Idemitsu Team Develops Wind Turbine Lubes

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Idemitsu Kosan announced that it is cooperating with two Japanese universities on a grant project to develop wind turbine lubricants that would provide improved protection from wear and much longer drain intervals.

In a news release issued Thursday, the Tokyo-based oil company said the project’s goal is to make wind energy more productive by keeping turbines turning.

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The project “is aimed at reducing power generation costs by developing technology aimed at reducing downtime and the operation and maintenance costs of domestic wind turbines, as well as improving power generation in order to expand the introduction of offshore wind power generation in Japan,” the new release stated.

Idemitsu is doing the work in tandem with University of Hyogo and Okayama University and that the project is funded by a $25,000 grant from New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization that runs from this year through 2022.

Power companies in many parts of the world have built large numbers of wind turbines the past couple decades, usually subsidized by governments wanting to develop energy source alternatives to fossil fuels. In the push to make wind energy more productive, the industry has developed bigger and taller turbines, but this increased mechanical stresses on workings of turbines, leading to significant engineering challenges and frequent breakdowns. In addition, many turbines are built offshore or in locations that are otherwise remote and harsh so that maintenance – when needed – is difficult to perform.

As a result, the lubricants industry has invested much work to develop products that will better protect turbine components. Idemitsu said its goal is to develop bearing and gear lubes that provide better wear protection while also extending drain intervals from the five years that is typical today to 15 years.

Idemitsu said the project team is trying to develop lube formulas using nano-particle antiwear additives developed by the two universities. They are also using supercomputers at Hyogo to translate results of empirical experiments into large-scale simulations as they try to identify optimal molecular structures.