Kurz Wind Division’s Dan Frantz had the pleasure of interviewing Don Brazen, Sales Manager of Fuchs Lubricants Co., a former Purdue Boilermaker and self-proclaimed “lubricant nerd” living in Kansas City. We sat down with Don to understand more about how Fuchs has become a rapidly growing player in the Wind Energy sector.
Kurz: Don, tell us about your background and how you ended up at Fuchs.
Mr. Brazen: Out of college, I went to get involved at Dow [Chemical] in the chemistry side of it, kind of on the technical side of it. [I] had an opportunity in 1995 to come to Fuchs. I thought it was the right opportunity. So, about 2000 or so, they asked me to get involved in Wind, [and] I’ve been involved in Wind ever since.
Kurz: Don, what do you like about the wind industry?
Mr. Brazen: I like the fact that it’s a combination [of a few things]. It’s very technical. I like the fact you’re telling people what’s the chemistry, what’s the wear, and how it [operates] on mechanical components. It’s different. It’s young enough that it still has room for growth and, technically, all the things haven’t been solved yet.
Kurz: Ultimately, what gets you most excited about the future of wind in 5, 10, 20 years down the road?
Mr. Brazen: The future of wind is… Wind is getting down the lifecycle curve. So, the bad part is that prices become more important (editors note: there is less “help” from the government so the cost has to be lowered to remain profitable, as it has) and technical innovations have changed a little bit. It’s still happening. The products are getting better, [performance] is getting better, but now it’s becoming driven by price.
As we get more and more worried about the environment, as you get worried about the air quality and ozone depletion, [we find] that wind power is a solution that can help there. I don’t believe we can ever go 100% wind, because it doesn’t make [financial] sense. But Wind should be an integral part in our entire energy portfolio. And because of that, I think it’ll grow.
The opportunity in the United States is great because we have tons of land. Whereas, Europe doesn’t. I mean, there are 1000 turbine wind farm sites in Texas. Not impossible. [Plus,] we’ve got all kind of water and that’s why I see the oceans being a second source here because we fill up so much land.
Gleitmo 585K: “I personally believe that the pitch bearing is the single toughest application in the wind turbine”
Kurz: What are your current favorite products with Fuchs, and what are some things in development?
Mr. Brazen: My favorite product is definitely Gleitmo 585K. I personally believe that the pitch bearing is the single toughest application in the wind turbine and, because of the act of pitching now going on, it’s causing more and more problems. And I think Gleitmo 585k is the best product in the marketplace.
What’s happening now, is as blades get longer, as the loads get higher…I think we’re going to see more base oils going up on the pitch bearing and the main bearings. Because the loads are getting heavier, you’re also going to try to figure out a way to really go to onboard lubricators of some sort. With offshore, you can’t go up there and lubricate; you need something to lubricate on a regular basis. We’d like to have a little bit of grease on a regular basis as opposed to a whole bunch of grease every six months. You would always pop a new, fresh grease in there and lubricate. It’s getting better than what people have done in the past because they haven’t been very reliable. Hopefully, now they’ll get better.
CEPPLATYN 300 Spray: “The idea is that it’s easy to apply”
Kurz: Can you tell us more about the CEPPLATYN 300 spray?
Mr. Brazen: The CEPPLATYN 300 spray is for the gear teeth flanks both in the pitch and the yaw. The idea of the CEPPLATYN 300 spray is that it’s easy to apply. You can aerosol spray and wipe off the old grease. You go in there and you spray this on the gear teeth flanks. It’s wet and it starts to get hard as soon as you put pressure on it. Then, the pressure causes that to become a dry lubricant leaving a dry film behind. Will last forever? No. But, will it last long enough for grease to stop being squeezed out? Definitely. And, it’s so easy to apply.
Common customer questions
Kurz: What are the most common questions – or just one question – you get most often?
Mr. Brazen: There are always two questions. First, how can I extend my maintenance cycle? No one wants to go up-tower often because it’s an expense. So instead of going up and re-lubricating every six months, can we do it every 12 months? The second question is, “Can we use one grease for multiple applications?” And the answer to those is both changing a bit. I know a customer says, “we go up every quarter instead of every six months. You know it’s just better to be up there on a regular basis making things sure things are running and we want to make sure to lubricate on a regular basis. You change your filters and that stuff.”
Going up to a year [without maintenance] is tough unless you have an auto-lube up there that allows you to grease on a regular basis. But, there are too many things you could do up tower to let it go a year. I know condition monitoring is now happening in vibration analysis and it’s helping that. Online oil analysis is helping too. But those are all expenses. You weigh the expenses of how much it costs to [get a] person up to look at it or the cost of all that equipment. So, I would say that’s the challenge.
For a full, unedited, unscripted interview with Don Brazen, feel free to download or click on the audio file. If you or someone you know would like to be featured, please reach out to Dfrantz@kurz.com.