What is the Oil Analysis Process?

We often get asked what our Oil Analysis procedure is and what takes place. Many want to know how the whole process works and what it entails, so we have broken it down for you:

Step 1 – Determining the Test Suites

Firstly we must understand the asset(s) as a bare minimum to ensure that at the very least we are carrying out the industry standard test suite. There is no use carrying out tests which have no value to the end report, for example carrying out a TBN on a lubricant which has no TBN additive present is a waste of our time and our customers money which can be better spent on relevant tests.

Once the basic test suite is in place we must then tailor the suite to ensure the specific asset, environment and industry is captured in the data. For example the same asset land based may need a completely different test suite to the same asset off shore. The contaminants also vary from site to site so the test suite must reflect this. PCMS pride themselves on being as nosey as possible so we understand our customers sites and assets inside and out.

There may also be individual requests from our customers and certain customers may require unusual tests to understand specifics about their assets. We ensure we understand our customers needs so they get the information they are looking for every sample.

All this being said there are certain assets working on 1ltr of oil and others on 10,000ltrs so we ensure the most valuable tests and data are carried out when there is not enough sample to go around. The same can be said for access, if we can only obtain a sample on annual site shutdowns we may want to carry out more in-depth analysis to ensure our recommendations and findings are as future proof as possible.

To determine the test suites we must also understand the sampling points and any interferences this may cause. We are lab analysts but we also have onsite experience and understand not all samples can be “perfect” or even representative however if they are consistent we can work with this and ensure the data is as relevant as possible.

  1. Understand the asset
    – Ensuring the industry standard for the asset as a minimum is carried out.
    – Understanding how the asset works and what faults/trends we are likely to see along the asset’s life cycle so we can capture them with the analysis.
  2. Understand the asset’s operating environment
    – Ensuring the analysis catches any contaminants or wear types associated with the asset, process, and environment.
  3. Understand the customers’ requirements (what they want to know about their asset)
    – Are they concerned with wear/contamination/oil health predominantly or everything?
  4. Understand the customer and assets limitations
    – Asset oil sump size – there must be enough oil to take the size sample required.
    – Can the customer access the asset on a routine time-based programme or does the analysis need to be more in-depth as can only be accessed at certain times?
  5. Understand the physical sampling points
    – Where is the sample being taken from?
    – Will this affect the analysis results?
    – Is there anything we can do to cater for this?


Step 2 – Test Kit Requirements

So we know what tests we will carry out and we have a good understanding of what our customers eat for breakfast, dinner and tea. Just kidding their assets, processes and site of course! Now we must ensure we provide our customers with a test kit that is practical yet precise to allow for the correct amount of sample to be obtained in the most efficient, effective and sterile way possible for the customer. This means everything from the sample bottle to the sampling equipment needs to be spot on.

Some customers like to hoard sample kits and order 3000 at a time, which is fine and we ensure all our kits are packaged in a way that they will not ingest contamination during storage! Other customers like to have a specific amount of kits with information pre filled delivered on specific days every month.. This is also fine we have a super efficient system and set of staff who live for this sort of organisation!

We understand the customer is “always” right but we also try our best to advise out customers on what we think will work best for them with regards to the type of kits and equipment they require. We understand not everyone likes a glass sample bottle but sometimes transformers just need that bit of extra shine!

Here is a breakdown of what we consider when we are putting your kit together:

  1. What analysis are you having?
    – So, we have determined your unique test suites, we need to now make sure your sample kit caters for this
    – Are your bottles sufficient to provide the correct amount of sample for the tests and any rechecks?
    – What if we have to carry out a test unexpectedly to clarify another result? we need a little bit extra Headspace – there needs to be room for expansion of the fluid in the bottles
    – What is the sample type? Fuel? Transformer? Maybe you need a glass sample bottle
    – Where will you be sampling from? Do you need a vacuum pump or a wide mouth bottle?
    – Do you need tubing? Do you need the tubing pre cut per asset?
    – Do you need components in a box or specific kit packs for each asset with pre filled information
  2. How often do you need the kits?
    – Do you require 12 months’ worth?
    – Shall we send the kits to a specific schedule?
  3. Who needs the kits?
    – We understand many people may require kits at different places on one site we can send the kits to whoever wherever whenever


Step 3 – Awareness Training

So we have delivered you some super tailored kits and developed a specific testing plan.. What now?

This is the most daunting part for most of our customers and we are more than proud to say we have no secrets! We want our customers to understand everything to ensure that any adaptations can be made in an instant to ensure reliability is always the key focus. Our training ranges from teaching people what oil analysis is to the geeky science stuff that goes into the interpretation of all that data. We don’t want our customer to read a recommendation and think “well if they say so” we want them to full understand why and have the knowledge to ask the relevant questions as their site develops and grows.

We have determined tests suites for your assets and industry.
We have also assembled your kits based on your requirements and tests suites.
Now training may be needed.

Awareness training is tailored to industry, site and assets to ensure the training is relevant and useful.
The topics that are covered are:

  • Oil sampling rules
  • Oil sampling challenges based on site and industry
  • The importance of reference oils
  • The importance of trends
  • Basic lubrication chemistry
  • Basic oil analysis results interpretation

For more about our training courses available, please click here


Step 4 – Collect Samples

Our training will allow people to confidently take samples using basic principles and procedures to ensure that all important data is as consistent and representative as possible. PCMS can assist from showing a customer where to sample every single asset to coming on site and doing it for you!

Samples need to be collected following the guidance from the oil awareness training described in step 3.

Sampling procedures and intervals vary depending on asset type, industry, and criticality; however, the sample point must always follow the rules of sampling:

  • The sample must be representative of the asset environment
  • The sample must be collected from the same place by the same method every time
  • There must be enough sample for the testing required
  • The asset lubricant level must be checked after sampling
  • The sample must be properly labelled


Step 5 – Testing & Analysis

The samples have been collected and sent to the lab as soon as possible!

Now it’s down to us! We will test the Lubricants, coolants and fuels under a test suite suitable to the asset and environment. The samples are sorted and logged into our bespoke system which allows for tailored alarm sets and analysis parameters. We carry out all our analysis under ASTM and ISO methods to ensure accuracy and conformity of results.

Standard testing will be carried out within 3 working days of receiving the sample.

To see a comprehensive list of all of our test suites and sample types, please click here


Step 6 – The results

So what do we need to know from all those tests?

  • We need to understand is the asset wearing?
  • Is there any contamination?
  • And how’s the lubrication, coolant and fuel doing?

All the data is represented in a raw format with a simple explanation below the report which includes any findings, diagnosis for those findings and a recommendation on any remedial work or resampling rates.

Our results portal online is all our own with numerous ways to see, download and manipulate your data.

The results from the laboratory should be reported as soon as complete on a report format which can be fully understood by the end user.

At PCMS our results show the following

  • What we have found
  • A diagnosis of what we found
  • Recommendations of what to do next

Our results are uploaded to our online results portal where 4 different types of pdf can be pulled off, 4 different types of charts, and 12 different types of CSV

We understand different industries, cultures and people process information in different ways which is exactly why we have so much flexibility in how our results can be downloaded.

For more information about our oil analysis service click here,  complete our contact form or email us at info@pcmseng.co.uk

March 9, 2021 Chris Scrimshaw  Oil Analysis