Paratherm’s Troubleshooting Services

At Paratherm, not only do we provide our customers with the highest quality heat transfer fluids, but we assure their continued functionality through simple, effective troubleshooting services.  Paratherm customers receive technical support as a benefit of their fluid purchase.  We sat down with Greg Jerdan, an employee who has been in technical sales with Paratherm for over eight years, to go over the process of troubleshooting.

The first step in the process, said Greg, is a phone interview, where we ask what kind of problem you are having (production problems, flow issues, heating issues, the heating process itself, or heating the oil specifically).  This can tell us where the problem exists and whether the oil itself is bad or if there may be a carbon buildup in the heater.

Sometimes we can pinpoint a problem simply from this preliminary interview.  For instance, there have been circumstances where we have been able to quickly recognize symptoms of flow restrictions and suggest possible remedies.  That’s just one example.

If the potential problem doesn’t emerge from the first conversation, we recommend a fluid analysis.  While some customers might initially turn this down, we highly recommend it as an easy—yet thorough—way to isolate and evaluate the several variables that may be causing the issue.  Without testing the oil we can’t always confirm what’s going wrong with the oil or the process.  We send the customer a fluid analysis kit that consists of everything needed to package and ship the sample, including instructions.  Then they simply box it up, send it back to us, and we run tests on the oil.

Results of the tests (for Total Acid Number, Viscosity, and Distillation Range) are compared to values for new fluid.  Differences between the new and used values, and interrelationships between those changes to the fluid, together with information from the system interview, can tell us much about what may be going wrong in the process.


Another troubleshooting service is a face-to-face walk-through, where we examine the system and look through all parts and equipment involved with the process itself, and make recommendations based on what we see; 9 times out of 10 we see something affecting the life of the oil.  No matter what, our experts can always help determine the problem, the cause, and the solution.

What are some possible problems that can affect production, safety, and uptime?

  • Heat uniformity: Cold spots in the system where heat transfer to the application has become compromised; most often it is because of carbon buildup.
  • Flow fluctuations: May result from contamination (including water) or fluid degradation.
  • Fouling: Due to oxidation or overheating of the oil; this is determined by the fluid analysis.
  • Leakage: Leakage can also cause oxidation.
  • Overheating:  A lack of proper flow can shut down the pump and cause overheating inside the heater.
  • Improper shutdown procedure: If the system is not shut down correctly, the fluid can get “cooked”; proper shutdown involves turning the heat off but keeping the pump on until the fluid temperature reaches below 200°F to prevent overheating.
  • Contamination: 90% of the time, water is the contaminant; other contaminants include using the wrong type of fluid, including lube, hydraulic, or improperly marked fluids.


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Sampling Part 1: Why

Why Sample?

Thermal fluids usually don’t telegraph that they are about to fail. Generally the only hint of impending doom is some fall off in temperature control in the heat user which requires an increase in the heater temperature to compensate.  Once the power is shut off and the fluid cools however, it’s a very different story.  If the fluid turns to molasses when it cools, it makes startup very difficult. Not to mention that pulling apart piping is a very time consuming way to replace the fluid.
If you operate a thermal fluid system, it’s easy to understand why thermal fluids fail. Unlike other central energy sources (like steam boilers) thermal fluid heaters don’t require (key word REQUIRE) any routine maintenance – no chemicals to add, no blowdown tanks, no condensate traps to mess with. Once you get beyond the initial startup the heater just runs.


This absence of required maintenance activities frees up operators for the 10,000 other items that do require attention. Which is why periodic sampling of the fluid should become a required maintenance activity.  Even if the sample isn’t sent out for testing, simply examining the cooled fluid will give you a hint about the condition –  i.e. if it doesn’t pour out of the sample container when you tip it over, you’re in trouble. (Here’s another hint: If this happens, don’t shut off the system. Give us a call.)


Cooled Sample, No Longer Liquid

“If it doesn’t pour out of the sample container when you tip it over…”

The next tip will review why where and how you sample is important.


