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Good compressor lubricants depend on the selection of appropriate lubricant base stock and additives, correct application and diligent monitoring, said Inga Kuksis, Petro-Canada Lubricants Inc.'s product and fluids specialist who discussed air compressor fluids at a Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE) section meeting in Toronto.
Service life is influenced by composition, operating temperatures, film thickness, viscosity, volatility and shear ability. Mineral oils that meet these requirements are base oils such as polyalphaolefins (PAO), polyalkylene glycol (PAG) industrial gas compression esters, polyol esters, and silicone diesters. Phosphate esters are often added for fire resistance. Bear in mind oxidation stability demands on lubricants increases as plant operations expand because of hotter discharge temperatures and higher cooling requirements, and that high ambient air temperatures reduce the cooling ability of oil.
Corrosion control and water separation are also important, and oil compatibility is definitely an issue. Many compressor fluids are compatible, said Roy Hoppe, a technical advisor for fuels and lubrication at Shell Canada Products. For instance, mineral oils are compatible with PAO and diester synthetic fluids, but the addition of mineral oil has an adverse effect on the performance of synthetic fluids. Mineral oils and PAO synthetic fluids are not compatible with PAG and silicone-based fluids. Be sure to do a thorough cleaning and before changing oil or adding new lubricant.