Commissioning the Lube Oil System

When the lube system arrives in the field, it will normally see the compressor and the interconnecting compressor piping for the first time. When the system first arrives, a check should be made to ensure that all the parts have been received. The system should be kept closed as much as possible to maintain cleanliness, while the field piping is being made up. This is where the stainless begins to bring in a return on investment because it should only require keeping dirt out. The carbon steel system will require keeping oil in the lines and keeping the moisture out. Condensation is a problem outdoors or even in an unheated building. With any system, the piping should be made up and filled with oil as soon as possible. Again, this is more critical for the carbon steel system.

An inspection for shipping damage should be made of the lube console and reservoir. Shipping blocks should be removed and, where permanent supports are used, they should be installed. The drivers should be uncoupled and connected to their respective power sources. As they are operated, uncoupled direction of rotation should be noted. When alt checks out, the pumps should be aligned and connected to their drivers.

There is one word that should be repeated over and over: cleanliness. As each piping spool is brought in for connections, it should be checked for cleanliness. Any dirt removed prior to connection to the system will not have to be removed in the flushing procedure.

in preparation for flushing, the vendor's recommended procedures should be followed to the extent practical. In most installations, jumpers are installed around the bearings, going from pressure side to drain to keep from depositing debris in the bearing housings. Some vendors want the bearings removed. Any orifices in the oil piping should be removed, marked, and stored in a manner that will permit replacement without mixing up the locations.

The flushing oil should be the same as the oil used for operation or one with similar characteristics. Flushing can begin when the system is filled, and the trapped air is bled from the coolers, filters, pump casings, and other areas that can accumulate air. While circulating, oil is alternately heated for a time and cooled for a time. The exact procedure varies f rom vendor to vendor, and also with the user companies. The procedure cited here is abbreviated to present an overview. Additional strainers should have been installed, which can be easily removed to check the progress of the flushing. The stainless has no mill scale to remove and should not use nearly the time of carbon steel for the piping system to show clean.

The procedure with carbon steel piping reminds one of some ancient rite, with many people walking around the pipe beating it with anything imaginable. The temperature is cycled as often as necessary to obtain a clean system. Care must be taken during the heating cycle to keep from exceeding any temperature limits. The viscosity of the oil will be low during the hot cycle, and should not go below the minimum allowable viscosity for the pumps. It takes time for the system to clean up, and depending on the piping material, this could be days for stainless and weeks for carbon steel. There are stories about large carbon steel system flushing duration estimates that should have been quoted in months instead of weeks. Times as high as 12 weeks have not been very unusual.

Once the system is clean and the system charged with new oil, it will be ready to run. A run with the compressor not operational should be made to check the switch settings and operation. Even though the system was tested at the factory, a rerun similar to the shop test should be made, because the system is now joined up to field pipe and some of the factors may change, requiring a few trim adjustments. If nothing was damaged in shipment and a good shop test was run, the touch-up work should be minimal. Review as many items as possible beforehand to make compressor startup a routine event.

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