Spectro Scientific Blog

Analysis of Large Wear Debris is Essential for Comprehensive Oil Analysis

Posted by Ray Garvey on August 11, 2022


Comprehensive oil analysis requires sampling, testing and analyzing in-service industrial lubricants to evaluate the wear condition of machinery, the contamination condition of lubrication systems, and chemistry condition of the lubricants. This article intentionally focuses attention on analysis of large wear particles because the resulting analysis information enables informed users time for planned maintenance instead of surprise, reactive unplanned repairs.

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Topics: Industrial, Fleets, Mining, Tribology, White Paper

Oil Analysis Alarms Whitepaper

Posted by Daniel Walsh on June 20, 2022

Practical Steps to Increase Your Site’s Ability to Detect
and Manage Abnormal Lubrication Events

There is a lot of discussion about artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and how these can be applied in all areas of reliability programs, particularly oil analysis. In this technology, many users struggle to understand and trust how alarms are set, maintained, and adapted to meet the changing conditions with lubricated mechanical equipment. All of these intelligence initiatives are ineffective if the data is not trustworthy.

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Topics: Industrial, Fleets, Mining, Tribology, White Paper

Oil Analysis Handbook

Posted by Zack Macik on May 24, 2022

Spectro Scientific's Oil Analysis Handbook

This Oil Analysis Handbook covers a wide variety of topics ranging from specific oil analysis techniques to applications for oil analysis, to success stories of companies that use on-site oil analysis to lower costs and improve uptime. The applications for oil analysis range from mining and trucking to water treatment, service providers, and industrial plants.  Learn how to improve reliability while cutting maintenance costs and avoiding costly downtime.

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Topics: Industrial, Case Study, Fleets, Mining, Tribology

Rapid Analysis: Gold Mine Eliminates Reliance on Outside Lab

Posted by Randi Price on September 11, 2020

Point of care solutions provide the maintenance team with accurate answers about equipment when needed. This is especially important when teams are working in 24/7 operations. Waiting for data to come back in days or weeks to make important decisions is not viable.

Oil analysis is essential to identify problems so they can be corrected before they cause equipment to go down for major repairs. A multinational mining firm was using an outside lab for oil analysis, but there were some real limitations with this approach:

  • The cost of this approach limited the number of samples that could be analyzed.
  • In addition, the four-day lead time to receive the results created the risk that damage could occur before results were obtained.
  • Further, unpredictable delays or interruptions in shipping to the off-site lab can have huge impacts to keeping critical machinery running.

They overcame this problem by creating an in-house lab based on the SpectrOil 100 rotating disk electrode (RDE) atomic emission spectrometer and the Spectro FTIR oil analyzer. The mine can now obtain oil analysis results in only 12 minutes, and the reduced cost per sample has made it possible to increase the number of samples analyzed by nearly a factor of ten. In its first year of operation, the in house lab has identified savings of over a million dollars in downtime and over a million dollars in repairs with several of the larger incidents generating savings that completely paid for the purchase price of the instruments.

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Topics: Case Study, Fleets, Mining

Oil Analysis for Municipal Fleets

Posted by Daniel Walsh on August 11, 2020

How can on-site oil analysis benefit municipal fleets? Our expert, Dan Walsh, illustrates how on-site oil analysis programs can positively impact municipal fleets.

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Topics: Fleets

Simplicity Breeds Confidence: On-site Oil Analysis is Easier than Ever

Posted by Randi Price on June 25, 2020

Oil analysis is a core practice recognized within the reliability professional community to improve machine reliability and save money.  Many companies and organizations already employ some type of oil analysis program within their maintenance practices.   

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Topics: Industrial, Case Study, Fleets

Lower Maintenance Costs: Large Municipality Uses Point of Care Oil Analysis to Significantly Reduce Costs

Posted by Mitchell Myers on June 04, 2020

A large municipality located in the northwestern United States operates a fleet of over 1,700 vehicles and over 3,000 pieces of motorized equipment which it uses for critical everyday functions.  As you can imagine, maintenance on this equipment is expensive with oil changes alone costing in excess of $3 million dollars annually when done at set intervals.  The municipality recognized that they could save millions of dollars by using oil analysis on their fleet to extend oil change intervals as well as identify and fix serious problems before they cause a catastrophic failure.

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Topics: Case Study, Fleets

Ask the Expert: Oil Analysis for Mining Fleets

Posted by Professor Dan on July 30, 2018

Mining Fleet Oil Analysis

Mining fleets and their managers utilize oil analysis to keep their equipment up and running. From drill and blast to transportation, they need to know their equipment won't fail on them. Some of the largest equipment in the world is created for mining fleets, and keeping them lubricated is of utmost importance. On-site oil analysis can not only keep equipment in check, but lower maintenance costs as well. In the latest addition to the "Ask the Expert" video series, Dan Walsh discusses how on-site oil analysis can decrease maintenance costs, and increase profit.


Typical mining processes have five key stages that can either be in one location, or spread out in multiple areas. Those stages are drill and blast, load and haul, process, stockpile, and transport.

In the world of mining, there are different types of mining. It can range from strip, also known as open pit, mining which is common for some of the major ores, to underground mining, which is common in different areas of the world. Mines extracting precious metals such as gold, lead, silver, coal, iron, etc. have interest in on-site oil analysis because those metals can show up in the oil itself.

Understanding the entire process from drill and blast, to actually getting the ore on the market is very important. Knowing that all in cost, or major KPI, is how mines determine how much profit they are able to make. For example, gold extraction can range from $350 to $700 per oz for the all in cash cost. Reducing the cost of operation is how all mines can increase their profit margins.

Why On-site Oil Analysis?

