Workers assemble a part for a large Diesel engine at the MAN Diesel & Turbo factory

Nurturing an engineering workforce that understands the value of a resilient and reliable power engine is vital for businesses to remain competitive. Prioritising operational and maintenance efficiencies helps to avoid unnecessary equipment downtime that can generate avoidable costs.

With data sharing and analytics becoming more readily available, the role of the onsite engineer is evolving, meaning now is a prime time to focus on building expertise and upskilling staff.

This brings us to a two-fold approach: firstly, ensuring current maintenance best practice is understood and training is provided. And secondly, a start to shifting types of expertise sharing, including skills that offer an enhanced, hands-on knowledge of data-driven maintenance techniques in the power generation sector.

There is a clear demand for increased levels of training, with up to two-thirds of the power industry believing a lack of staff expertise plays a part in equipment breakdowns1. This lack of understanding is further highlighted by a majority of companies believing effective equipment maintenance can generate savings (84%), but almost half admitting it isn’t a priority in their business until a breakdown occurs (44%).

Lubrication expertise is a key part of this with 83% thinking maintenance staff would benefit from additional lubrication training.

Shell Lubricants provides expert tutorials on how to improve operations through proactive maintenance strategies. This helps ensure that the engine and engineer are working in sync and affords the industry a stronger knowledge-base and the tools needed to retain optimum engine reliability.

When it comes to optimising on newly available technologies, there is a growing expectation on engineers to analyse and share data available to them when considering ways to make oil go further.

"83% think maintenance staff would benefit from additional lubrication training"

Equipping the workforce with the knowledge to do this is part of Shell Lubricants’ commitment to future power generation. No longer can the power sector simply understand how an engine works and what to do when it isn’t. We are coming into an age when true predictive maintenance really is possible.

By gaining a wider view of the energy ecosystem, incremental changes to an active plant means the power engineer can reduce oil consumption whether by predetermining a fault in its operation before it shuts down or, on the other hand, predicting a spike in electricity demand from the grid.

To assist engineers in this transition, oil sensor technology and predictive analytics provides data that shapes more strategic, cost-saving methods for engine productivity. Data capturing methods like these, which measure engine lubrication and engine corrosion, can help the engineer lower an engine’s daily oil consumption and reduce its oil change intervals.

For example, Shell’s Oil Life Extension Tool is a proprietary Shell Lubricants programme that predicts the degradation of oil and reductions of the total base number (TBN) for oils running in heavy-fuel oil engines.

The calculated trend of the TBN can in turn provide the basis for calculating the volume of regular partial oil change – a process also known as ‘sweetening’. This approach helps to maintain the engine’s oil levels and will reduce or eliminate the need for engine shutdown during an oil change.

By adopting this internal programme based on data gathered across a large network client base, Shell Lubricants is able to teach and advise power engineers around the world of the best practices in the industry.

1 Based on a survey, commissioned by Shell Lubricants and conducted by research firm Edelman Intelligence, of 350 power sector staff who purchase, influence the purchase or use lubricants / greases as part of their job across 7 countries (USA, China, India, Germany, Russia, Indonesia and the UK) from March to April 2018.

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