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Recognizing Lubricants as an Energy Efficiency Opportunity

Even operators may not always associate energy reduction projects with lubricants in the same way that they do with lighting projects or compressor leak studies.

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ExxonMobil

With energy demand and competition rising throughout the world, industrial operators are looking for every possible opportunity to meet demands without sacrificing equipment productivity.

While applying high performance lubricants is a familiar strategy throughout the industry, its benefits are rarely understood by regulators, including government agencies. Even operators may not always associate energy reduction projects with lubricants in the same way that they do with lighting projects or compressor leak studies.

However, as many readers of this publication know, using advanced lubricants can help improve mechanical efficiency by reducing friction at moving surfaces as well as reduce fluid losses from oil churn and pumping.

And, recently, one U.S. statewide energy efficiency program recently confirmed this concept by verifying ExxonMobil’s Mobil DTE 10 Excel hydraulic oil as an energy efficient technology as part of its “Focus on Energy” energy efficiency incentive program. This was the first hydraulic oil to be studied and incentivized by this program, and to ExxonMobil’s knowledge, one of the first lubricants ever incorporated into an energy efficiency incentive program anywhere in the world.

To understand what this verification implies, let’s take a closer look at how it came about and how it might inform future lubricant energy efficiency opportunities.

Formally Validating the Energy Efficiency Benefits of Hydraulic Oil

Wisconsin’s “Focus on Energy” program is Wisconsin utilities' statewide energy efficiency and renewable resource program funded by the state's investor-owned energy utilities and participating municipal and electric cooperative utilities. Focus on Energy works with eligible Wisconsin businesses to install cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, as well as incentivize the use of energy efficient technologies.

While Focus on Energy has been around for a number of years, program leaders hadn’t considered the energy efficiency potential of industrial lubricants. Following some initial investigation – as well as support from Wisconsin-based plastics manufacturer EVCO Plastics – program leaders agreed to pursue the matter through a formal verification process.

Led by a group of engineers from ExxonMobil, EVCO Plastics and a Focus on Energy Advisor, the team conducted a study that demonstrated a 3.2% electricity demand reduction in one of EVCO’s plastics injection molding machines. To qualify as an energy efficient technology, Mobil DTE 10 Excel had to demonstrate that it provides users with a payback between one-and-a-half and eight years, depending on operating conditions. In many cases, the Mobil DTE 10 Excel oil has been showing a payback period of approximately two years under this program.

What This Means for Future Energy Efficient Opportunities

Validating a lubricant as an energy efficient technology is an exciting moment for the industry, given that it demonstrates a new way to help businesses capture energy efficiency program incentives and is a precedent for more lubricant formulations to come.

The key challenge to industry and agency recognition of the energy saving benefits of lubricants is simply a lack of awareness. The energy efficiency benefits of lubricants aren’t typically familiar to non-lubrication experts, so these technologies aren’t always top of mind when programs are being developed.

This represents an opportunity for industries and government partners in markets with similar energy efficiency programs to include energy saving lubricants in their mix of options. Although modest in scale, the simplicity and relatively low cost of energy saving lubricant solutions makes them attractive – and they can also provide substantial non-energy benefits based on the improved equipment protection, which in turn results in reduced downtime and related costs.

So, hopefully Wisconsin's initiative is only the first of many to come.

Michelle Ruiz is the ExxonMobil lubrication engineer who led the assessment. For more information on ExxonMobil’s Mobil DTE 10 Excel™ premium hydraulic oil, visit www.mobil.com.


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