Q & A
1. What’s special about VSG grease?
First it is mainly canola oil which is a natural renewable resource. Canola oils are also low in toxicity with many being food grade for cooking oils and they also tend to be readily biodegradable. Secondly, the grease thickener used is relatively benign and has both inherent corrosion protecting capabilities and extreme pressure resistance. Thirdly, the combination of these two offer a grease that is ‘green’ and yet outperforms many mineral oil based products. Some users have found that much less if required so that this is an added benefit.
2. Who’s using it?
Users include Arizona Public Service, BC Hydro, Bureau of Reclamation, City of Seattle, Eastern Ontario Power, Hydro Quebec, Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corp., Landsvirkjun (Iceland), Manitoba Hydro, Newfoundland and Labrador Power, Ontario Power Generation, Orillia Power Generation Corp., Ottawa City Center, Synex Wolverine LLC and TVA.
3. How does it perform?
VSG generally provides much better corrosion protection and wear resistance while at the same time being more resistant to grease line plugging. VSG has excellent pumpability at low temperatures and yet also stiffens up in contact with water so it gets to the bearings and stays there better.
4. Who has tested it?
VSG has been independently tested by a number of utilities and by outside organisations. This data is available in most cases and there are links on the website to Bureau testing.
5. Is it compatible with our current grease?
The calcium sulphonate thickener is compatible with many of the lithium and calcium greases being used for wicket gates. Data is available for the other types and at the worst an intermediate grease has to be used for a short period of time. But this has not been necessary yet. We do not recommend purging the lines.
6. It costs more so is it worth it?
The components of VSG are more expensive and it is still a specialty product with low volumes. However, as it becomes more popular some costs will come down. In any case the amount of grease being used for a unit is seldom more that a drum per year so the incremental cost should be less than $1,000. Given the performance benefits and the high costs when dealing with regulators, cottage owners and the like it can be well worth it. One station ended up using 42 times less grease so they saved big time.