Cogeneration Plants Lubrication: ensure stable and efficient performance over time

Read time: 3 min
Published at: 24 July 2023

Lubrication of cogeneration plants is essential to ensure stable and efficient operation over time. Find out how to maximize the performance of your system and reduce costs with our advice on choosing the right lubricant!

The current trend towards electric mobility, as well as the increasing use of electrical and electronic systems, has led to a strong increase in the demand for electricity, while forecasts confirm this trend for the future. As a result, the need has arisen to identify generation systems, and this is confirmed by the increasing number of power generation plants. These also include numerous cogeneration plants that are based on methane gas (natural gas or biogas) or fuel (vegetable oil, diesel) engines. Cogeneration means a process that leads to the simultaneous production of electricity and heat from a single fossil or renewable fuel source. Innovative, high-efficiency technologies are needed in order to provide substantial energy savings compared to traditional systems that fail to recover the thermal energy produced by combustion.

Another beneficial aspect of cogeneration plants is the environment. In LCA (Life Cycle Assessment), biogas and vegetable oil engines are classified as “0” emission because the CO2 produced by the combustion is captured during the cultivation of plants or animal fodder. 

The layout is relatively simple as it is essentially a endotermie engine coupled to a current generator. More advanced systems also recover the heat produced by the engine for district heating or power generation and CHP (Combined Heat and Power) systems, in particular. CHP technology is now recognised worldwide as being cleaner, more cost efficient and better for the environment compared to conventional energy production systems.

Lubrication of cogeneration plants

The lubrication of these engines is very similar to heavy-duty traction engines but has some specific features related to fuel and type of service. Operation is normally around-the-clock which means there are no cold start requirements at low temperatures. In order to increase the power and efficiency of these system, the engines deployed are typically large-scale with bigger oil pans to increase the in-service life of the oil charge and reduce downtime. 

The main difference, however, is linked to the fuel. For all these engines, but especially for those powered by biogas and vegetable fuel, combustion in the chamber generates acid by-products that inevitably leak into the oil pan, creating possible corrosion and engine damage. Consequently, the chemistry used for this type of lubricant focuses on neutralising or, at least, controlling acidity without the harmful deposits that can form in this neutralization reaction. These engines are, in fact, monitored by periodically analysing the oil in use, thus determining the service life based on the acidity parameters (TAN Total Acid Number) and Base Reserve (TBN Total Base Number). In order to reduce emissions, latest-generation engines are fitted with exhaust after-treatment systems, i.e. catalytic converters which are, however, sensitive to the chemical content of the oil residue drawn into the combustion chamber. It is, therefore, very important to keep the phosphorus content below the safety limits. 

Based on the above, it is clear that products with well-calibrated chemical characteristics for optimal engine operation must be used.  As these are fixed applications and often involving heat recovery, it is essential to use cooling fluids that can efficiently regulate the engine heat in the long term. The choice of glycol is also very important to ensure efficient operation. Products with long-life and deposit-free additives are recommended to ensure high thermal conductivity at all times. 

Pakelo distributes products that are officially approved by leading manufacturers (Innio-Jenbacher, MAN, MWM, Wartsila, Bergen-Rolls Royce, etc.), thus guaranteeing high standards of technology and maximum engine efficiency at all times.

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