Techenomics tackles sodium in oil

Jan 30, 2016 | oil analysis, preventative maintenance

Techenomics tackles sodium in oil

Chris Adsett2The presence of elevated amounts of sodium in engine oil means that the oil has become significantly thicker which if left untreated can cause significant problems for engines and hydraulic equipment, according to fluid management experts Techenomics International.

Oil analysis data supplied by Techenomics accurately displays how much sodium is in the oil, thereby providing engine or equipment operators with an effective window into the internal health of engines or components. This enables them to take preventative measures before the high sodium levels result in costly and time consuming breakdowns leading to loss of production.

Techenomics’ CEO Chris Adsett says there are multiple sources for the sodium found in diesel engine oil but based on equipment type and operating environment the sources can be narrowed down to a more manageable list. “Potential sources include coolant, saltwater, additives, grease thickener, base stocks, dirt and road salt.”
The sources can generally be placed in one of two baskets – sodium as an additive or sodium as a contaminant.

lab01Chris Adsett says the primary additive is detergents which are commonly added to engine oils to neutralise strong acids present in the lubricant, such as sulphuric and nitric acids. The acids are produced in internal combustion engines as a result of the combustion process.

He says detergents remove neutralization products from the surface of metal and also form a film on the surface of parts, thereby preventing high temperature deposition of sludge and varnish. Other additives used as a form of detergent are phenolates, sulphonates and phosphonates of alkaline and alkaline-earth elements, such as calcium, magnesium or barium.

He says major causes of sodium as a contaminant are coolants and antifreeze. “If an oil analysis shows elevated sodium it can mean a coolant leak but if the data also reveals high potassium levels, it is more than likely to indicate the presence of antifreeze in the oil.


“Other key elements to look for in the data are boron, chromium, phosphorus and silicon which are all associated with antifreeze and can indicate that there is a coolant leak. “The causes for leaks will require investigation but likely sources including defective seals, electrochemical erosion, cavitation erosion, corrosion of liners, damaged cooler core, blown head gasket, or a crack in the cylinder head or block.”

Antifreeze contamination can cause an increase in oil viscosity or thickening of the oil, the formation of gels and emulsions, acid formation leading to corrosion, premature filter plugging and all-round poor lubrication. Chris Adsett says glycol contamination is reported to be the leading cause of poor lubrication and premature filter failure in diesel engines.

He says high sodium levels can also indicate water contamination which results in the oil changing from clear to milky in appearance. “An oil analysis report indicating moisture contamination is cause for concern because moisture brings nothing but trouble to the lubricant and the engine or component as it rusts iron, promotes corrosion on other metal surfaces and can destroy the lubricant.”

Techenomics uses the latest technology to accurately analyse oil samples and its expert staff are on hand to advise clients how to use the data to carry out effective preventative maintenance programs, thereby saving time and money caused by unnecessary downtime or equipment failure. There are a range of tests available to identify causes of leaks and of sodium, moisture and other contaminants, and Techenomics staff can assist with expert advice in this regard and can also make on-site visits to help with effective sampling and testing.

For more information about Techenomics and its fluid management and condition monitoring services e-mail Teguh Santoso,, or Leo Valenz,

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