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System reboot – Remanufacturing lubrication systems as a new trend

Remanufacturing in wind energy is a relatively new phenomenon. When remanufacturing is mentioned in the sector, most would associate the process with bearings. But the remanufacturing trend is gathering speed and lubrication systems are the next component identified as an area where operators could significantly reduce costs.

Correct lubrication is vital for good performance in rotating machinery. When a lubrication system isn’t functioning properly, bearings will not run smoothly and can even deteriorate prematurely. Naturally, like any other piece of equipment, lubrication systems wear over time. Operators would typically dispose of these systems when they reach the end of their service life and replace them with a new one. However, remanufacturing is an option that offers many benefits and could even provide lucrative opportunities.

What causes lubrication systems to fail?

There are many reasons that cause a lubrication system to fail, such as contamination from dust or dirt. However, most commonly, a system will fail due to the pump unit becoming worn out or damaged. This is normally due to the pump elements in the pump units being neglected and rarely checked or altered until they completely malfunction. Nonetheless, without a functional pump unit, the entire lubrication system will not work. Pump elements are often seen as disposable as they are relatively cheap parts. However, this is where the benefit lies. The part is inexpensive and can therefore be cheaply replaced – at a significantly lower price than replacing the entire system.

It costs approximately 800 euros for a new pump unit, but around 2,000 for a new lubrication system.

Matt Preston, Business and Applications Engineer Renewables, SKF

What does lubrication system remanufacturing involve?

Many OEMs and service companies are now beginning to offer remanufacturing services for lubrication systems. Wind energy organizations can send their damaged lubrication systems to remanufacturers for repair. The part will be assessed for its level of damage and, where possible, be remanufactured. Replacing a damaged pump unit is markedly cheaper than installing a completely new lubrication system. Additionally, the service life is also extended – boosting availability and reliability. Lubrication systems can usually be remanufactured once before they are replaced, effectively doubling service life.

Comprehensive services: more than just a quick repair

Some remanufacturing companies also offer a wide range of after-market services. These include consultation and training to help identify areas for optimization to avoid failure in the future. They might, for example, advise you on where contamination has occurred due to incorrect setup. Customers can also receive guidance on condition monitoring to help them avoid conditions that might lead to a serious failure with their lubrication systems and damage other machinery.

Remanufacturing: the logical choice that isn’t yet established

Despite being more cost effective than replacing the entire system, lubrication system remanufacturing is a long way from being the standard in wind energy – even less so than bearing remanufacturing. Repair services for these components are relatively new and still uncommon, since operators have traditionally disposed of lubrication systems when they fail. But, with operators looking for ways to optimize the levelized cost of energy (LCOE), remanufacturing could see a rise. This more sustainable approach to defective lubrication systems will not only increase service life, but could help wind win the race to become the world’s foremost source of renewable energy.

Steps being taken to promote lubrication system remanufacturing

Component suppliers and wind energy companies are now starting to wise up to the lucrative opportunities that remanufacturing lubrication systems offers. SKF has committed to this practice by opening a dedicated center in the UK. Other SKF factories located around the world also offer restoration services for lubrication systems. It may require a slight attitude change, but the pieces are in place for lubrication system remanufacturing to become and industry standard and make wind energy even more competitive.

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