Quarrying & Cement

Chain lubrication for quarrying and cement production equipment

At RotaLube, we understand the challenges of ensuring conveyor chains operating in quarries and cement production plants perform at their best. If left unchecked, the harsh conditions these chains are exposed to can cause premature chain wear and failure, leading to costly equipment downtime and maintenance expenses.

But fear not, we have worked tirelessly with countless quarry and cement plant operators to develop an automated chain lubrication system that delivers lower friction and wear, longer chain life, greater uptime, and significant cost savings.

Which types of quarrying and cement production equipment use conveyor chains?

Conveyor chains are a crucial component in a range of quarrying and cement production machinery, including:

  • Conveyors: Drag chain conveyors or apron conveyors may be used to transport materials such as gravel, sand, and cement.
  • Bucket elevators: Continuous discharge bucket elevators and positive discharge bucket elevators use conveyor chains to lift and transport bulk materials vertically within the quarry or cement plant.
  • Crushers: Conveyor chains may be used in crushers to move rocks and other materials through the crushing process at the quarry.
  • Reclaimers: Bucket-wheel reclaimers or bridge-type scraper reclaimers use conveyor chain to reclaim and transport materials from stockpiles to storage or processing areas.
  • Mixers: In a quarry or cement plant, mixers use conveyor chains to move and mix raw materials.
  • Kilns and furnaces: In cement production, chain conveyors transport the raw materials through kilns and furnaces to create clinker and then cement.

What are some of the key challenges faced by conveyor chain fitted to quarrying equipment?

The quarry and cement production industries present a unique set of challenges for conveyor chain systems that can be addressed with the right lubricants and application techniques.

  • Abrasion and wear: The chains are constantly exposed to abrasive materials such as rocks, sand, and cement. Particles and dust can also stick to the chains, causing significant wear and tear on the chain links, which can lead to premature failure if not properly addressed.
  • Corrosion: In addition to these abrasive materials, conveyor chains in quarries and cement plants are also exposed to moisture, which can lead to corrosion. This is particularly true in environments where the chain is exposed to chemicals such as acids and alkalis.
  • Extreme temperatures: In some applications, conveyor chains may be exposed to extreme temperatures, such as those found in kilns or furnaces. This can cause the chain oil to evaporate quicker than usual and needs to be accounted for in the lubricant application method and maintenance schedule.

What are the main issues with traditional chain lubrication methods in quarries and cement plants?

Many quarry or cement plant operators use automated spit or drip-feed systems to apply lubricant to chains in their equipment. However, there are several issues with these chain lubricant application methods that waste oil unnecessary, allow it to contaminate the ground, and cause abrasive material to stick to the chain, increasing wear and decreasing the chain life.

  • Over-lubrication: Systems that automatically spray or drip oil over chains typically apply large quantities in the hope that at least some will make it to the pivot points where it is needed. Not only is this an expensive waste, but the oil can fall onto the ground causing environmental contamination and cause abrasive material, such as gravel, sand, and cement, to stick to the chain, increasing wear and decreasing the chain life.
  • Misaligned nozzles: Over time, the nozzles that deliver the chain oil in automated spit or drip-feed systems can become damaged or knocked out of place. This can cause the oil to no longer be delivered onto the chain and instead, spill onto the ground or surrounding components. This can lead to the accumulation of abrasive material on those components, causing increased wear and tear. The result is reduced performance and an increased likelihood of costly repairs or equipment replacement.
  • Mismatched intervals: As chains in quarry and cement production equipment wear over time, their length increases, causing the timings for the pivot points to become misaligned with the nozzles in traditional automated lubrication systems. This can result in the chain not being adequately lubricated, leading to accelerated wear and tear. Additionally, the excess oil can spill onto the ground and surrounding components, causing contamination and further issues. To prevent these problems, spit lubrication systems need constant adjustment according to the level of chain stretch.
  • Under-lubrication: Even if the nozzles are correctly aligned and delivery timings in perfect sync, with traditional automated chain lubrication methods the chain oil may still not reach the pins and bushes where it is needed. The resulting low friction coefficient will lead to noisy operation, higher energy consumption and increased wear.

How can RotaLube ensure optimum chain lubrication in a quarry or cement plant?

RotaLube uses specially designed applicators, shaped like sprockets, that engage with the conveyor chain as it moves, delivering precise amounts of oil directly and only to the chain’s pivot points. The system continues to work accurately regardless of the pitch of the chain, its degree of elongation, or the speed or temperature at which it is operating. RotaLube helps keeps chains running in quarries or cement plants in optimal condition with the optimal amount of lubricant at all times.

The benefits include:

  • Reduced chain wear, increased chain life, less downtime, lower replacement costs
  • Quieter operation and reduced energy consumption for lower operational costs
  • Lower oil consumption for simpler servicing, lower maintenance costs, and less risk of environmental contamination

Which chain lubricants are recommended for the quarrying and cement industry?

The choice of conveyor chain lubricant for the quarrying and cement industry can depend on several factors, including the type of conveyor, the environment, and the type of material being transported. At RotaLube, we are experts in the delivery method rather than the lubricant itself, which is why we have partnered with the very best lubricant producers in the industry. Together, we will help you find the perfect lubricant to pair with your quarry or cement RotaLube system. And with our convenient subscription service, you’ll always have the lubricant you need, when you need it, to keep your equipment running smoothly and efficiently.

Case Study

Rotalube conveyor chain lubrication applicator on a reclaimer in a quarry applying oli and grease accurately

Since RotaLube® was installed on 12” pitch chain in a circular reclaimer several years ago, the system has reduced oil consumption by up to 7,000 litres a year, which equates to an annual saving of almost £10,000 in lubricant costs alone.

The carefully controlled lubrication has also extended the service life of the reclaimer chain, which by the end of 2020 had generated a cost saving of £60,000. The entire system paid for itself in just two and a half months.

RotaLube® replaced a centralised lubrication system fitted in 1999, which dripped oil over the scraper chain every 20 mins as it passed under four open-ended pipes. Large quantities of oil were wasted as it was poured around the area, rather than concentrated on the pins where it was needed. In addition, the over lubrication was causing dust to stick to the scraper chain, leading to abrasion, and product contamination.

Instead, a bespoke steel sprocket with lubrication points engineered into it was fitted onto the return of the scraper chain. As the chain turns the cog, a shot of oil is now released directly into the pivot points on the chain links.

The customer went from having to replace a 208 litre barrel of oil every eight days to 21 days. As well as reducing vehicle movement on site, it also saved approximately 72 hours per year for barrel changing and 8 hours unloading deliveries, leaving the fitter and field operative more time for other duties.