See Paratherm’s one-minute video on fluid sampling and testing here —
Heat Transfer Fluid Sampling

Product Spotlight: Paratherm NF® Food-Grade Heat Transfer Fluid

Paratherm’s heat transfer fluids are integral to a number of industrial sectors, including the meat, poultry, seafood, snack and baking. By using our Paratherm NF® Food-Grade Heat Transfer Fluid, our clients, their workers, and American consumers are safer and happier.

Food-grade heat transfer fluids are used as an alternative to direct-fire heating when frying, grilling, roasting and baking food products. There are many advantages, which include safety and more consistent heat transfer yielding superior products, and most importantly, safer food. When eliminating direct-fired heating in the cook process, the heat source can be moved to another room, making for better working conditions. Indirect heating with heat transfer fluids provides more precise temperature control, ensuring uniform, even cooking. And should there be a breach in equipment, there are no toxicity concerns when food-grade heat transfer fluids are used.

Nowadays, almost all meat and poultry plants that supply items to fast food chains (as well as frozen convenience products for home kitchens) throughout the country are using heat transfer fluids. Back in the 1990’s, when the technology was being developed, it was Paratherm NF® Food-Grade Heat Transfer Fluid they were using for the process development. Our product simply has the longest safety record in the industry—having been crucial to its growth—and therefore has the most certifications. Approved by the FDA and the USDA, it is also certified kosher, certified in three countries internationally, and passed bioassay testing with three fresh and saltwater organisms. Paratherm’s is the only food-grade heat transfer fluid with such extensive toxicity testing.

Furthermore, we realize that today’s further processors and bakers don’t have much time to spare. Therefore, we stock our product in five North American warehouses and will ship at a moment’s notice, 24/7 whenever necessary. We ensure the best product out there, delivered promptly to where it needs to be. To learn more about our food-grade heat transfer fluid, visit

The Paratherm NF heat transfer fluid isn’t limited to food-processing applications however. For its unique properties (low viscosity, fouling resistance, and high-temperature stability among them) it is also very widely used in applications involving processing of chemicals, plastics, packaging, and many others.  For instance, among the hundreds of running plastics applications using Paratherm NF heat transfer fluid, 64% are injection molding, and the rest are distributed among other plastics applications including thermoforming, extrusion, compounding, film casting, hot rolls, and lab mills.  Paratherm NF pairs extremely well with the electrically heated systems used in the plastics, die casting, and converting industries.  For more information, call +1 (610) 941-49 or email

Employee Profile: Ryan Ritz, Chemical Engineer

Ryan Ritz began a long relationship with Paratherm in 2003, starting as an engineering intern while he was studying chemical engineering at the University of Delaware.  Upon graduating in 2006, Ryan was hired as a full-time employee.

In his time at Paratherm, Ryan has worn many different hats. He began working in the laboratory on research & development of low-temperature products. From there he worked on a myriad of special projects contributing to quality control, documentation control, development of manufacturing procedures, comparative product research, marketing, sales engineering, and service development.

One of the main technical projects that Ryan works on presently, focuses on product performance and stability comparison. How well will Paratherm products transfer heat? What is their longevity? How thermally stable is each new product going to be? When talking about high temperatures (some products go up to 650 degrees F) we need to be sure that the product is going to last a long time.  Beyond testing Paratherm’s own products, Ryan also analyzes competitive product lines. We want to be sure we have a full understanding of how competitors’ products work in comparison to ours so that when our customers ask, we can provide them with unbiased findings backed by technical data.

When the analysis begins, Ryan is looking for the way these varied products will comparatively break down. Two common ways thermal fluids degrade are through oxidation and thermal degradation (overheating).  Although we have our own internal lab for fluid monitoring and predictive analysis, Paratherm contracts accredited 3rd party laboratories to run ASTM standardized testing—with standardized temperatures and runtimes—to measure these forms of degradation on Paratherm’s fluids side by side with other products.

This type of work leads right into another project that Ryan works on, which is designing custom lab tests to compare products for thermal stability and oxidation resistance. Since the oil itself is an actual engineered product, it is imperative that the oils are designed to have an optimal ratio of physical properties that will translate to better performance and dependability. Many competitors put additives in their fluids that typically degrade well before the oil itself breaks down. The majority of Paratherm products are highly refined oils and synthetics that are engineered specifically for high-temperature heat transfer service, unlike typical lubricating or hydraulic oil. Because of that, there exists less likelihood for premature fouling and break-down due to inherent impurities.

