Wednesday, 10 May 2023 10:37

Taking steps early

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The benefits of preventative heat transfer fluid maintenance

In manufacturing facilities, proactive maintenance is vital to productivity ─ it can reduce the risk of downtime, reduce waste and improve efficiency. Condition monitoring and preventative maintenance is particularly important when working with thermal fluids as manufacturers must maintain production, protect staff and remain compliant with regulations. Here Clive Jones, managing director of thermal fluid specialist Global Heat Transfer, explains how proactive thermal fluid management is the key to safe and efficient operations.

Thermal oils can be heated to very high temperatures for extended periods during operations, which will, over time, cause the fluid to degrade — the rate of this process will accelerate if the fluid is not properly maintained.

Early intervention

Once a thermal fluid enters the system engineers are unable to visually monitor its condition and manufacturers will only be alerted to the condition of the fluid once it has degraded to an extent where it impacts production — for example, food cooks inconsistently or chemicals will not blend. At this stage it is often too late, and manufacturers must cease production to solve the problem and prevent damage, which can be time consuming and costly.

Effective thermal oil maintenance can ensure regulatory compliance, while reducing the risk of costly downtime and the risks associated with explosive atmospheres. By regularly monitoring the fluid and system as part of a preventative maintenance programme, engineers can gain better visibility over operations and intervene earlier.

Specialists should regularly sample fluid when the system is hot, closed and circulating to gain an accurate representation of what is happening inside the system. A heat transfer fluid specialist can provide an analysis of the sample that represents the fluid’s condition from which manufacturers can take action and conduct any maintenance required.

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System monitoring

The by-products of fluid degradation will impact the condition of the thermal fluid system, so proactive system maintenance is as important as fluid maintenance. Conducting regular system walk-rounds enables engineers to detect system issues before they impact production. During the inspection, engineers can monitor gauges to understand what is happening inside the system and look out for shaking pipes or slow production areas. Early intervention to solve these problems, by proactively cleaning, fixing or replacing parts, can increase uptime, reduce energy usage and lower maintenance costs. 

Over time, parts of a heat transfer system will begin to wear, reducing overall efficiency. As well as concentrating on proactively maintaining core components of the system, manufacturers can prepare for when that part breaks down. Keeping critical spares on site, such as pump cartridges, parts for the heater or burner and spare fluid for topping up the system, can be integral to system management.

Around the facility

Just like fluid and system maintenance can improve productivity, making changes around the facility can also positively impact operations. In particular, environmental conditions, such as temperature or humidity, can affect how a heat transfer fluid system operates. Temperature control is important in processes that require indirect heat transfer as the operating temperature of fluid will impact product quality, for instance products may burn if overheated.

When controlling the temperature of the fluid and system, manufacturers must also consider how the heating process will impact the entire facility. If the system, or other machines in the facility, exceed their intended operating temperatures it can lead to equipment failure — electronic panels, for instance, can begin to fail once they exceed 40 degrees Celsius. Installing insulation across the system pipework enables engineers to better regulate temperature. Non-porous insulation, such as blown glass, works well in these applications because if the fluid leaks, the insulation will not absorb the fluid, reducing the risk of fire.

To comply with industry regulations such as The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) of 2002 and UKEX (formally the Explosive Atmosphere Directive (ATEX 137)) in the UK, manufacturers using heat transfer fluids must take proactive steps to assess potential risks and implement measures to eliminate them as much as possible. Thermal fluid is classed as a dangerous substance, but when monitored routinely and proactively managed, it will give great service for many years which is safer, more sustainable and financially viable for manufacturers.

For more advice on effective thermal fluid and system maintenance, contact

About Global Heat Transfer: Global Heat Transfer is a thermal fluid specialist, providing heat transfer engineering assistance and thermal fluid supplies. Services offered include sampling and analysis, 24-hour delivery of premium quality thermal fluids, system drain down / cleaning / waste management, planned maintenance programs and a broad portfolio of affiliated system design and installation services. It is part of the Global Group of companies.

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