A novel approach to enclosed gear lubrication on board mining equipment

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 89, No. 1004, 1996

Nicolas Samman, Petro-Canada Lubricants (R&D), Sheridan Park, Mississauga, Ontario Shek N. Lau, Syncrude Canada Ltd., Fort McMurray, Alberta

Enclosed gear cases on board heavy mining equipment have traditionally been lubricated with regular heavy duty gear oils. However, equipment manufacturers, have recommended the use of an ISO-1000 gear oil for this application to ensure adequate lubricant film strength, especially at the higher end of the working temperature range. The majority of these ISO-1000 gear oils are based either on residual/asphaltic oil or synthetics, primarily higher viscosity polyalphaolefins. Although the performance of these lubricants has been satisfactory, they suffered other shortcomings that equipment users have lived with over the years. The major requirement at the user’s mine was to provide lubrication for the shovel Hoist gear case. Within such a gear case design, the gears and the roller bearings, that have different lubrication requirements, are lubricated with the same lubricant. Several lubricants were used, light gear oils as well as the recommended ISO-1000 heavy gear oils. On the one hand, the lighter oils performed adequately for the lubrication of the bearings that formed part of the enclosed gear system. These lighter oils did not perform as well for the lubrication of the gears due to their lower viscosities, resulting in shorter gear service lives. On the other hand, the ISO-1000 gear oils performed well for the lubrication of the gears, but were too viscous to creep into the bearing elements to lubricate them adequately, especially during the cold northern Canadian winters. This resulted in catastrophic bearing failures and secondary damages to the gears. The challenge, then, was to formulate a lubricant which met the 1000 cSt at 40°C viscosity requirement as stipulated by the equipment manufacturer, while satisfactorily lubricating the bearings at the full working temperature range. This was achieved by the development of a semi-fluid grease lubricant, which has proven in field trials to give adequate performance in this application for the lubrication of both the bearings and gears down to -40°C. This product met the equipment manufacturer’s performance criteria and resolved, to a large extent, leakage of the lubricant through seals experienced with the use of conventional and synthetic gear oils. Although the main performance criteria of the fluid was its capability to lubricate the “Hoist” gear case, it was also used during the field trial in other gear cases on board the shovel to test its full capabilities. This unusual alternative lubricant was field tested and evaluated for more than two years. Based on this assessment, the product was reformulated to improve its fluidity, slumpability and the settling of debris/wear metals to the bottom of the gear cases. This reformulated softer grade, a semi-fluid grease, has been performing satisfactorily for more than eight months and is still undergoing longer term assessment.
Mots Clés: Equipment, Gear lubrication, Bearings, Semi-fluid lubricants, Lubricants, Grease, Apparent viscosity.