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Shell reveals plans for 'next generation lubricant'

Oil major says it plans to capture a leading share of the market with the launch of its new lubricant.



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Updated on 09 Dec 2011 13:43 GMT

Shell Marine Products (SMP) says it plans to capture a leading share of the marine lubricants market with the launch of its 'next generation' marine lubricant, Alexia S4, next-year.

Marine lubricants add up to around 20 percent of total operational costs. Currently, the global marine lubricants market is valued at more than US$5 billion.

Koh Chaik Ming, General Manager Asia Pacific & Middle East, Shell Marine Products, said apart from launching a 'market-leading lubricant' like Alexia S4, a strong port network and expert sales force are two other strategies the company will employ to gain top position in the marine lubricants market.

For SMP, growth is largely concentrated in Asia Pacific & Middle East, which makes up around 40% of the company's overall revenue. China is one of SMP's key markets. Its lubricant sales volume in China has almost doubled between 2007 and 2011, and is expected to grow a further 50% by 2015. This year, SMP added two 100-m3 tanks to its Shanghai facilities. It also plans to include another tank in Nantong for customers in the Yangtze River Delta in early 2012.

Backed by SMP's 20-year legacy in oil-stress research and collaboration with customers and OEMs like Wartsila and MAN, the new Alexia S4 cylinder lubricant is undergoing field trials that are designed to secure engine manufacturer approvals and demonstrate performance that can help customers reduce their operating costs and operational complexity across a wide range of operating conditions, fuel specifications ranging from sulphur levels of 3.5% to 0.1%, engine and vessel types.

According to SMP, Alexia S4 addresses all the oil stresses that a two stroke engine is exposed to during operations including thermal, acidity, humidity and insoluble stress.

Koh said SMP's marine lubricants are developed to help shipping companies facing mounting industry pressures such as the need to transport goods safely, reliably and at lower cost due to the global economic recession, new legislations on fuel specifications, tougher emission targets and new Emission Control Areas (ECAs). To reduce operating costs, ship operators are using slow steaming or even ultra-slow steaming; lowering cylinder oil feed rates and extending maintenance periods.

"We are constantly researching and working with our customers, engine manufacturers, academia and additive suppliers to help improve engine efficiency, reduce lubricant feed rates, and to simplify operations and protect engines under flexible steaming conditions. Slow steaming can lead to greater oil stress and increased wear. We are unique in operating marine test engines. The engines at Shell Marine Power Innovation Centre (MPIC) in Hamburg are used to simulate harsh running conditions designed to test the ultimate performance of any product. Our products undergo rigorous testing and field trials before being introduced into the market," he concluded.

For instance, a typical test on Shell Alexia S4 comprises 4,000 hours of trials, joint inspections at 0, 2,000 and 4,000 hours, lubricant and fuel sampling every 250 or 500 hours following a clearly defined method, Shell Analex Alert onboard analyses, full analysis, complete documentation of operating conditions and sharing of results with engine manufacturers.

SMP supplies more than 15,000 customer vessels, ranging from large ocean-going tankers to small fishing boats in 47 countries around the world. It services over 450 ports and boasts a product portfolio that includes fuels to power diesel engines and gas turbine vessels, and 159 types of lubricant to maintain optimum efficiency in marine engines and equipment.






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