ExMo Doubles Beaumont Grease Capacity


ExxonMobil Lubricants and Specialties Co. announced Monday that it has installed a newly developed grease making process to double the capacity of its Beaumont, Texas, grease plant.

In addition to the increased volume, the new process will bring much tighter quality control to an industry where production has often been inexact, officials said.

Separately, the company announced that it has received a patent for a process of manufacturing grease used in low-noise applications, and that process is now being used at its Olathe, Kan., grease plant.

At Beaumont, ExxonMobil said it spent $7 million to convert the plant to the new process – dubbed GreasePro – after investing $1 million over a period of several years to develop it. While declining to disclose details, officials said the process requires technicians to conduct extensive tests and measurements at each stage to ensure the batch is reacting as intended and to make adjustments if necessary. Traditionally,they said, many grease manufacturers wait until a batch is finished to conduct such tests.

Grease manufacturing is more complex than simply adding in the right amount of ingredients and letting it cook, said Chuck Coe, grease technical leader. We have to control the level of heat at each stage of the process, control the way we dehydrate the mixture and how severely we shear the thickener molecules.

Officials said greases produced by the process have much less variability than is typical in the industry. Firmness, measured by the ASTM D 217 Cone Penetration Test, has been controlled to within a few tenths of a millimeter.

Officials said GreasePro improves the consistency of thickener content, allowing greater control in the amount of grease delivered by manual and automatic lubrication systems. It also allows more consistent results for thickener content and drop points. The former controls oil bleed, which determines the amount of lubrication provided by a grease. The latter correlates to the temperature at which a grease begins to soften and ceases to function as a thickened lubricant.

ExxonMobil declined to reveal the capacity at Beaumont but said it is now the companys largest grease plant.

In Olathe, the company said it installed the new low-noise manufacturing process to meet a growing demand for such greases, used in equipment such as dishwashers, home air conditioners and car parts. Quiet greases are designed to avoid noise and vibration that can be generated when rolling elements are displaced by solid particles – such as thickener elements or contaminants – trapped in grease.

Again, officials declined to discuss details of the process but said it is being used to produce Polyrex EM, a premium polyurea grease formulated for electric motor bearings. In addition to the low-noise characteristics, officials said the product has strong high-temperature properties.

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