Wind turbines are extremely sophisticated pieces of machinery and require an application-specific expertise to maximise their life and profitability. The main gearbox is a particularly critical component of the wind turbine that needs careful consideration from a lubrication perspective. Recently, PES had the opportunity to speak with Michael Hawkins, Global Brand Manager for Mobil SHC products at ExxonMobil, about the wind industry and how high performance lubricants can help companies stay ahead of the competition.
PES: How long has ExxonMobil been developing lubricants for wind turbines?
Michael Hawkins: ExxonMobil has been pioneering synthetic lubricant technologies for nearly half a century and has a long-standing reputation for serving the most demanding applications – and wind turbines are extremely demanding. More than a decade ago, ExxonMobil entered into a research and development collaboration with a major gearbox manufacturer to explore a synthetic-based lubricant solution to address the micro-pitting issue that was prevalent in using traditional hydrocarbon base stocks.
This cooperation led to the introduction of Mobilgear SHC XMP 320, the new generation synthetic gear oil for wind turbines, brought to the market by Mobil Industrial Lubricants. Today, Mobilgear SHC XMP 320 is used in more than 30,000 wind turbines worldwide and is the initial-fill gear oil of choice for the majority of the world’s top 12 wind turbine builders.
The proven performance of Mobilgear SHC XMP 320 was recently demonstrated in a series of wind turbines from REpower Systems AG operating at the Thornton Bank offshore wind farm in Belgium. REpower Systems carried out research which revealed the availability of the six REpower 5M turbines in the Thornton Bank wind farm has been consistently above 97 percent over a period of six months. The use of a high performance gear oil is proven to significantly improve reliability in a turbine and despite the adverse conditions in the open seas, since the turbines were officially commissioned, over 4,000 full load hours have been recorded per turbine.
We are also proud to offer many other high performance lubricants to customers in the wind-sector beyond our well-known Mobilgear SHC XMP 320. In fact, we have a full line of Mobil-branded synthetic greases to lubricate the main, pitch, yaw and generator bearings, as well as hydraulic oils that help pitch the huge rotor blades. In fact, roughly 60 percent of gear-driven wind turbines manufactured in recent years are lubricated with Mobil Industrial Lubricants.