The Effect of Heat On Oil Viscosity in Industrial Sectors

In an industrial setting, oil viscosity directly impacts its quality and the ease at which you can extract it. Among various factors, temperature often determines the viscosity of the oil. That is a factor you can manage through temperature control. This post will examine how temperature affects the viscosity of oil, namely, heat, and how you can handle it. 

Oil Viscosity Explained

A fluid’s viscosity refers to its resistance to flow and shear. A liquid with low viscosity is free-flowing and moves faster and easier, water being an excellent example of this. On the other hand, high viscosity fluids move slower and less quickly. Examples of high viscosity fluids include syrup and molasses. Of course, oil falls in the category of being a high viscosity fluid. 

The chemical structure of oil contributes to viscosity. Oil has large molecules, which gives it a thicker and heavier consistency than other liquids such as water. 

With that said, different types of oil can change consistencies over time. For example, the molecules in mineral oil can vary in size and structure over time. The result of this is a change in viscosity as mineral oil ages. On the other hand, synthetic oils retain their molecular structure due to how manufacturers process them. These oils keep the same density throughout their lifespan. 

Determining Oil Viscosity 

The most common unit engineers and industrial workers use to measure oil’s viscosity is Kinematic Viscosity. It is the measurement of oil (and other fluids) resistance to flow and shear under the force of gravity. Industrial workers typically rely on this measure to determine how well oil flows to a target source. 

There is also Dynamic (or absolute) Viscosity which industrial workers use to measure oil’s internal resistance to flow. They use this unit of measurement to determine how much friction is present and the film strength of the oil.

Effect of Heat on Oil Viscosity

Viscosity affects heat, and heat affects viscosity. When oil temperature increases, its viscosity decreases (the opposite is true for cold temperatures). That makes the oil easier to flow. It also explains why oil flows much more freely in the summer months when temperatures exceed 25 or 30 degrees. 

But this isn’t a rule. Certain oils can respond differently when subjected to high (or low) temperatures. In other words, some oils can maintain their viscosity at high temperatures, provided their density is very high to begin with. 

Increased viscosity at high temperatures reduces oil consumption, meaning less wear and tear. But generally, heat reduces the thickness of oil as the temperature rises. 

The Use of Immersion Heaters for Oil Heating

Maintaining suitable oil viscosity is vital for some industrial settings, such as an oil field. In oil fields, temperatures can drop and significantly thicken oil, rendering it unusable. However, using an immersion heater will keep the oil hot enough to help it flow better. 

An immersion heater for oil heating typically works either directly or indirectly. With direct heating, the immersion heater is submerged in the oil. The heat from the electric coils transfers into the oil to keep it hot. With indirect heating, the immersion heater gets mounted inside a pipe and transfers its heat to the oil with indirect heating. 

Using immersion heaters for oil heating is an excellent alternative to using other types of units. They’re low maintenance and take relatively little effort to install. 

Oil Viscosity as a Driver of Business

The right amount of oil viscosity is crucial in many industries. From producing synthetic oil for automobiles to the extraction of oil from fields, oil viscosity can determine the efficacy of products or procedures. 

That’s why it’s essential to consider the effects of heat on oil’s viscosity and equip your facility with suitable machinery to maintain the proper consistency. With tools such as our immersion heaters for oil heating, you can ensure that the viscosity of your oil is appropriate for your business objectives. 

Here at Wattco, we provide a wide range of immersion heaters that can help you maintain proper oil viscosity regardless of your industry.