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SECTOR FOCUS: INDUSTRIAL LUBRICANTS


Sustainable practices through efficient hydraulic flow


Tim Smith, Technology Manager, The Lubrizol Corporation


Businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of environmentally sustainable practices, not just to their own operations, but also to society and communities. Many view sustainability as a vital component of future growth – key for remaining competitive in a rapidly evolving global economy. As countries struggle against the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, politicians, investors and campaigners are seizing the opportunity to push sustainability to the forefront of recovery plans. A likely outcome is low carbon investments in infrastructure and accelerated transition to clean energy. As these investments become increasingly oriented towards environmentally agreeable projects, the carbon footprint will become one of many sustainability metrics that suppliers and contractors will be measured against. For those operating hydraulic equipment, the energy demand, whether from diesel or electricity, is a well-known and significant contributor to emissions. Increasing hydraulic energy efficiency is an achievable route to reducing energy use and maintaining competitiveness in a low carbon economy.


Solutions that improve efficiency should be low risk, cost effective and not require significant downtime for implementation; therefore, a particularly clever efficiency upgrade is the use of an energy-efficient hydraulic fluid. These fluids have been on the market for some time, but operators, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and buyers remain cautious due to limited scientific evidence of their efficiency and uncertainty around the real benefits they might see. Recognising the need for more insight in this


10 LUBE MAGAZINE NO.158 AUGUST 2020


area, Lubrizol undertook a multi-year research project to study current and future energy-efficient hydraulic fluids. Mixed results observed in the testing of conventional fluids motivated a more in-depth look at precisely how a fluid can influence and improve hydraulic efficiency.


Consideration of mechanical efficiency and volumetric efficiency is useful for establishing potential impact on a hydraulic pump but overlooks the remainder of the hydraulic system. Arguably, the hydraulic pump is only a small part of a much larger network of pipes, valves, filters, heat exchangers, actuators and motors. All the while, the fluid, which is responsible for the transfer of power, must transit all these components whilst transmitting as much pressure as possible. It is therefore not surprising that the greatest energy loss in a hydraulic system has been attributed to the pipes [D. A. Green, World Tribology Congress 2009, Japan, B2-212].


Tackling the areas of largest energy loss in hydraulics allows for a greater overall improvement in efficiency. As most energy loss is due to the transit of the fluid, studying fluid flow characteristics becomes an enticing area of research that has been surprisingly overlooked by the industry. Lubrizol has used computer simulations, corroborated with laboratory measurements, to accurately study the passage of fluid through various changes in geometry. Measuring flow in pipes with simple flow meters or differential pressure transducers provides some useful information; more sophisticated techniques were required to elucidate the important subtleties in fluid flow characteristics.


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