Hundreds of thousands saved by well-oiled gears at Eskom’s Matla power plant


An intensive energy saving study conducted by Eskom and Castrol engineers at one of Eskom’s power stations, concluded that an annual energy saving of R377 000 can be obtained by merely converting the oil used in the mill’s gearbox to a fit-for-purpose synthetic lubricant.

The study was conducted as part of an energy efficiency campaign in which gearbox lubrication was identified as a key area for potential savings. It found that by changing to a synthetic lubricant designed for gearboxes, 115MWh could be saved.

The testing was done in the wake of worldwide efforts to improve efficiency and cut energy consumption due to increasing energy prices as well as supply and demand constraints.

Comparative testing was done on the main mill gearbox at the Matla Power Station in Mpumalanga near Secunda. Eskom currently operates 12 coal-fired power stations and rolling out the Matla example could potentially save the organisation millions of rands annually.

The study, which included a series of tests conducted over a period of two weeks on the same mill, measured energy consumption from the switchgear room and the heat generated in the gearbox.

Mervin Reddy, BP Africa Technical Services Manager, says the study, which was done using different validation techniques, found that an average return on investment of 439% was achieved by using its high performance synthetic gear oil, Optigear TM Synthetic X220.

“We were delighted with the results which are similar to those conducted on other test sites around the world. By switching oils we were able to record a 3.4% saving in the net power used, which is a great proof point of our synthetic oil’s effectiveness.”

He said the evaluation was initiated by a joint team of representatives from the plant and oversight was provided and data ratified by Leslie Barker, Eskom Chief’s Engineering Technologist and Castrol.

“Large and small companies all around the world are looking to improve their efficiencies to save money and it’s amazing to see how by making relatively small changes at operational level, significant savings can easily be achieved, ” says Reddy.

He said major strides had been made in the development of high performance synthetic oils and Castrol remains at the forefront of this research and development globally.

“The latest oils have the potential to increase gearbox efficiency by providing excellent lubrication due to their structured hydrocarbons, prolonged oxidation resistance, high temperature stability and low evaporation rate. They also have high load carrying capacity, superior micro pitting protection, excellent friction reduction and good filtration properties.

“The advantages of synthetic over mineral oils means that you will not only save on power consumption but will also extend your oil change intervals.”

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