Advanced Lubrication – Unlocking Improvements in Offshore Oil & Gas Operations

By Akram Reda, Industrial Marketing, Europe, Africa & Middle East, ExxonMobil Lubricants and Specialties 

Oil & Gas companies and service partners have the ongoing challenge of maximising productivity while operating safely, sustainably and economically. While only accounting for a small proportion of the total maintenance spend, some of the latest lubricants can have the potential to drive the productivity of your company higher while supporting safety, sustainability and operating cost targets.

Due to the tough operating conditions of offshore rigs the last thing companies want is unplanned downtime because if the machinery stops pumping, so do the profits. A typical offshore oil and gas rig is reliant on a number of lubricants to ensure an efficient operation. Turbines and reciprocating engines provides primary and auxiliary power, gears and bearings are crucial in draw works, cranes, mud circulating, top drive and rotary tables, and compressors power refrigeration and air systems. Whether it’s an engine oil, turbine oil, gear lubricant, hydraulic fluid or grease, one equipment failure can bring the entire operation to a halt.

The good news is that advancements in lubricant technology, especially when it comes to fully-synthetic based products, has seen significant breakthroughs in regards to extending equipment life, oil drain intervals and improving the energy efficiency of equipment. For example, Mobil SHC fully synthetic lubricants can last up to six times longer, with upper operating temperature limits that can typically reach 50°C (90°F) higher than mineral oils. As well as helping to improve productivity there are also associated environmental and safety benefits because during any maintenance there is an increase in risk to engineers as well as leakage. The longer equipment can run for, the better all round.

Other research and development areas that leading lubricant providers have focused on in recent times is improving the energy efficiency of equipment while maintaining these extended operating periods. Recent breakthroughs from Mobil Industrial Lubricants include lubricants to improve the energy efficiency of natural gas engines used to power drilling & production rigs in addition to hydraulic oils which are used in a variety of applications.

Mobil DTE 10 Excel has been engineered to help increase productivity, reduce unscheduled downtime and improve the energy efficiency* of hydraulic applications. Compared to standard hydraulic oils, Mobil DTE 10 Excel can provide up to a 6 percent improvement in hydraulic system efficiency* and three-fold increase in oil drain intervals.

The natural gas engine oil, Mobil SHC Pegasus, uses breakthrough technologies to optimise equipment productivity and protection and is the first gas engine oil formulation on the market to deliver real energy saving potential. Extensive independent university laboratory and field tests have demonstrated that the product helps reduce fuel consumption by up to 1.5 percent. The new Mobil SHC Pegasus formulation also delivers the potential for increased oil drain intervals of more than 16,000 hours - three to four times that of premium natural gas engine oils. This can help reduce unplanned downtime as well as reduce the amount of waste oil generated.

However, in order to help maximise the productivity of machinery and reduce costs, ExxonMobil suggests to operators the value of incorporating an oil and equipment condition monitoring programme alongside the use of high quality lubricants. As part of routine maintenance, the "health" of the lubricant and the equipment itself should be regularly checked. Typically, it is advised that maintenance professionals perform quarterly oil analyses and annual system inspections.

The oil analysis should include a measurement of fluid viscosity, water content, particle count and dissolved metals to determine how well the system is operating. Examining changes in the oil analysis data over time, also known as ‘trending’, is necessary to assess the condition of the lubricant. By trending oil analysis data it is possible to proactively address undesirable conditions before they become problems, which is crucial given the huge potential downtime costs associated an offshore rig being offline for any period of time.

For equipment maintenance professionals who want an effective oil analysis monitoring programme, there is ExxonMobil’s proprietary online Signum oil analysis programme. Signum oil analysis offers engineers immediate access and direct control of their lubricant sampling programme. With a few keystrokes, users can manage their oil analysis needs enabling them to:

• Update equipment registrations and select analysis options based on their equipment or maintenance needs
• Track the status of samples at the lab
• Direct actions based on analysis results and trends
• Share critical results with colleagues in a secure, password protected environment.

Beyond oil analysis, visual system inspections should be conducted regularly to check and document the condition of systems. Inspection data can be used to establish the optimum time to perform maintenance on critical components such as filters, valves, hoses and pumps. Comprehensive leak detection should also be performed, especially if excessive oil usage is noted during a routine system inspection.

By combining the use of the latest high quality lubricants and an effective oil and equipment monitoring programme, oil and gas companies can look to achieve a competitive advantage in their operation.

For more information about ExxonMobil’s range of Mobil-branded lubricants and services for the oil and gas sector, please contact the ExxonMobil Lubricants Technical Help Desk on /, telephone +420 221 456 426, or visit

*Results may vary depending on operating conditions

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