Eliminating water contamination from oil

Water contamination is one of the worst things that can happen to any machine. This is why lubrication technicians who work with either outdoor machinery or in the wet process industries and the food industry, in particular, are engaged in a constant battle against water.

No matter what line of work you’re in, you need to pay close attention to the water content of your oil, as water can have extremely negative effects not only on your lubricant but also on machinery itself. As you will probably know, oil encourages oxidation of your oil and removes some of the additives within it, many of which are attracted to water. Water will make its way to the bottom of the machinery’s sump, where it can cause abnormal levels of wear and tear, and eventual failure. This is why it is so important to manage water levels in your equipment.

Managing water-based contamination

The simplest and most effective way to manage contamination cause by water is to prevent it from getting in there in the first place. Water gets into the reservoir or sump at points where the machine and environment interface, so it is not as difficult to do this as you might imagine. Here are some simple tips for preventing water getting into your system:

• Handle new lubricant correctly
• Fit desiccant breathers
• Use best quality shaft and wiper seals and ensure they are well maintained
• When washing machinery, try to avoid points of entry such as fill ports, shafts and breathers
• Avoid washing seals with high-pressure equipment
• Keep on top or steam and cooling/heating water system seal maintenance

If you are able to do these things, you will dramatically lower the chances of your machinery lubrication being contaminated with water. However, there is still a chance contamination could occur. If this happens, there are a number of water removal techniques that can be employed. Here are a couple of the most useful:

Gravity separation

As water is usually higher in gravity that hydraulic fluid, it usually settles at the bottom of a reservoir. By increasing the temperature of your fluid and using a cone-shaped separation tank, you can inhibit oil and water from separating, which will give you a good foundation to work with.

Vacuum distillation

Vacuum distillation is a great technique that basically gets rid of emulsified, dissolved and free water by distributing oil over a wide surface area, thus boiling the water out of existence.

So, you are unlucky enough to suffer the effects of water contamination it is absolutely vital that you take action, whether it be using the techniques above, or another approved method of water removal.