The Importance of Oil Condition Monitoring (OCM) in Industrial Applications

Industrial plants tend to rely on oil to keep things running. Whether used as a fuel or a lubricant, oil is the substance generally responsible for keeping industrial processes running efficiently.

Accurate and routine oil condition monitoring is crucial for most industrial applications, as degraded and contaminated oils can cause costly equipment failure and slow down production.

Additionally, good monitoring is vital to the safety of those working in industrial environments around systems and machinery that are considered potentially dangerous.

Oil condition monitoring can be applied for early warning systems, fault diagnosis, and data-driven maintenance scheduling.1 Friction, wear, and contamination from particulate buildup or overexposure to moisture are the primary causes of deteriorating oil condition.

Degrading oil quality can also impair mechanical performance properties, meaning parts are lubricated less effectively.

There are several methods when it comes to monitoring oil condition. Some monitoring is done with offline analysis, whereby an oil sample is processed in the laboratory. Other measurements can be made using in-situ sensors, viscometers or spectrometers while offering real-time testing.two

In determining which test methods are required for specific applications, it is important to consider whether the oil is safe and does not disturb the sample or whether continuous monitoring of the process is required.

Regardless of the method used, it is vital to have materials that can act as a reference standard. Reference standards are the chemicals used to evaluate process and product performance.

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Application of reference standards

Reference materials for assessing soot levels in diesel by infrared spectroscopy would contain the already known soot concentration to effectively assess the intensity and position of features in the infrared spectrum.

The reference material would be used to evaluate the performance of the spectrometer, which also includes checking the wavelength calibration. A variety of reference standards could also be used for detector calibration based on sample concentration which could then be transferred when evaluating an unknown sample.

Another typical use of reference standards relates to the evaluation of sulfur or wear metal levels in oil. These chemical contaminants can cause undesirable thickening of the oil. 3 Tracking its concentration gives a good indication of the rate of wear on mechanical components, facilitating preventative maintenance on worn machinery.

The effects of water or moisture contamination can cause complicated problems that pose a real risk to equipment and operators.

The Crackle test monitors the moisture content in the oil as water can have an adverse effect on both machine parts and the oil used to lubricate them.4 For example, water can cause a chemical reaction with compounds in the oil and degrade the machine.


Oil testing is absolutely essential in the industry; although the different varieties of oil types, applications and performance requirements mean that there is no universal approach.

Choosing the right reference standard for oil condition monitoring depends on the type of test being performed, whether it is for the concentration of a specific contaminant or the viscosity of the used oil.two

For automotive and transportation applications, gasoline and similar standards are among the most important for oil condition monitoring. It is essential that the reference selected accurately reflects the composition of the ‘real’ samples. For example, it may be necessary to choose high temperature oil variants when monitoring oils in engines.

Aerospace and marine oil monitoring applications face unique challenges because environmental conditions are prone to severe and rapid changes. Marine and aerospace applications are among the most strictly regulated, so it is essential that an oil check is carried out to check for excessive wear and to avoid any safety issues.

Density, viscosity and chemical contamination controls are important to fuel production companies. Fuel producers can also apply flash point analysis as a quality control measure. Standard references for flash point analysis are readily available since the combustion temperature is related to the chemical composition of the fuel.

The oil, gas, and mining industries use heavy industrial equipment in their applications, and most of this equipment is located in regions where access to maintenance is expensive.

One of the benefits of oil condition monitoring is that the scheduling of maintenance work can be planned for when it is needed instead of being built into a calendar routine. For example, mining sites rely on heavy drilling, blasting, and hauling equipment.

On an isolated site, equipment failure can be disastrous and costly, and repairs can be time- and labor-intensive, causing delays throughout the operation. In applications like these, oil condition monitoring is vital to properly track and maintain the condition of key pieces of equipment and ensure they are working properly.5

Image Credit: LGC Standards

LGC standards

To achieve operational savings with oil condition monitoring, LGC standards are of great help. With a complete catalog of reference materials for fuels and lubricants that meet the highest quality standards, LGC Standards can offer everything that is essential when it comes to oil condition monitoring.

As an industry leader for over 30 years, LGC Standards has extensive experience in producing reference materials for industrial and petrochemical applications.

Along with its extensive inventory of reference materials, LGC Standards also offers custom solutions and consulting to help customers find the right solution for oil condition monitoring applications to achieve the right results.


  1. Wakiru JM, Pintelon L, Muchiri PN, and Chemweno PK (2019). A review of analysis of lubricant condition monitoring information for maintenance decision support. Mechanical Systems and Signal Processing, 118, 108–132.
  2. Muyahid, A. & Dickert, F.L. (2012). Automotive Oil Degradation Monitoring: Analytical Tools and On-Board Detection Technologies. Anal Bioanal Chem, 404, 1197–1209.
  3. Introduction ICP Optical Emission Spectroscopy Analysis of Wear Metals and Additive Package Elements in New and Used Oil Using the Optima 8300 ICP-OES with Flat Plate Plasma Technology. (North Dakota). Retrieved June 14, 2022 from
  4. Noria Corporation. (2019, June 27). Monitor water in oil with visual crackle test.; Noria Corporation.
  5. Mining and Construction – Fluid Life. (2022, February 10). fluid life.

This information was obtained, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by LGC Limited.

For more information on this font, visit LGC Limited.

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