View Details

Tap to Call


Cleveland Brothers

Fluid Analysis Lab Saves Customer from Potentially Catastrophic Loss

By: Cleveland Brothers

Falcon Drilling had a serious problem.

A colleague had just handed Ed Landis a fluid sample and told him to smell it. Landis, the Maintenance Manager for Falcon, took a whiff and said it was diesel fuel.

His colleague told him it had been pulled from one of the Indiana, Pa., company’s IBC bulk storage tanks. For oil.

“Whoever smelled it, whenever they went to combine their oils, you can’t thank that person enough for saying something,” Landis said.

Oil contaminated with fuel poses a serious threat to any type of engine, and with the millions of dollars of drilling rigs and support equipment Falcon has in its fleet, this was a potential catastrophe. Landis had to move quickly and verify that his nose was correct.

“I called every oil analysis lab within 300 miles, and everybody kept telling me, ‘Well, you have to set up an account,’ and this and that,” he said. “I don’t have time for this. I need to know. I can’t wait four days for an oil result, I’m about to blow a bunch of equipment up.”

Even Falcon’s oil vendor told him he’d have to wait days for an analysis.

Multiple fluid sample bottles are visible, showcasing how the Cleveland Brothers Fluid Analysis Lab handles 90,000 samples per year.
The Fluid Analysis Lab in Harrisburg tests more than 90,000 samples from customers each year.

Fortunately for Falcon, the Cleveland Brothers Fluid Analysis Lab is always available, particularly for customers in dire straits. Lab Manager Sean Morgan and his team don’t flinch in such situations; in fact, they embrace them.

“Cleveland Brothers is dedicated to serving our customers and recognizes that problems can occur unexpectedly,” he said. “In our lab, this means being prepared to adapt quickly whenever someone is in a tight spot and time is critical.”

Falcon uses the lab’s services on a regular basis to conduct scheduled checks of its oil, which require the company to put samples in the regular mail and wait four to five days for a result, but this was an emergency.

“So I reached out to Sean and said, ‘Look, I need a sample – how fast can we turn this around?’” Landis said. “And he said, ‘If you can get it to Cleveland Brothers before 4 p.m., I can have the results at 9 a.m.’”

Using the Cleveland Brothers overnight delivery network, Falcon shipped the oil sample from Indiana to the lab in Harrisburg, Pa., a three-hour drive west. Morgan and the lab team wasted no time analyzing the fluid with a gas chromatograph, which vaporizes the fuel products out of the oil and quantifies the amount of gaseous fuel observed.

The results verified what Falcon suspected.

“We measured over 40 percent fuel by volume in the oil,” Morgan said. “The amount of fuel in the oil was likely much higher. It actually saturated the detector on our machine.”

That confirmation allowed Falcon to dispose of the contaminated oil before it could get into any machines, Landis said. He estimated the company could have incurred at least $150,000 worth of damage to its equipment had the oil been used.

However, the damage could’ve been catastrophic as some of that oil was going to go into air compressors that operate at 350 pounds per square inch—and diesel fuel becomes combustible at 220 psi.

“It was crazy the amount of fuel that was in that oil,” said Landis, who thinks someone confused the tank of compressor oil—which has a red hue—for a diesel tank when filling it.

For Morgan and the Fluid Analysis Lab, it was just another day in a facility that processes more than 90,000 samples each year for customers across the country that need to test oil, coolant or fuel used in their machines.

“Customers want to maximize the effectiveness and lifespan of their equipment, and you can learn so much about a machine from its fluids,” Morgan said. “Whether it’s recommending maintenance or helping out in an emergency situation, we’re here to help ensure those machines—and businesses—run as smoothly as possible.”