An Industry which is obsessed with cost to the detriment of long term benefits
In continuation with my previous blogs, here is another blind spot which defies understanding. All marine machinery needs lubrication. Lubricants ensure that there is no direct contact between the parts moving against each other. The protective film that they provide ensures that parts do not wear out and provide long service. However, there are some important things to understand. Lubricants do absorb some energy in providing the lubrication service.
It stands to reason that if the lubricant is more viscous, it will absorb more energy and vice versa. What kind of Energy? Surprise Surprise! It can be 5 to 15% of the energy transmitted. This, in a marine engine, can be huge.
Can this energy loss be reduced?
Yes, let us understand how the lubricants are manufactured.
You start with a base oil (there are at least 6 different types) and add over 11 additives which serve specific purposes and you end up with a lube oil tailor made for the specific purpose. However, the secret is the base oil. There are single distilled, double distilled and even synthetic base oils. Double distilled base oil will not deteriorate. This means that it will not easily polymerize and become thicker with increased viscosity (which will absorb more power). It can withstand high temperatures or presence of moisture without losing its basic properties. It also has high viscosity index which means that its viscosity will not go down steeply if the temperature of the oil increases. All these are wonderful properties which ensure that that the energy absorption of the lube oil is minimal when manufactured using better base oils.
Given this scenario, you would think that the well informed marine industry will choose a lubricant which will absorb minimum energy even though its initial cost may be higher. The actual industry situation is quite the contrary. Quotations are floated for lubricating oils where the emphasis is on the lowest cost. Obviously, a double distilled base oil costs more than a single distilled and it cannot compete. What happens? Almost the entire industry goes for Group 1 Base Oil (Single Distilled) which has the lowest initial cost. Unfortunately this also has the shortest lifetime, absorbs the highest energy. But who cares about the Energy. It is all about the lowest initial cost in the short term. This is the marine industry.
Actually, if you think about it, it should not be a surprise. An industry which is totally unwilling to pay for quality in the bunker fuels (see earlier blog) will not behave any differently when it comes to lubricating oil. It will be the short term lowest cost which will dominate the thinking.
What is this thinking? It is about bargaining for the lowest cost. The pleasure you get thinking that you got a deal is very addictive. Therefore, you will go to Brooks Brothers who will offer 50% off on a $50 shirt and happily buy it for $25. Perhaps that shirt was never worth more than $20 anyway.
The story goes that the number ‘zero’ itself was invented by a bargain hunter who wanted a lower and lower price for a product till the shopkeeper could not lower it below one (zero did not exist then). The buyer hit on this zero number and invented it for the first time. In other words, he wanted the product for no price or zero price. Does the story end here? No. When the shopkeeper offered it for the zero price, the buyer countered – Will you give me two at that price!