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Tips to prevent thermal fluid degradation

Thermal fluid degradation can lead to changes in operational performance and can compromise the safety of your thermal fluid system so it is important to understand the different types of degradation and how best to prevent it. The two main types of degradation are:

Oxidative degradation

This is when the fluid is exposed to oxygen which, in turn, increases the viscosity of the fluid. A more viscous fluid is difficult to pump, has reduced heat transfer capabilities and an increased chance of forming coke within the system. It also increases the acidity of the fluid.

At room temperature the oxidation rate is hardly measurable; however, at elevated temperatures the effect increases rapidly and can impact fluid life.

Thermal degradation

Thermal degradation (or thermal cracking) is the result of overheating the fluid past its boiling point. This can produce two types of degradation - low boilers or high boilers.

  • Low boilers: this decreases the flash point and viscosity of the thermal fluid and increases the vapour pressure. The decrease in flash point can be a cause for serious safety and operating concerns whereas the increase in vapour pressure can affect overall system efficiency and cause pump cavitation, leading to premature failure.
  • High boilers: if thermal degradation occurs at extreme temperatures it can increase the viscosity of the fluid which can lead to the formation of solids, fouling the heat transfer surface and causing system failure.

How can degradation be prevented?

It is certainly easier and more cost-effective to ensure preventative maintenance of your thermal fluid system rather than ‘fire-fighting’ every time your system has a problem.

As fluid degradation can be caused by a number of factors it is vital that the cause is identified before the system is compromised. All system problems will show themselves in a number of test results and the combination of the results can be a very useful tool for your maintenance department. You can read more about the different tests in our Thermal Fluid Tests Explained blog.

Testing is a great way to identify when your system has a problem but how do you ensure these problems don’t occur in the future? The answer is preventative maintenance. Central to this is the sampling and analysing of your fluids to identify when they need replacing or conditioning and to identify system malfunctions and highlight mechanical failure.  Rigorous process control will also help to reduce temperature excursions and all of these measures are important to ensure health and safety isn’t compromised.

Find out how TFS can help maintain your thermal fluid system and reduce the risk of fluid degradation, call us on 01298 815862 or visit our contact page.