee of a completely natural diamond that is free from any improvement treatments.

Aligned with this, Dominion manages a highly efficient operation, designed to minimize environmental impacts and integrate a responsible corporate approach across all aspects of the business.

Dominion Diamond’s operations battle extreme conditions with long, cold winters where temperatures can plunge to -40°C. Proving particularly challenging, the Ekati mine can only be accessed year-round by air, except for an ice road that is open for approximately two months each winter. With a fleet that exceeds more than 100 pieces equipment, ranging from Caterpillar haul trucks to loaders and dozers, Dominion needed to reduce frequent vehicle and equipment downtime and deliver quicker and easier cold start-up in the harsh Arctic conditions.

To increase day-to-day operational efficiencies, Dominion also needed an engine oil provider that could reduce maintenance costs, simplify its lubricant inventory and alleviate the impact on production due to cold-start difficulties.

Dominion Diamond Mines started working with DURON Ultra High Performance (UHP) 5W-40 oil in 2016, in partnership with Petro-Canada Lubricants’ (PCL) associate and fuel provider, Denesoline Corp., a northern Indigenous business based locally in Yellowknife.

The PCL team, comprised of both a technical service advisor and sales account manager, worked closely with the Ekati mine lubricant specialist, maintenance supervisors and reliability engineers to help understand the challenges being faced by Dominion to offer a personalized solution. After careful consideration, DURON UHP 5W-40 was trialed over a two-year period across the Dominion fleet, in addition to a series of value-added services, including used oil analysis.

Through the process of switching to DURON UHP 5W-40 in conjunction with a used oil analysis regime, Dominion Diamond Mines was able to extend drain intervals across its vehicle and equipment fleets to result in $900,000 of potential savings over two years.

In addition to achieving considerable cost savings, Dominion was able to achieve an overall reduction in idle time for its mobile equipment and drastically improve fleet reliability during harsh Arctic winters by delivering excellent cold start capabilities. By offering Dominion an all-season premium performance oil, PCL was also able to optimize Dominion’s lubricant inventory.

Speaking to the success of the DURON trial in conjunction with used oil analysis, Yen Garcia, lubrication specialist at Dominion Diamond Mines said: “In the unique and challenging conditions at the Ekati mine, DURON has proven to be successful in increasing the reliability of our equipment.”

As a result of maximized vehicle performance, increased productivity and significant cost savings, Dominion has transitioned all equipment to DURON as its heavy-duty high performance engine oil of choice.

The importance of used oil analysis

Used oil analysis offers a vital method of predicting wear trends throughout service life and highlighting maintenance needs before they have the potential to affect the engine. By monitoring the levels of key properties in used engine oil, impurities can reveal how and why machinery is wearing down, as well as help identify the source of wear or damage. Used oil analysis can therefore predict future maintenance and prevent imminent failures to reduce unplanned downtime.

For fleet owners and operators pursuing additional peace of mind when working in harsh or extreme climates, used oil analysis can provide reassurance that the oil is protecting vital engine components and bring to attention maintenance issues before they become too serious or expensive to repair.

Ron LeBlanc Sr. is senior technical services advisor with Petro-Canada Lubricants.

*Extending drain intervals should always be undertaken in conjunction with a used oil analysis program

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