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dly Version

Reducing Motor Bearing Failures - Modified Lubrication Procedures Improve Reliability at TVA
Jerry Honeycutt, Tennessee Valley Authority

vergreasing rolling element bearings in motors has been an industry problem for several years. More motors have bearing failures due to overgreasing than from undergreasing. For the nuclear power generation industry in particular, the uclear !egulatory "ommission # !"$ provided guidance and direction through the development of %nformation otice &&'()*, issued in July )+&&, to address this problem. The method delivered mi,ed performance results for the amount of resources that companies have had to devote to motor relubrication, motivating some organi-ations to develop additional improvements. .ne such improvement, developed through a coordinated effort between the /lectric 0ower !esearch %nstitute #/0!%$ and several utilities, has produced the 1/lectric Motor 0redictive and 0reventive Maintenance 2uide,3 0'45(*, which provides guidance on how to regrease motors, when to add grease and how much grease to add. However, while 0' 45(* is a useful guideline, it cannot be applied to resolve the issue of overgreasing motors that are already in service and already have an un6nown 7uantity of grease in the bearing cavity. "onse7uently, even with 0'45(* guidance, overlubrication of greased bearings could still be a problem.

!urrent "tatus
All of TVA8s nuclear sites use 0'45(* for regreasing guidelines. 0ractices used prior to the adoption of the new guideline resulted in overfilling several motors. 9ubse7uent actions re7uired by 0'45(* served to further pressuri-e grease cavities of the bearing housings, in some cases to the e,tent that bearing shields were pressed into the ball cage of the rolling elements, resulting in the failure of shields and bearings. %n cases where the bearing did not include the use of a shield, sufficient grease pressuri-ation of the cavities occurred, causing grease to pass through the rolling elements and between the air gap between the inner bearing cap and the shaft into the windings. This led to windings and insulation becoming covered with grease, which led to motor failure or degraded operation. An e,ample of a bearing failure due to bearing shields being pushed into the raceway as a conse7uence of overgreasing is shown in Figure ).

Figure #$ This was a control rod drive #"!:$ fan motor at ;atts <ar uclear 0lant. The bearing e,perienced a ball cage failure due to the bearing shield #Figure *$ being pushed down on the ball cage due to overpressuri-ation of the grease cavity.

Figure %$ &nd bell 'it( bearing s(ield t(at (as become dislodged from t(e bearing$ Appro,imately +( percent of grease'lubricated motors within the power generation industry have the shield configuration shown in Figure =.

As illustrated, the grease enters and e,its from the same side of the bearing cavity. This means that, using the e,isting relubrication standard, if the bearing grease cavity becomes overfilled with grease, or the e,isting grease in the cavity hardens in place, the elevated grease pressure generated by the addition of new grease will force the shield into the ball cage and rolling elements leading to premature bearing failure. %n the absence of shields, grease passes through the rolling elements of the bearing, fills up the inner bearing cap grease cavity and eventually is forced through the air gap of the inner bearing cap and the shaft. The grease then becomes deposited on the motors and windings. This can lead to a premature winding failure. TVA uclear has e,perienced both of these types of failures.

Present Met(od of Relubrication in TVA

The normal se7uence to regrease a motor is as follows> ). %f possible, the bearing should be at a stable, normal operating temperature, ma6ing the grease less viscous. *. !emove the drain plug and any hardened grease. =. "lean the grease #-er6$ fitting before attaching the grease gun. ?. @se the regreasing guidance provided by /0!% 0'45(* for the grease fill 7uantity and regreasing fre7uency. 5. After regreasing is complete, leave the drain plug out and operate

the motor under normal bearing operating temperatures for at least one hour. This allows the grease to thermally e,pand and vent out the port, relieving any e,cess pressure in the cavity. A. After thermal e,pansion is complete, clean the e,cess grease and reinstall the drain plug. This se7uence re7uires several hours with operational support to grease and operate each motor. ;ith the large number of motors within TVA that re7uire lubrication, there is considerable cost associated with motor lubrication. Additionally, even when the se7uence is followed precisely, a bearing cavity may still become overfilled throughout the life of the bearing. This is further complicated if the e,isting 7uantity of grease in the grease cavity for a motor is un6nown.