Since Paratherm develops both natural mineral oils and synthetic fluids, we have a unique perspective. We are also able to compare our own products against each other. Ryan dedicates time to determine what the pros and cons are within our own product line. Since we have such a large product offering, many products will cover overlapping temperature ranges so we test to see how each product will perform in different systems with variables in operating conditions. Because of all this internal testing, Ryan is able to pass on this information to other sales people, who in turn are able to pass it on to fluid users and specifiers.

We take our products very seriously, and employ people like Ryan Ritz whose dedication and knowledge of the industry help to keep us ahead of the curve.

From Analysis to Hot-Oil System Cleaners, Paratherm Has it All.

Here at Paratherm, we offer three different hot-oil system cleaners that are designed for two different fluid chemistries. Whether you have a mineral oil-based system or a synthetic fluid-based system, we have a product that will work for you.

Both our our Paratherm LC™ and Paratherm AC™ system cleaner liquids are used the same way to clean your system as it runs. A small percentage of these additives are placed into your system by including the cleaner in your heat transfer fluid until it is laced with 3% to 12% of the cleaner; the percentage may vary depending on how dirty the system is, and also how fast you want the cleaning to occur. Once that process has been completed, you run your system as you normally would. After an interval of weeks or months, you drain the cleaned system and recharge with new fluid. Paratherm LC is designed for any mineral-oil based fluid, while Paratherm AC is used with any synthetic/organic-based fluid.

Our Paratherm SC™ system cleaner liquid operates under a different method and is used for smaller systems. Unlike the LC and the AC, the SC cleaner does not clean your system as it runs and instead operates as an off-line cleaner. This solvent-based product is put into your completely drained system where it will then need to be circulated, drained and flushed.

We also offer fluid analysis services so that we can help you determine if there are existing equipment problems or if there are operational issues that may be causing your fluid to degrade. If you are having these problems, cleaning your system and performing system maintenance will be a huge help. Check out our quick, one minute video about our fluid analysis service.

Introducing the New Paratherm Website: The new design of our website improves user interactivity and increases availability of the technical content.

Home Page,

Even before joining the world wide web in 1996, we have believed in an educational, informational approach to our audience of engineers, plant managers, and maintenance professionals.

Our Technical Data Sheets, a series of one- to two-page articles covering important aspects in the operation, maintenance, and design of hot-oil temperature control systems, were routinely sent via postal mail in response to product inquiries and sales leads. Many hot-oil system users relied on this advice, whether they became Paratherm customers or not.

These Technical Data Sheets are just one example of the investment we make in technical expertise and customer training.

Still evolving, our datasheets have been revised and expanded. They have been reformatted as web pages and PDF files. They still form the heart of information that we share with hot-oil system users throughout the world–only now, the sharing is more often electronic, via direct download on the web, or through email subscriptions.

The Technical Data Sheets, now over 20 in number, are still available on our new website, in the Resources section.

The redesign, at, modernized the look and feel of the website, last updated in 2003. The internet and its users have grown exponentially in the 9 years since our last design. Internet users have higher expectations now. They expect options and choices in how they receive their information. We have taken that into consideration and designed an interactive website that will make all the information easier to use and find, for both our users and for the indexing functions of search engines like Google. We have also included the option to receive our User’s Guide technical data sheets in regular email installments.

The new web design also features prominent inquiry forms and general newsletter subscription forms on every page of the site, and other quick email options, for individual product information, and short technical tipsheets, elsewhere on the site.

Links to detailed product information on our 8 heat transfer fluids and 3 system cleaning liquids, descriptions of our services, and other resources such as articles in industry trade journals are also presented in the site’s navigation.

We’ve also gone social! Links to Facebook, Twitter,  LinkedIn, YouTube and the Paratherm Blog are also available for social media users.

Air and Heat Transfer Fluids, Part III

How well (or how poorly) does lab testing reflect real-world manufacturing conditions?


