Your lube oil tank might need a breather… but not the kind of breather you need after a long day at work!
How airborne contaminants can enter your lubrication system
Despite being an inanimate object your lube oil tank breathes like you do. Lowering the level of oil in a tank or contraction of the oil by a change in temperature (increasing density) will naturally cause air to be drawn in. The air carries with it any present particulate matter that is inevitably floating around in a busy processing plant environment along with some moisture. Although your tank will exhale upon increasing oil levels or expansion of the oil the majority of contaminants will stay inside the tank. The lubricant rapidly absorbs these airborne undesirables.
Why this matters
Studies have shown that 50-70% of oil contaminants come from outside the equipment. As clean as the insides of your equipment are, the habitat your lube tank lives in could be the greatest enemy. In a previous article, Why you must eradicate contaminants in your lube oil, we explained why it is beneficial to your lube oil, your equipment and your bottom line to hold your oil to a high standard of cleanliness.
What can you do about it?
Just as a dust mask keeps out harmful particles but lets in air, a breather for your oil lube tank will protect your lubricant from all manner of contaminants. Installing a breather on your lube tank is the most effective preventative measure to reduce the amount of airborne pollutants making it into your oil.
A breather on a BioKem lube tank
Choose a breather that is best for you
Breathers are not all made equal. While there is a standard design for a breather that contains a simple filter element there are a multitude of factors that influence the best choice for your system.
- How much air is getting moved?
Breathers need to be sized appropriately to allow the required amount of air to flow in and out of the tank. Undersizing of a breather might mean that your oil tank does not receive enough air flow. This can create undesirable pressure conditions which may inhibit the flow of the lubricant.
- Do you know what kinds of particles are contaminating your oil?
If you don’t, then you should! Do a lab test on your oil to find out. Then you can then choose a filter element with appropriate pore sizes to minimise ingress.
- Has your oil had a water contamination problem in the past or is it living in a humid environment?
If the answer is yes then you may want to consider using a desiccant breather. These are filled with silica gel which is very efficient at absorbing moisture. Hybrid breathers are also available which have a primary particle filtration stage followed by a desiccant moisture capture stage.
- What environment will the breather be subject to?
The functional part of a breather is contained in a housing unit. The material of this housing can make it more or less durable (and, of course, more or less expensive!). If your equipment is in a challenging environment then a rugged, more sturdy breather may be necessary.
After reading this article you should probably take a breather…
… And your lube oil tank might want one too.