Proposed !(ange to &liminate


To eliminate overgreasing and to reduce maintenance and operational support time to perform regreasing, e,isting relief ports and hydraulic fill fittings are replaced with relief valves and a pressure'controlled grease' fill fitting. The new method incorporates the new fittings as follows> ). %nstall a pressure'sensitive #*( psi differential$ grease'fill fitting that will not allow the cavity to be pressuri-ed beyond *( psi. This should minimi-e e,cessive pressure buildup on the bearing shield while the motor is being regreased. *. %nstall a grease'relief valve'fitting to ta6e the place of the grease drain plug. The grease'relief valve will open between ) and 5 psi and will minimi-e ris6 of over'pressuri-ation of the grease cavity from re'lubrication and thermal e,pansion of the grease #while running the motor$. =. Follow the regreasing guidance of /0!% 0 45(*, 1/lectric Motor 0redictive and 0reventive Maintenance 2uide,3 Appendi, <. This information may be obtained from /0!% ' uclear Maintenance Applications "enter in "harlotte, orth "arolina. "ontact proBect manager ;ayne Johnson at 4(?'5?4'A)((. ?. For motors with housings around a cooling fan on one end bell, install an e,tension tube # 0T pipe nipple$ at the drain plug. The e,tension tube should be long enough to clear the housing. The grease'relief valve should be installed at the end of the pipe tube. For nuclear operations, the change in fill and drain plug fittings has been discussed with the environmental 7ualification #/C$ representatives to ensure acceptability for use in /C motor applications. There were no /C or seismic concerns raised for the use of these fittings on /C motors.

*ydraulic "(ut- ff +rease Fittings

These fittings are intended to prevent overlubrication and overpressuri-ation of bearing shields. The design provides for pressure'specific shut'off #for e,ample, *( psi$. At the given shut'off pressure, the grease flow will stop. ;hen pressure falls below the ma,imum, the grease flow can resume. The typical design includes a A(' degree angle and a )D&'inch 0TF male pipe thread. They are available from various manufacturers in various 7uantities. McMaster "arr provides this unit in pac6ages of )( for appro,imately E(.=5 each.

Pressure-Relief Vent Fittings

These fittings are intended to wor6 as pressure'relief valves. Any time the pressure rises above the designed limit #for e,ample, ) to 5 psi$, the unit will open, venting pressure. After pressure is relieved, the fitting will close to form a seal. McMaster "arr provides this unit in = si-es, (.)*5, (.*5, and (.5('inch .: with 0T threads, in pac6ages of )( for up to E(.4( for the (.5(' inch fittings.


The cumulative savings between operation reliability, reduction in manpower re7uirements for operations and maintenance, and the reduced radiation dose e,posure in the nuclear environment will be significant. %mprovements in reliability reali-ed from the enhancement include> reduction of motor bearing failures from cavity overpressuri-ation and subse7uent collapse of the grease shield, improved flushing of contaminants and debris from the housing, and improved lubricant 7uality through reduced churning.

Additional improvements in utili-ing manpower include> ). *. =. ?. 5. !educed motor bearing failure !educed damage to windings and insulation %mproved contaminant flush !educed lubricant degradation due to churning !educed ris6 of radiation e,posure.

%n conclusion, because the addition of the fittings does not change the motor design or its operational characteristics, the motor8s original design is maintained and documentation for new procedures

development will be minimal. "idebar,

vergreasing of &lectric Motor Bearings

%n !" %nformation otice o. &&')*, the @.9. uclear !egulatory "ommission lists the following steps to correct or prevent motor overgreasing and related problems> ). !eview motor lubrication procedures to ensure that they identify the type and 7uantity of grease to use, the specific fill and drain no--les to uncap and the length of time motors should run with drain plugs off after greasing the bearings. *. To prevent foreign materials from contaminating the grease, ensure that grease containers are covered during periods of storage, and that no--les and grease fittings are cleaned. =. :etermine the optimum 7uantity and correct type of grease re7uired for each motor by e,amining the manufacturer8s recommendations and by monitoring the behavior of grease added to motors. "onsider using prelubricated sealed bearings in applications where relubrication is difficult, where contaminants can adulterate the grease or where overgreasing might damage safety systems.