In the real world, oxidation of heat transfer fluids occurs in a vented reservoir or expansion tank that for whatever reason is hot (>70°C).

The acids formed in the expansion tank subsequently circulate through the system, decomposing in the heater and producing carbon sludge.

To determine which of several tests is more representative of the real world, several brands of fluid that contain additive packages were tested with the following methods:

  1.  A modified D-2440 test running at 200°C with 15 liters/hour oxygen for 24 hours – essentially an IP-48 (Institute of Petroleum Standards) test.
  2. The standard ASTM D-2440 test running at 100°C with 1 liter/hour oxygen for 164 hours.

Fluid Sample Prepared for Oxidation Testing

The IP-48 test trashed all of the fluids.  Acid Numbers ranged from 1.9 to 3.9 mg KOH/g sample (normal upper limit is 0.4).  Sludge ranged from 14 to 18 weight % (any sludge is a problem).

Glass Tube with Oil Sample and Oxygen Supply Inserted Into Heating Apparatus for IP-48 or D-2440 Tests

Prepared Sample In Heating/Oxygen Apparatus

The results of the D2440 test were more representative of what is expected from additized heat transfer fluids.  Acid Numbers were 0.01 to 0.03 mgKOH/g sample and Sludge was less than 0.1 weight %. We also tested fluids that contained no additive packages using the D-2440.  Acid Numbers were at least 30 mg KOH/g sample and Sludge was at least 1.5 weight %.

Air and Heat Transfer Fluids, Part II

Does lab testing tell the whole story?

There are a number of accelerated aging laboratory tests that are designed to determine oxidation-inhibitor performance and longevity.  Most involve bubbling pure oxygen through a heated sample that has an oxidation catalyst (usually copper wire) submerged in it. The effectiveness of the additive is determined by measuring the byproducts of degradation — sludge formation, acid-number increase and viscosity increase — at the end of the test.

Oxidation Stability Apparatus, Photo Courtesy of Koehler Instrument Co., Inc.

Oxidation Stability Apparatus (Photo courtesy of Koehler Instrument Co., Inc.)

Older tests (such as IP 48) that utilized a high oxygen flow-rate for a short period of time have been superseded  by longer duration but lower oxygen flow-rate tests (such as ASTM D2440) that have proven to be more representative of real-life oxidation conditions in lubricating oils. While the D2440 test is not completely applicable to heat transfer fluids (which are exposed to even less oxygen than lubricating oils in service,) it must suffice because there exists no specific oxidation test method for heat transfer fluids.   ASTM D2440 and other newer methods are also more accurate than the older tests.


Next post:  Discussion; How well (or poorly) does lab testing reflect real world conditions?

Read it here: Air and Heat Transfer Fluids Part 3

Air and Heat Transfer Fluids, Part 1

Fluid Life Tests


While oxidation is the #1 reason that heat transfer fluids need to be replaced, it doesn’t always follow that using a fluid with an oxidation inhibitor will prevent oxidative sludging.


Oxidation inhibitors are chemical additives designed to prevent the sludge formation, acidification, and viscosity increases that result when air and hot heat-transfer-fluid molecules meet. These additives, which can prevent such viscosity-related symptoms as slow startups and even fluid solidification at room temperature, don’t last forever though. They are sacrificial in nature and are used up steadily as the fluid is exposed to air.

7 fluid samples ranging from clear to nearly black in color

Figure 1 — Oxidation can influence fluid color and consistency; but darkened color doesn’t always indicate oxidative deterioration

The rate of inhibitor depletion is increased when there is greater exposure to air (by circulating the fluid in the expansion tank for example) and higher temperature (depletion rate doubles with every 10°C increase in temperature). So problems can hit hard when these additives are completely depleted leaving the fluid unprotected and ready to begin its new life as an uninhibited fluid. And sometimes, the problems that the additives have been holding off, such as the viscosity issues mentioned above, can crop up quickly and unexpectedly.


Does lab testing tell the whole story?


