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Lubrication in the mining industry

Published by
World Coal,

Andrey Kudimov discusses how lubricants can help to solve some of the operational challenges in the mining industry.

The pace of exploration and extraction of natural resources is accelerating day by day. To maintain this ambition, both quantitative and qualitative advances are required. The former include increasing the number of vehicles in the mining fleet and processing equipment, while the latter includes maximising the effectiveness of the operations. If we consider this situation from the point of view of mining equipment, we can point out the following trends:

  • Delivering the same objectives with a reduced number of vehicles.
  • Increasing loads for each of the vehicles.
  • Improving conditions for the machinery operators.
  • Reducing operational costs.
  • Complying with latest environmental norms and regulations.

It is obvious that equipment is becoming more complex and requires the highest levels of professionalism from its operators and servicing technicians. Breakdowns in machinery can cause unexpected downtime and increase costs incurred by fleet operators. This is where lubricants can make a difference, helping to achieve the maximum effectiveness of the equipment, as well as increasing the lifecycle of the vehicles.

Designing lubricants in 4D

Collaboration with leading OEMs allows Shell Lubricants to participate in the development of new equipment, lubricants and fuels as part of a single process. These processes are needed to achieve the main objective: to help achieve maximum performance of the equipment to increase the effectiveness of business operations. It is important to note that today innovation on its own is not sufficient in developing equipment and lubricants. Excellent product performance can be viewed as a benefit. But this advantage should be turned into profit for the business. This can be achieved by performing field tests that enable the selection of the right lubricant, develop a technical solution, ensure its implementation and analyse the result of the application of the product.

Shell Lubricants is implementing this approach by developing lubricants using its 4D concept, also known as 'Define – Design – Develop – Demonstrate'. This means to define an objective, design an idea, develop a solution and demonstrate the value.

Out in the field

Shell remains the market leader having achieved 12% of total market share in 2012, according to Kline and Co. To maintain this leading position the company relies on a large number of field specialists. Today, it employs 350 field specialists and product application specialists in more than 70 countries.

Field specialists (Shell LubeExperts) are responsible for evaluating performance of the equipment, selection of lubricants as well as ensuring correct application of the lubricant. This means that a field specialist actively participates in the life cycle of lubricants, from its development to implementation. Below is a snapshot of responsibilities of a field specialist:

  • Sharing experience during the process of development of the lubricant.
  • Taking part in field tests and supervising their execution.
  • Optimising recommendations from OEMs depending on conditions of equipment operation.
  • Training equipment operators to apply lubricants effectively.
  • Overseeing operation of all components, equipment and systems that use lubricants.
  • Providing assistance in recycling of used lubricants in accordance with legal requirements.

Daily duties of a field specialist can include carrying out a thermo geographical analysis of equipment, vibration monitoring, energy saving assessment as well as overseeing some of value-added services available to Shell Lubricants customers, such as Shell LubeAnalyst, Shell VideoCheck and Shell LubeCoach.

Implementing the above services in the mining industry in a number of markets has allowed businesses to significantly increase the effectiveness of their equipment performance. Below are a few examples.

  • A mining business in Australia achieved a 100% increase in the lifecycle of the slewing rings of its Hitachi excavators in comparison with forecast as a result of performing regular technical inspections and servicing optimisation procedures. The cost savings amounted to US$ 220 000.
  • Regular inspections, vibration monitoring and monitoring of the central lubrication operating system in the ball mills in a concentration plant in South Africa allowed the business to save US$ 60 000 per annum as a result of the reduction in downtime. Furthermore, the data obtained in the course of the inspections has shown that the business can expect increased availability of drive gears and crown gears, which can result in additional cost savings.
  • Assessment of the effectiveness of operation of the centralised lubrication system in the dragline of a mining business in South Africa revealed a number of faults. Implementing Shell services enabled the company to reduce grease consumption. Achieved cost savings exceeded US$ 140 000.


Despite wide availability of various genuine part oils (GPOs), businesses are not always able to make full use of the machinery available in various markets. Close collaboration and experience exchange between leading OEMs and lubricant manufacturers can allow the parties to find a mutually beneficial solution, resulting in increased effectiveness of the equipment on offer and growth of the popularity of the brands of both manufacturers.

Close collaboration amongst all the parties helps them to achieve maximum profit and effectiveness of the implemented solutions. Collaborative approach to the application of lubricants allows a business to achieve additional profits.

Written by Andrey Kudimov, GKA Mining, LLC “Shell Neft”, Russia.

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