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A guide to compressor oil

Specialist compressor lubricants are available from the likes of Shell, Fuchs and Mobil. These lubricants are more than able to cope with even very high demand conditions, offering a superlative level of protection against wear, as well as improved performance and efficiency. Operators benefit from a reduction in the frequency and expense of repairs, replacing parts and carrying out maintenance procedures. This in turn saves time and reduces operating costs.

What are the functions of compressor oil?

The oil that is used in compressors performs two main functions. It lubricates any moving surfaces, and as it coats such surfaces it also offers effective protection from damage and wear. Compressor oil therefore creates a sheer, liquid film, and the viscosity of the specific product ensures that this protective, lubricant layer is maintained.

How do compressor oils work?

In cooling systems that contain compressors, the lubricant absorbs heat that has been generated and removes it to somewhere else, from where it can be disposed of. Within refrigeration systems, the oil actually provides the first level of cooling, while the cold refrigerant performs a second process of cooling.

Refrigeration units are closed loop systems, so that oil can simply flow along with the refrigerant. For this to be effective requires miscibility – the ability for the oil to mix and flow with the refrigerant. Traditional CFC refrigerants and mineral based oils worked well in unison, but the replacement of CFC with alternative refrigerants caused a lack of compatibility, as HFC gases do not combine effectively with mineral-based lubricants. Synthetic Polyolester (POE) oils, however, do mix well with modern refrigerants, so now these are normally used as the base for compressor oil products.

Superb levels of thermal stability mean that many compressor lubricant formulas are just as impressive even in extreme temperature conditions. This also makes them suitable for use with refrigerants, including those with a carbon dioxide base. These oils can readily cope with intense pressure, making them perfect for large refrigeration units and air conditioning systems.

Any additives that could precipitate in low temperatures are deliberately excluded from the formulas of compressor lubricants, avoiding the sludge or other deposit build-up that could occur and then contaminate the system. There are also specialist products tailor made to ensure maximum compatibility with vacuum pumps and air compressors.

What are some leading compressor oils?

A range of major manufacturers offer their own compressor oil products; for example Mobil alone produces a number of its own ranges. These include Mobil’s Environmental Awareness Lubricants (EAL), which are completely synthetic formulas, containing only ozone-friendly ingredients, that are specifically made for use with compressor and refrigeration systems. Mobil also produce the Gargoyle Arctic range of synthetic, wax free, high-performance compressor oils that are highly compatible with heat pumps and refrigeration compressors. Mobil’s Rarus range, meanwhile, is primarily designed for use with severe duty rotary screw or rotary screw air compressors, where conventional mineral oils cannot perform to the required level.

A top-quality compressor oil can save users money, as it can prolong pump or compressor life. It can also mean that maintenance procedures and repairs are required less often. The outcome is an enhanced performance, plus lower incidences of equipment breakdown.

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