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Project to test EAL influence on stern tube bearing failures

DNV GL to oversee laboratory testing by Leonardo Testing Services at the University of Sheffield.

The container ship APL Poland. Image credit: Roy Van Wijk Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

Updated on 16 Jan 2018 12:47 GMT

Classification society DNV GL has launched a new joint development project (JDP) in cooperation with marine insurers The Swedish Club, Norwegian Hull Club, Gard and Skuld to test the potential influence of Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants (EALs) on failures in stern tube bearings.

DNV GL will be overseeing detailed laboratory testing of EALs by Leonardo Testing Services Ltd at the University of Sheffield (UoS), UK.

DNV GL says the JDP was prompted by an increase in stern tube bearing failures over the last few years, which, the company points out, coincides with the increased uptake of EALs after the introduction of regulations requiring their use in commercial vessels trading in U.S. waters in 2013, and also with the introduction of new propulsion system designs, such as single stern tube bearing installations and larger and heavier propellers operating at lower revolutions per minute (RPM).

"Very few studies have been conducted to compare the lubrication performance of EALs with that of traditional mineral oils in stern tube applications," commented Oystein Asheim Alnes, Principal engineer at DNV GL. "With this new study we hope to gain a better understanding of factors influencing the lubrication performance of EALs."

The test programme is to investigate such aspects as hydrodynamic oil film formation, oil film thickness under varying loads and temperatures, and potential shear thinning effects at high shear rates.

State-of-the-art, non-invasive ultrasonic techniques developed by UoS are to be used to examine lubricant film behaviour in real time.

"DNV GL supports solutions that can reduce the environmental impact of the maritime industry. Our aim in this study is to undertake a first-hand assessment of the performance of EALs in order to guide the further development of the DNV GL Rules," Alnes said.

The first phase of testing is due to be completed in the first quarter of 2018, with the results scheduled for publication later in the year.

Back in 2013, specialists at UoS developed a test procedure to measure the performance of everyday household oils, such as WD-40, using ultrasound technology to gauge the performance of penetrating oils. During the procedure, a pulse of ultrasound passes through the bolted joint and is reflected by the interface of the threads, whilst the rest is transmitted into the oil.

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