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Steam turbine lubrication has passed through three phases. The first was typified by oils not sufficiently refined for good stability and operating in bearings with insufficient cooling and excessive moisture infiltration from shaft seals. The second phase was initiated by an effort to produce a much more highly refined oil, and this had some unfortunate results in operation due to early breakdown of new oils in the presence of rust from the oil piping, which in turn was the indirect result of over-refining. In the third phase this was remedied by the introduction of inhibitors; turbine lubrication today has very long service life expectancy. However, the ultimate life of a high-grade inhibited oil is not definitely known because insufficient time has elapsed since the advent of inhibitors, and the ultimate breakdown of some inhibited turbine oils may occur rather suddenly. Reliable laboratory tests are badly needed for predicting the probable service life of a new oil and for evaluating old oils in operating service, so that their condition can be accurately determined before a breakdown actually occurs. Some standard tests for turbine oils are discussed in terms of their value to the operator, and their limitations are pointed out by actual case histories. Some modifications of existing standard stability tests are proposed and these are supported by laboratory test data. The need for further research along specific lines is suggested, and also discussed is the problem of establishing safe limits for the quality of an oil in service before it must be replaced.
Estcourt, V. F.
General Superintendent of Steam Generation, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., San Francisco, Calif.