Ferrous metal contamination in fluids results in premature wear, accounting for 90 percent of equipment failure. The sources for the majority of these hard wear materials are caused by manufacturing and assembly processes, break-in wear, air breathers and contaminated new oils/fluids. The contamination found suspended in new oils and fluids is the result of corrosion and erosion of the carbon steel storage reservoirs and piping systems used for transport.
New fluids introduced into equipment contain contamination particles that flow throughout the system, accelerating the wear cycle. New fluids maintain this degree of contamination, even when prefiltered by traditional filtration, because the particles, which are below ten microns in size, are missed. This contamination is not all removed during normal oil or fluid change out, as it hangs up on the components and builds up over time, increasing the wear cycle. The result is downtime for repairs, increased operational expenses and loss of productivity.
Traditional depth media filters are made of paper, polymer, or fiberglass, which allow worm holing or channeling to occur. This occurs when the contamination cuts a hole through the media and the residual contamination follows the path of least resistance, traveling through the hole and reducing the filter's efficiency.
Over the past 18 years, new magnet technology has been developed to remove the ferrous and non-ferrous contamination to sub-micron levels with minimal flow restriction. This rare earth magnetic filtration incorporates a powerful magnetic radial field design. The non-ferrous contamination is attracted to the magnetic field through static adhesion. A dual filtration design incorporates a stainless cloth, a depth media filter element and magnetic filter for engine oil, and fuel and hydraulic applications. These filtration systems are cleanable, reusable and offer a long life of 10-plus years.
Based on the performance of magnetic filtration technology, it is becoming clear that this technology is part of the solution to end downtime caused by contamination.
In August 2012, STEP Energy Services began having inherent problems with fluids being used in its fleet maintenance. Contaminated oil, glycol, fuel and hydraulic fluid were causing premature component wear, resulting in downtime. The contamination could potentially cause premature failure if not properly filtered.
Traditional depth media filtration was unable to filter contamination under five microns in size efficiently, while tolerances on hydraulic components and bearings were below three microns to sub-micron in size. Contamination, if left in the system, would cause premature wear of the components and reduce the oil and fluid life.
In the fuel line, contamination can cause premature wear to the injectors, pistons and even the fuel line, resulting in increased expenses to replace these system components prior to the anticipated maintenance interval.
Coolant contamination is the cause of more than 70 percent of engine failures, yet most original equipment manufacturers still do not install any filtration on their coolant lines. The small number of those who do, install filtration that is efficient to 30 microns, while the majority of contamination is below 10 microns to sub-micron levels. This contamination wears through the walls of the coolant jacket, contaminating the oil and causing hydraulic lock, acid formation, bearing damage, oil balls, oxidation and filter plugging, all of which can lead to engine seizure.
Cold start-ups is one area where STEP Energy Services realized the advantage of magnetic filtration over traditional filtration. Traditional filters are in bypass during cold start-ups, thereby the system has no protection. On the other hand, magnetic filtration has minimal flow restriction and will filter the fluid or oil to sub-micron levels on cold start-ups, thereby protecting the equipment's integrity.
STEP Maintenance Manager Dale Constantine tested and now employs magnetic filtration systems as the standard for all equipment. The twin pumpers employ heavy-duty reusable stainless screen filters in the lube circuit on the quintuplex pump, while the coiled tubing units use a hydraulic suction manifold filter (scrubber). In addition, y-strainers are installed on many circuits, including the hydraulic, coolant and fuel circuits.
Figures 1 through 4 show the trapped contamination, ranging from 100+ microns to sub-micron levels, that protects the equipment from premature wear and failure. The magnetic filtration technology never goes into bypass, even when traditional filter elements are unable to filter the oil, it still passes the magnetic filter, never losing filtration efficiency.
Figures 1 and 2 highlight the magnetic filters' ability to remove non-ferrous and ferrous contamination. In Figure 1, the filters trapped copper and in Figure 2, rubber flakes.
"The amount of contamination found in the twin pumpers oil circuit (Figure 3) would have clogged off between 15 and 20 traditional filters and caused component failure," states Constantine.
Figure 4 shows the contamination removed from a hydraulic suction manifold after the traditional five micron filter (one year service interval).
By employing magnetic filtration on every possible application and analyzing the contamination trapped on the magnetic filters as part of its maintenance program, STEP Energy Services is enjoying the highest level of equipment reliability in the industry.
With the predictive maintenance program STEP Energy Services has in place, the company has seen tremendous savings over the course of its existence. "A comparison of industry standards versus STEP's in relation to the number of oil changes and barrels used on the twin pumper CAT engines, twin pumper tractor engines and coil units showed a cost savings in excess of $78,000 in maintenance up to March 2014," says Constantine.