Unearthing new sources of productivity in coal mining with high performance lubricants

How can the right lubes help overcome the challenges of modern coal mining operations, amid fluctuating global coal prices that have complicated capital expenditure planning and put pressure on bottom line performance? Let’s take a closer look at the important role high performance lubricants play in optimising the performance of coal mining equipment.

Fluctuating global coal prices have significantly complicated capital expenditure planning for coalmine operators and put pressure on bottom line performance. Furthermore, during times of stalled revenue (operational downtimes both scheduled and unscheduled), fixed costs can adversely affect profits.

Therefore, mine site operators have come under growing pressure to find ways to reduce costs safely and without compromising productivity. Consequently, this has increased the focus on effective machine maintenance.

A robust answer to heavy duty challenges

Heavily loaded equipment, such as roof bolters, drag lines, longwall machines, shovels and trucks, are regularly required to operate in extreme temperatures while exposed to water and dust contamination. Maintaining effective operation in these conditions can be particularly challenging.

However, it’s a proven fact that using high performance lubricants has increased the protection and performance of mining machinery, thereby minimising both the financial burden and maintenance-related safety risks.

Switching to high performance oils and greases has a range of additional benefits, which can all contribute valuable savings, including:

  • Extended oil drain intervals reduce lubricant expenditure
  • Enhanced wear protection cuts unscheduled maintenance
  • Improved cold start performance reduces avoidable engine damage
  • Reduced energy consumption cuts operating costs

However, not all lubricants offer this range of cost saving benefits. Selecting the best oils and greases to contend with mining environments is not straightforward; there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.

In order to maximise the rewards, it is essential to consider not only the quality and performance of a lubricant but also the requirements and challenges of each specific application.

For example, specialist hydraulic oils can improve the cycle efficiency of shovels, excavators and haulage equipment while helping to cut energy consumption and maintenance issues. In order to realise these benefits, mining operators should select grades that reduce the build-up of deposits in hydraulic systems and maintain their viscosity when temperatures fluctuate.

End-to-end efficiency

Beyond hydraulics systems, lubricants can also help ensure the efficient running of compressors, open gears and mobile mining equipment, contributing significant savings to a mine site operation.

For example, a Russian limestone quarry was getting 4,000 hours of operating life from the hydraulic oil used in its excavators, and the operator was keen to extend its oil drain intervals. It worked with its lubricant supplier and switched to a high performance hydraulic fluid in order to not only reducing oil waste, but also increasing hydraulic pump efficiency.

It also implemented routine used oil analysis to determine the optimum oil drain interval. Regular used oil analysis, such as ExxonMobil’s Mobil Serv℠ Lubricant Analysis (MSLA), enables operators to proactively identify potential equipment maintenance issues before they occur. This, in turn, helps reduce unscheduled equipment downtime unscheduled equipment downtime, improve equipment life and extend oil drain intervals.

After a successful trial period, optimal drain intervals for the Russian customer were set at 5,000 hours – which meant an extension in oil life by 25%! The customer reported an annual savings of $9,000 on lubricant and filter costs, as well as the total eradication of unplanned downtime[1].

As a mining operator, what other challenges do you face? What do you look for when choosing which lubricant supplier to work with? Let us know in the comments box below!


ExxonMobil’s lubricant offerings for the mining sector include:

  • Mobil SHC™ 600 Series gear and circulating oils, which can reduce energy consumption in gearboxes and circulating systems by up to 3.6%. They can also extend oil life by up to six times, resist thermal/oxidative degradation, possess exceptional low temperature performance and a high load carrying capability.
  • Mobil SHC™ Rarus oils are designed for use in vane and rotary screw air compressors operating in severe service conditions. They are formulated to deliver up to three times longer oil drain intervals than other synthetic air compressor lubricants (up to 24,000 hours in field tests).
  • Mobil SHC™ Gear OH Series are heavy-duty oils designed to lubricate enclosed gearing as well as plain and rolling element bearings in off-highway equipment subject to shock and heavy loading. Their combination of a high viscosity index and additive system helps provide outstanding performance under severe high and low temperature conditions.
  • Mobilgrease XHP™ Mine Series greases are specifically designed to protect off-highway and mining equipment. These premium lithium-complex greases were developed for outstanding performance in bucket and pivot pins and heavily-loaded chassis components.
  • Mobil DTE 10 Excel™ Series lubricants are formulated to meet the demands of high-pressure industrial and mobile equipment hydraulic systems. These hydraulic fluids help keep hydraulic systems cleaner, longer and are proven to boost hydraulic efficiency by up to 6%, which can decrease power consumption and increase system responsiveness.


[1]Based on test findings for a single customer, for illustrative purposes only. Actual results can vary depending upon the type of equipment used and its maintenance, operating conditions and environment, and any prior lubricant used.

  • Excellent information about these synthetic products, including Mobil SHC, which help the mining sector reduce its unscheduled downtime and achieve savings, such as those associated with a higher productivity in coal mines. Best regards, Daena Tan.