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Lubricant analysis: determining factor to improve the reliability of wind farms

20 February 2020

The reliability of wind turbines depends in large part on the proper functioning of the equipment that constitutes it - such as gearboxes, bearings and shafts, among others. Equipment that operates in extreme conditions, subject to load variations, temperature differences and contaminating environments. Consequently, the correct lubrication of this equipment, and subsequent monitoring of the lubricant, is increasingly recognized as a primary task for reliability, improved maintainability and cost reduction in wind farm management.

Lubricating oil for any type of mechanical application contains extremely relevant information on the condition of the equipment that it lubricates, and provides several indicators on how this condition may evolve if corrective measures are not taken. And wind turbines are no exception.

Questions such as: "Is there severe wear and tear on the equipment?”, "Is there contamination?”, "Is the oil degraded?”, can be answered through analysis of lubricants, which allows the early detection of premature breakdowns and provides support to maintenance decisions.

In this way, one can implement proactive maintenance actions, and plan accordingly. This approach will lead to a reduction in operation and maintenance costs of wind farms and at the same time, an extension of the life of the various equipment and components of the wind turbines.

Lubricant Analysis allows the detection of the following problems that lead to frequent breakdowns:
  • Accelerated degradation of the lubricant
  • External contamination (water, particles, etc.)
  • Material fatigue
  • Wear (abrasive, corrosion, adhesion, etc.)
  • Extended oil change intervals
  • Incorrect use / ion of oil
  • Incorrect oil handling
  • Inadequate contamination control measures (filtering, sealing, etc.)

  • The "failure” of the lubricant triggers the "failure” in the equipment and vice versa. A lubricant analysis program must be able to identify both failure modes.


    The clues obtained from the analysis, when interpreted by technicians with experience and knowledge in the field of tribology and maintenance engineering, contribute to the equipment having a long and trouble-free life.

    This is the case of the team dedicated to the area of Tribology, Vibrations and Industrial Maintenance at INEGI, which bears competencies to work on improving the reliability, performance and efficiency of lubricants and equipment in various types of industry.

    In the area of Wind Energy, it has developed different monitoring studies, to not only monitor the condition of lubricants (greases and oils) in numerous national wind farms, but also in the diagnosis of bearing and gear system failures.

    In addition to this area of intervention, it conducts studies in order to develop solutions for efficient mechanical transmissions, investigating not only the geometry of gears and bearings, but also the influence of the lubricant on the performance of gearboxes.

    Article by Beatriz Graça, responsible for INEGIs Lubricant Analysis Laboratory.
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