Maintenance costs are the largest percentage of the entire operation costs. For open pit mining, 45% to 60% of the operation cost is purely maintenance cost due to it being heavily intensive with capital equipment. Underground mining is typically less than 35% because the product and equipment is different. Smelters and other first processes can be between 25% to 30%. Any effort to reduce the cost of maintenance increases overall profit. On-site oil analysis is very attractive to mining operations for that exact purpose. 

Mining maintenance personnel will use all four maintenance strategies when they approach their maintenance cost. In most cases they will try to strike an optimal balance between the time it takes and the cost of disruption to reduce time lost due to breakdowns, and cost of maintenance, while increasing up time.
Asset utilization, mean time between failure, and cost per horse power per hour, are all important KPI's for mining managers to be aware of. Any time an oil analysis solution is brought on-site, managers have a way of directly affecting those KPI's by lowering them and essentially raising the profit margins of the operation.


Equipment and Tests

The image below shows the type of equipment seen at each stage of the mining process- drill and blast, load and haul, and final process, the moving parts within that equipment, and the tests that should be run for each stage.

Because most of the equipment has similar moving parts, such as hydraulics and transmissions, the main set of tests are similar for all three stages of the typical mining operation. TBN, particle count, oxidation, water introgression, dirt and processed material dust, are all important metrics used to monitor equipment health in every stage of the process. 

The Solution

The Microlab 40 is the ideal solution to run the recommended tests for a typical mining operation in less than 10 minutes. It is easy to use, so there is no need for a technician to operate it. It provides an easy-to-read report of the test results, along with the suggested maintenance actions that should be taken to correct any abnormalities found in the equipment. The MicroLab 40 truly is the ideal solution for mining fleets and their managers.   In specific cases where exotic fluids (PAG) and lubricants are required, the MiniLab 153 also may be considered.
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Topics: Fleets

Ask the Expert: Oil Analysis for Oil and Gas Exploration

Posted by Professor Dan on June 29, 2018

Oil and gas exploration companies have been using oil analysis for many years to lower maintenance costs, predict and prevent equipment failures, and increase uptime for drill rigs, both on land and at sea. The often remote location of such rigs and inaccessibility to commercial oil analysis laboratories make them perfect candidates for on-site oil analysis. In this edition of Ask the Expert, Dan Walsh discusses the need for on-site oil analysis and many of the benefits for exploration companies.




Oil and gas rigs are pretty similar whether they are land or sea based. In each case they typically have a drill platform used to drill into the ground below to extract the buried oil or gas. The drill platform is powered by a central power plant usually comprised of one or more diesel gensets and/or AC generators. In addition to a central power plant, drill rigs have numerous gearboxes, rotary drives, hydraulics, mud pumps, clutches, torque converters and other rotating equipment lubricated with oil and grease. 

Sea based rigs have the same equipment for drilling plus additional equipment to provide propulsion. This is typically separate from the drilling power plant. 

Older rigs often have mechanical, direct-drive systems linking the power plant to the drilling unit. Newer rigs commonly use AC or SCR systems that provide more control over the speed of the drilling. 

It is estimated that there are between 10,000 and 20,000 rigs in operation now worldwide. On average these rigs need the price of a barrel of oil to be >$55 in order to profitably produce oil. Some operations, like those in Saudi Arabia, have a lower break-even point.

Why On-site Analysis? 

Unlike fixed factories, oil rigs are typically mobile and can move often to new oil fields either on land or sea. As such the logistics of sending samples to commercial laboratories can get difficult and often, impossible. This is one reason why on-site oil analysis is a great solution for oil and gas exploration companies. 

Other reasons that on-site oil analysis works well in this industry include:

  • Turnover of personnel - personnel, particularly on off-shore rigs, often rotate in and out after a few weeks. Having easy to use oil analysis equipment with clear reporting and recommended maintenance actions simplifies the process for all.
  • Time for oil drain intervals - it can be quite expensive getting supplies of new oil to remote locations and disposing of used oil properly. Anything to reduce oil usage saves money.
  • Cost of disrupting production - replacement parts are often hard to come by. Being able to plan shutdowns and have the proper parts available improves production. 


One of the nice things about having your own, on-site oil analysis is that it allows you gather copious amounts of data on your equipment, lubricants and maintenance practices. Having this information enables better decision making.

  • OEM analysis. Some inferences can be made about equipment reliability and uptime, which can help your future buying decisions
  • Lubricant quality
  • Maintenance resource allocation - make better decisions about what spare parts to have on hand

Typical Equipment  and Tests

The image below shows the three categories of equipment that are typically monitored - Engines, Rotating Equipment and Hydraulics, and what tests are important for each category.

The image outlines the main concerns with each type of equipment and which specific tests are recommended. For instance, only engines are burning fuel and being cooled by glycol, so engine testing would involve testing for fuel dilution, soot, glycol in addition to several other parameters, such as viscosity, wear elements, TBN and nitration. 

This MicroLab Series is well-suited to performing these tests in a matter of 10 minutes. The MicroLab is simple to use and produces a detailed oil analysis report with clear, actionable, maintenance recommendations. The MicroLab 43 includes the CoolCheck 2 for measuring coolant, the FDM 6000 for fuel dilution and the FerroCheck 2000 for measuring ferrous wear. This is really the ideal choice for taking care of all the equipment found on drill rigs. 


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Topics: Fleets

Ask the Expert: Oil Analysis for Railroad Fleets

Posted by Professor Dan on June 14, 2018

Historically rail fleets were one of the first users of oil analysis for reliability. Oil analysis for predictive monitoring was first used by the US railroad industry to monitor the health of locomotives. In 1946 the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad's research laboratory successfully detected diesel engine problems through wear metal analysis of used oils. This practice continues to this day.




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Topics: How to, Fleets