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TECH T O PI C

Jet Engine Oil Consumption


Understanding why rates vary and how to optimize consumption

Introduction

Air/Oil Separator Efficiency

Engine designers strive for balance in determining oil consumption


rates. Too much consumption is costly to operators and usually
requires larger oil tanks, which add unwanted weight. Too little
consumption can adversely affect oil condition, system cleanliness
and engine longevity.
Many factors influence oil consumption. This document focuses
on two key factors: deoilers and seals, and their effect on oil
degradation. By understanding these, we can better understand
why rates vary and how to help optimize consumption.

Deoiler RPM
Velocity

Air Flow

Importance of Deoiler and Seal Efficiency


Why do some engines suffer from excessive consumption when
there is no abnormal leakage while others have very low consumption?
The answer often lies in the efficiency of the air/oil separator
also known as the deoiler, and in the oil system seals.
Air/oil separators, which rotate, can be located either in main
bearing chambers or engine gearboxes, depending on the engine
builders design philosophy.
In bearing chambers, air enters into sumps through carbon or
labyrinth seals and then mixes with lubricating oil supplied to
the bearings. This creates a moving oil mist or vent air, which is
cycloned in the air/oil separator. The separator recovers the oil
and directs the air overboard. Mist volume is more than 10 times
greater with labyrinth seals than carbon seals, creating a higher air
velocity in the deoiler.

Oil Loss

Engines with carbon seals for oil sumps and air/oil separators
installed in gearboxes usually have lower consumption than
those using labyrinth seals and deoilers in main engine oil sumps.
Labyrinth-seal clearances naturally increase as an engine ages. As
this occurs due to rubbing under vibration, gyroscopic torque,
rough landings or any G-load factor, the engine air flow increases
resulting in even higher oil consumption.
If seals are assembled and installed properly, and not abnormally
worn or damaged, the high oil consumption is essentially due to
inefficient air/oil separators installed on the engine air breathing system.

Gearbox installations allow for high deoiler rotational rates.


As the speed of a deoiler increases, oil loss decreases. Deoiler
speeds on the main engine shafts are set by the engine operating
cycle and can be very low, particularly on high-bypass turbofan
low-pressure spools. This makes recovering very small droplets
much more difficult.

over g

Jet Engine Oil Consumption

Oil Degradation

Effect of Oil Consumption on Level of Deterioration

Oil systems for commercial jet engines are rarely drained. Instead,
the oil is renewed by topping off with fresh oil. This typically happens
every day to compensate for normal engine oil consumption.
Because of oxidative and thermal breakdown, engine system oil
degrades. This manifests itself as increased viscosity, higher total
acidity and other changes in oil properties. Oil degradation also has
the potential to limit the oils performance.

Low Consumption

Acidity
Increase
High Consumption

To understand oil degradation, it must be looked at as a function of


engine severity. Engine severity is determined by:
Time in service

Running Time

Operating pressures
Temperature
O
 il residence time in various regions of the engine during
oil circulation
Oil system temperatures vary from engine to engine. They also
vary from flight plan to flight plan with taxiing, take-off, landing
and cruising all affecting temperatures. Low-time/high-cycle
operations increase engine severity due to heat soak-back effects
after shutdown.

Oil Performance and Stability


Oxidative and thermal stabilities differ from oil to oil. Quality products
start with good quality ester base stock, the essential building
block of all jet oils. To provide enhanced stability and effectiveness,
oil companies blend additives into this base during manufacture.

In modern, high-efficiency engines, oil consumption is likely to be


lower and oil system temperatures higher than in more mature
engines. These factors adversely affect oil condition. In engines
where the operating cycle is short and the volume/ consumption
rate is long in the order of 400 hours operators may want to
consider periodic oil-health monitoring checks.

Summary
Oil is the lifeblood of an engine and commercial jet engines are
designed to consume oil at rates that promote optimum engine life.
By looking at the efficiency of the deoiler and seals, we can better
understand why rates vary and how to help optimize consumption
and control oil degradation.

Additives are the first line of defense protecting the lubricant, but
when they are sacrificed and consumed the fresh additives
contained in make-up oil counter this reduction. Fresh oil replaces
the degraded oil lost overboard due to the inefficiency of the deoiler.
Oil consumed in commercial jet engine aircraft is typically
replenished by topping off with fresh oil. When oil consumption is
high, this renewal helps counter any build-up in acidity. When oil
consumption is low, the effect is to reduce the oil replenishment
rate, resulting in acidity increases over time (see Effect of Oil
Consumption on Level of Deterioration chart above).

For more information, please contact your ExxonMobil Aviation Sales representative.
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