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Critical Compressor Lubrication in Manufacturing

Company: Alliant Techsystem

Industry: Compressor Services

Services: Design & Installation

Products: Lubricators

The Problem

The Radford Arsenal, built between 1940 and 1941 to manufacture gunpowder, employed 20,000 people at its peak. Located about 40 miles from Roanoke, it is now Alliant Techsystem’s Radford Army Munitions Plant.

The powder manufacturing process requires the compression of air, which is accomplished by running a combination of seven Ingersoll Rand PRE electric-driven air compressors, and four XRD steam drive compressors that use pressurized gas from the manufacturing process.

Frequent compressor failures were a historic problem. Among other issues, the mechanical lubricators had never been serviced or replaced and operators often forgot to fill them. When they did, they sometimes used the wrong oil. The lubricators pumped way too much oil or none at all. On the gas-driven units, the open-valve operating machinery received little lubrication, even though there was oil running everywhere.

Generally, things were a mess.

Here’s an excerpt of a message to Alliant from Centrifugal Technologies, a company brought in to handle an overhaul of one compressor in June 2006:

“I recommend that the machine not be put into service until a Sloan Brothers Watchman Lubrication System is installed. We do not recommend running this compressor until proper lubrication is being applied. We should not take chances with the lubrication system, and we will not be able to warranty our repair if the existing lubricators fail and cause damage.”

The Solution

In 2007 and 2008, Standard Single Zone Watchman Lubrication Systems were installed on all seven PREs to lubricate the air cylinders. Uniquely engineered three-zone lubrication systems were installed on the four XRDs to deliver and protect the lubrication to the gas and air cylinder zones as well as the valve operating gear.

The Result

These systems now operate automatically, delivering the precise amount of oil required to protect the compressors from lubrication failure. Alliant is realizing huge savings at the munitions plant through reduced attendance, lower oil consumption and less need for maintenance.

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