A new power generation plant contracted MRT to analyze its cooling tower gearbox lubricants at frequent intervals following its first startup after construction. Initially the power plant expected the oil analysis to be routine by confirming that the mechanical equipment would function as designed. MRT reported excessive amounts of wear metals in the lubricant samples from all of these new gearboxes. High levels of certain wear metals can occur during initial machine break-in, but they should tail off at a predictable rate. In this case the problem worsened at a noticeable pace and it affected every new cooling tower gearbox. With analytical ferrography MRT confirmed the type of metal and the nature of the microscopic cuttings to solve the mystery of excessive wear metal particles in these gearboxes. The contractor had undersized the equipment and normal load was quickly destroying the gears. Catastrophic failure was avoided and all of the gearboxes were replaced under warranty. Accurate information supplied promptly was critical to rapid problem resolution.
In this situation the return on investment of the oil analysis is enormous and easily quantifiable by comparing the actual outcome to what could have happened if the failing gearboxes weren’t detected prior to the contractor releasing the power plant to the custody of the client.