As preparations are underway to restart operations, there are many variables that affect the current condition of idled equipment. These include:
- The type of equipment
- How it was decommissioned
- The condition of the equipment prior to shutdown
- The operating environment
- The length of the shutdown
TestOil Data Analyst Frank Rex explained, “Most of it involves environmental conditions and the condition of the equipment when it was idled. The type of equipment also matters. The biggest issue is protecting it from water and corrosion--the degree of which depends on the type of equipment and the length of inactivity.”
Type of Equipment
If some equipment, for example rotating machinery, sits idle in one position for an unusually long period of time several issues can arise that will be apparent (noise and vibration) at start-up. False brinelling of bearings can occur in the areas that experience vibration and shafts can bow if left in one position for an extended period.
At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, equipment at many businesses was not properly shut down. And that is completely understandable. Many were not prepared for the severity and length of the situation. And if they were, they had a lot of other things on their mind, such as caring for employees and paying bills. Proper machinery shutdown just wasn’t a priority.
Condition of the Equipment before Shutdown
The age and the number of operating hours on a piece of machinery will have a bearing on how well it fares during shutdown. If it was placed in service fairly recently, it should bounce back with few issues (the OEM will be an excellent source of recommissioning advice). On the other hand, if it is out-of-warranty or close to end-of-life, this may be a good time to think about replacing it or at least securing a backup—depending on how critical the machine is to operations.
Further complicating the situation, the onset of the COVID-19 shutdown occurred during a period of seasonal change in most parts of the U.S. As facilities shut down, most either increased or decreased the interior temperature to save on energy bills. Once they reopened, they reverted back to normal operating temperatures. These temperature fluctuations and associated condensation can affect the state of machinery when it is restarted.
TestOil Field/Data Analyst Matt McMahon gave the following example; “We have a customer with machines that were in a basement that was very hot during normal working conditions—110-120 degrees. They were shut down for only a week and it got down to 70 degrees. Then they had an extended shutdown and it got down to 50 degrees. That temperature variable can make a difference—especially as it affects viscosity upon cold start-up.”
Length of Shutdown
On one hand, a cold start is a cold start. On the other hand, starting a machine that has been idle for several months—as in the current situation--can be another matter. The longer it sits idle, the more susceptible it is to contamination, corrosion, the ingress/egress of fluids and in the extreme insects and rodents. This is particularly true if the equipment operates or was stored outside. The bottom line is that failing to follow the required inspections and testing processes prior to restarting equipment can imperil the machinery and create a hazard for workers.