The Basics

The Lubricating Oil System



Lubricating oil for a marine diesel engine achieves two objectives; it must cool and lubricate.


The oil is taken from the drain tank usually underneath the engine by a screw type pump. It is cooled,  filtered and supplied to the engine via the oil inlet pipe or inlet rail at a pressure of about 4 bar. On a medium speed 4 stroke engine the oil is supplied to the main bearings through drillings in the engine frame to the crankshaft main bearings. Drillings in the crankshaft then take the oil to the crankpin or bottom end bearings. The oil is then led up the connecting rod to the piston or gudgeon pin and from there to the piston cooling before returning to the crankcase.


Oil is also supplied to lubricate the rocker gear operating the inlet and exhaust valves, and to the camshaft and camshaft drive.


The oil then drains from the crankcase into the drain tank or sump.


The oil in the drain tank is being constantly circulated through a centrifugal purifier. This is to remove any water and products of combustion plus any foreign particles which may be in the oil.


The cylinder liner must be lubricated as well. This is so there will be a film of oil between the piston rings and the liner and also so that any acid produced by combustion of the fuel is neutralised by the oil and does not cause corrosion. Some of this lubrication will be supplied by so called "splash lubrication" which is the oil splashed up into the liner by the rotating crankshaft. However larger medium speed marine diesel engines also use separate pumps to supply oil under pressure to the cylinder liner. The oil is led through drillings onto the liner surface where grooves distribute it circumferentially around the liner, and the piston rings spread it up and down the surface of the liner.


A pre lub pump is sometimes fitted especially to engines where the main pump is engine driven. This pump is electrically driven and circulates oil around the engine prior to starting.


On a two stroke crosshead engine lubricating oil is supplied to the main bearings and camshaft and camshaft drive. A separate supply is led via a swinging arm or a telescopic pipe to the crosshead where some of it is diverted to cool the piston (travelling up and back through the piston rod), whilst some is used to lubricate the crosshead and guides, and the rest led down a drilling in the connecting rod to the bottom end or crankpin bearing. Oil is also used to operate the hydraulic exhaust valves.


On some engines, the oil supply to the crosshead bearing is boosted in pressure to about 12 bar by a second set of pumps. This oil  is also used to operate the hydraulic reversing gear for the engine.


The cylinder liners on a two stroke engine are lubricated using separate injection pumps which use a different specification of oil. The oil which is led to drillings in the liner is able to deal with the acids produced by the burning of high  sulphur fuels.


Oil grooves in a cylinder liner

Cylinder Lubricators

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