When Viva Energy’s Technical Advisor Mick Castle learned that some of our biggest mining customers were using either the wrong grease or no grease at all in their equipment, he resolved to build a solution to address those customer’s needs.
The problem was sealed shut
Within our customers mining operations, knife-gate valves are used to manage the flow of slurry in pipelines around the plant. This equipment can be operated remotely and consists of an air cylinder, a big gate valve, and a rubber insert that the valve slides in and out of to stop, or redirect the flow of slurry. “These valves can be big enough for a person to crawl through and probably weigh as much as a small car,” says Mick.
If the valve were to fail, the impact on the plant’s operation would be devastating with risks to the environment, and high repair costs to the equipment itself.
Mick found that some of our customers were not lubricating the valves, causing the slide to stick in the rubber, with it eventually just wearing out the valve insert. “It slowly peels the rubber out of the valve, and then the valve disintegrates. This results in either the slurry or liquid in the pipeline leaking out of the valve, or the valve not opening and sticking shut when it should be open. If the Operator then tries to open the valve to feed product into the pump and it fails to open but the pump starts, the pump can run dry and suffer a mechanical failure.”
Another problem Mick identified was that there were customers also using the wrong lubricant, which can actually be more damaging to their equipment. Most lubricants are hydrocarbon-based which are not compatible with the rubber that’s in the valve seal, and this subsequently destroys the rubber which leads to components failing.
A solution that was automatic and systematic
Mick saw an opportunity to develop a specialised lubricant to ensure our customers had access to the right grease to improve the life of the valve, avoid costly equipment breakdowns, and minimize the potential of reducing product leakage to ground.
“We approached several manufacturers and provided them with the details of what we wanted but ultimately chose one to work with to develop a new product called Viva Energy Red Rubber Grease. It is compatible with the rubber in the seals of the valves and overall, took us around 18 months to develop, test, and launch it in market” said Mick.
The grease is applied using a single-point lubricator on the knife-gate valves. This mini automatic lubrication system releases a known quantity of grease to a single area. The timing of the release can be set according to the equipment’s needs – anywhere from monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, to annually - a great solution to safely and reliably deliver grease to the equipment whilst avoiding equipment downtime for maintenance.
However, Mick also recognised the need to offer the product in a cartridge form for a grease gun applicator. “It gives customers the flexibility to manually grease the valves prior to installing a single-point lubricator or it can be used as an alternative to the automatic system.”
Grease is the word from a mine site to a car workshop
“We sold out of the first batch pretty quickly which really highlighted the need in the market for this particular grease. It can be used on anything that requires a rubber grease whether that’s equipment on a mine site or a car workshop.”
“For smaller applications, we’ve packed the grease into 500gr tubs for use by car mechanics on seals inside components requiring a rebuild,” says Mick.
However, when it comes to the original purpose this grease was developed for – to help Viva Energy’s mining customers – Mick says that, “we’ve had a few customers using it and they seem to be pretty happy with the product with some of them rolling it out across their whole plant.”
Viva Energy Red Rubber Grease being applied from a single point lubricator to a knife gate valve.
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