Of all the liquids one might store in the winter time, oil and grease brave the cold better than most. Both have an extremely low freezing temperature, and they can be stored in many different ways. However, this doesn’t mean that cold weather can’t affect oil and grease. Instead of freeze protection, viscosity is the name of the game in railroad heating applications.
Cold Grease Hot Grease
What’s the difference between cold and hot grease? Well, the answer seems a pretty obvious one when you think only of temperature. But add viscosity to the equation, and you have a whole new matter to consider.
While the viscosity of grease may not differ that much between room temperature and 32° F, it can differ enough to cause operation inconvenience when the temperatures are a little more extreme. This means that heating solutions for oil storage can actually be rather important.
Lots of industries use grease for one thing or another. Grease has so many applications and uses that it would be exhausting to try and think of them all. Some involve large temperature ranges and others don’t. But in cases where grease is exposed to frigid conditions, it’s helpful to understand how the cold can affect its characteristics.
Some manufactures actually produce certain types of non-freezing, synthetic grease for use in refrigerator equipment or in other scenarios where it would be exposed to the extreme cold. While this works in smaller application, synthetic greases may not be so economical in large-scale work where a more common, less-specialized grease would prove adequate. A good example would be the railroad.
Railroad Heating Flange Oilers
The railroad uses flange oilers to grease the tracks for easier maneuverability of a train around sweeping bends and tight turns. A flange oiler is a contraption that is integrated within the rail system to deliver grease along the inner portion of the track. Oilers are responsible for keeping these flanges filled with grease in every type of weather imaginable, and the flange can deliver the grease efficiently in very cold weather.
However, to keep the flanges stocked with grease regularly, there has to be stores of grease somewhere along the track. That’s why the railroad stock piles grease in large barrels in areas where a lot of flanges are installed. For example, there is likely to be large grease barrels along the tracks that wind through a canyon or up and over a hill or mountain.
When it comes time for the oiler to extract grease from the tank, it needs to be soft and pliable enough to be fished out. If temperatures drop to extreme lows around these outdoor tanks, it can cause the grease to become very viscous and difficult to extract. This is why the railroad heating solutions for grease make use of insulation and heating blankets to wrap these tanks for the winter months. Keeping the grease at its ideal temperature makes the job of an oiler much more manageable.
You don’t have to work on railroad heating applications to understand how a similar procedure could benefit your operations. If you store grease or oil in outdoor tanks for any reason, a heating solution would be well worth considering. But, you’ll need a product that can both insulate and heat your storage tank in order to keep your grease at a temperature that’s easy to work with. Do this, and you’ll find that working with grease during cold weather is much easier.