14 September 2021
Innovative solution makes lubricant change process safer
An innovative lubricant change process and the installation of new equipment at Escondida has made it safer for our people and achieved productivity and environmental improvements.
The time required for lubricant changes at Escondida equates to 27 days annually. With over 120 components, the four primary crushers require 4,400 litres of lubricant each, taking 54 hours to complete a refill, with the crusher inoperable for 27 hours. The job also requires 200-litre barrels to be filled and emptied using a 20-kilogram pneumatic pump.
Throughout the lubricant change process, our people were exposed to health and safety risks, including as they transported the lubricant barrels to and from the work area, operated machinery and tools to undertake the lubricant change, and worked near large equipment and other hazards.
After observing and working closely with the lubrication team, the Escondida project team completely redesigned the process to manage lubricant changes. A new system was implemented improving the safety, efficiency and quality of the lubricant change process. This significantly reduced the number of times the machinery needs to be lubricated by extending the lifetime of key components.
The team introduced an air-conditioned lubricant station to hold the barrels, equipped with a car on tracks for transporting barrels from the station. This enables workers to move the barrels and reduces the risk of injury through overstraining. The contamination-free storage area was also equipped with filter systems and individual pumps for each type of lubricant to control potential contaminants and prevents cross-contamination.
A mobile lubrication platform with a 5,000-litre oil tank that can be refilled from the lubricant station was also introduced to change the lubricant on a crusher using fast-filling couplings. The platform tank has a microfiltration system to prevent contamination of the lubricant.
Since implementation, the new process has:
- reduced health and safety risks through safer ways of working
- significantly improved process time by decreasing the frequency of lubricant changes from six times a year to two (due to uncontaminated lubricant), and reduced the need to change the crusher countershaft from twice a year to once
- improved environmental outcomes, with reduced oil leaks and spills due to the use of tanks and fast-filling couplings, and significantly reducing the volume of residual oil generated over the long term