Answer in our next post.  Read it here:  Air and Heat Transfer Fluids Part 2

Industry Magazines on an E-Reader

Why aren’t there any trade publications formatted for e-reader tablets such as the Nook, Kindle, Kobo, Iriver, Sony?

I’ve asked several publishers of magazines in the processing sector, magazines covering the chemical industry and related vertical sectors if they are planning portable versions of their publications.

Sometimes they look at me funny, or if we’re speaking by telephone, there’s a pause while I imagine them looking at the phone funny.

Then, they tell me about their digital version. And I say no, that’s not useful to me. I hate reading lengthy stuff on the computer screen, and these digital versions with their virtual-folded page corners and zoom buttons, just don’t really help me consume this sort of content comfortably.

But I went and looked at several of the digital editions that I receive, and found—and the publishers didn’t even mention this, except for one—that some of them have a PDF button, so I downloaded several of these PDFs to see how well they would work on the Nook. I have the original, E-Ink version of the Nook, and I use it to read Barnes and Noble ebooks, Google Books public-domain ebooks, and Overdrive Epub ebooks from local libraries. I also side-load lengthy reports and content collections, and long web pages and blog posts that I want to read, usually using a device-management tool called Calibre.  A very convenient utility, Calibre converts several formats, including PDF, HTML, DOC, and can also gather up RSS feeds and turn them into EPUB format for consumption on e-reader devices. It does lots more too.

I downloaded three PDF editions of industrial magazines:  March 2011 Chemical Engineering, and May issues of Plant Services and Packaging Digest.

After experimenting with converting these PDF-format files to the Epub format that naturally reflows and resizes on the Nook, (the conversion process distorted the files to the point of unreadability) I transferred them intact, as PDFs, to the devices.

I read them on the two devices I have access to:  My original Barnes and Noble Nook, with its monochrome E-ink display, and my daughter’s much newer LCD Nook Color.

The winner on my Nook was:  Packaging Digest.

PD was the clear winner, and there was a clear reason:  When the publisher of PD made the PDF file, they put more effort into the quality and usability of the document. 

Mainly, they included a table of contents, which in a well-formatted PDF creates a set of hyperlinks that show up on the left side of the Adobe Reader when the file is opened on a desktop computer, and these links are very convenient for navigating within the document.

On the Monochrome Nook eReader device, the table of contents items are also recognized as navigation links for the document, making it much easier to glance at the titles of the features and articles, and quickly and easily select an article and begin reading (without paging through stuff you’re not interested in.)

Image of Packaging Digest article, Nook

Article Title Page, Monochrome Nook

The other two magazines also worked okay for reading on the devices.  But without the convenient contents links, the process was much clumsier.  I had to page through to the actual table of contents page, and when I got there, note the page number of an article I was interested in reading, then use the Nook’s Go To Page feature, which is a slider function on the LCD screen, and isn’t especially precise.

Also, on the Nook, in the issues without contents links, it was more difficult to differentiate sections of advertising from sections of editorial. 

Article on Nook Color

Chemical Engineering Article on Nook Color

The performance of the Nook Color was about the same for all three magazines.  Because I was forced to use PDF format, many of the functions that would make these magazines usable and vibrant on this 7″ LCD screen just don’t work.  Turning the device to read in landscape mode, for instance, doesn’t work in the native PDF reader.  This lack requires more pinching and zooming to read various sections of the 3-column format that magazines–whether industrial or consumer oriented–use in common.

Chemical Engineering Cover on Nook Color

Chemical Engineering Cover on Nook ColorChemical Engineering Article

All these problems would be solved by publishers releasing device-dedicated versions of the magazines.  The problem is, what about delivery?

Side-loading content to these devices is not a problem for techie types, and really not overly difficult for anybody who is accustomed to moving files of any sort from machine to machine–for instance, MP3 music or audio files from a desktop or laptop to a portable audio player like an Ipod or a Sansa. 

Still, ideally there should be a mechanism to make professional reading on these devices as convenient as leisure reading.

Maybe it’s time for the trade magazine publishers to band together and develop an Ap.  Chances are, some members of the industrial audience will begin accessing portable content on Smartphones or multipurpose tablets before they have dedicated  reading devices like these.