DUBAI: Royal Dutch Shell will launch bunker operations at the United Arab Emirates’
Jebel Ali port in mid-2011 and aims to expand its marine fuel business in the Middle
East over the next three to five years, a senior executive said.
The oil major, which operates in more than 800 ports around the world, will set up a
barge in the busy oil blending center and will offer fuels and lubricants to vessels
both on a long-term contract and on a spot basis.
“It is going to be one of the highest capacity barges worldwide for lubricants as well
as fuels,” Moustafa Khater, the regional business optimization manager at Shell
Marine Products, told Reuters Tuesday.
The company is currently delivering only lubricants to the Jebel Ali port using trucks.
“In the next three to five years, Shell is looking at being an integral part of the marine
products and services segment in Jebel Ali,” Khater said in an emailed response to
But he declined to give a figure for the capacity of the barge or precise figures for
the level of investment and targeted volumes.
“By early next year, we will be placing offers to our customers and partners for longer-
term contracts for fuels and lubricants and shall also target new customers who might
be interested in our upcoming activity in Jebel Ali,” he said.
Shell says that customers want to reduce the time and costs of refueling and that the
company plans to offer an integrated package of fuels and lubricants from the same
delivery vessel to meet that demand.
The company has made new hires for this launch and is looking to employ more
people toward the end of the year, Khater said, without providing an exact number of
In addition to the UAE, the company is also eyeing other locations in the Middle East
as possible locations for an expansion of its bunker operations.
“Fuel and gas oil sales are also planned for the Port of Sohar in Oman very soon,”
Khater said, without giving an exact date.
The company is already delivering lubricants in Oman.
“There is no doubt that the global economic downturn has posted some challenges
in the past, but for Shell Marine Products, the Middle East represents one of our focal
anticipated marine growth markets for fuels and lubricants,” he said.
The company is also aiming to boost its jet fuel sales in UAE as well.
In October, Shell’s aviation division signed an agreement to supply fuel at the new Al-
Maktoum International Airport, which is planned to be the world’s largest with an
estimated passenger capacity of 160 million per year when it becomes fully
operational within the next 10 years.
Shell has been supplying fuel to airlines at Dubai International Airport for nearly 40
“With the combination of Al-Maktoum Cargo Airport and Jebel Ali sea port, the area is
steadily developing into a global logistics hub,” Khater said.
Shell to launch bunker operations in UAE and Oman
IFand P was invited recently to Shell Lubricants’ laboratories in Hamburg, Germany. Throughout the day, visitors from
the media were thoroughly briefed on the importance of R&D combined with both in-house testing and field trials and
how Shell’s commitment to these activities has resulted in the products that have made it the global leader in the
lubricants market for four consecutive years.
The day began with a presentation from Dr Cameron Watson, Global Technical Manager, which underlined the
resources Shell uses to ensure it retains its position in the market. According to Dr Watson, the Shell Group invests over
US$1.3bn a year in R&D, the highest of any international oil company, whilst its Lubricants Technology Group employs
230 people and has over 70 years of experience in the lubricants business with 150 patents for lubricants, base oils and
greases.He mentioned that four years ago Shell was equal to ExxonMobil Lubricants, but is now 10-20% ahead in terms
of market share.
Dr Watson explained that a key part of its strategy was the co-development and design of lubricants along with their
intended application. Although guests were quick to ask as to whether this led to any intellectual property issues, Dr
Watson explained that with partners and big buyers there is no real conflict of interest, while with OEMs, sometimes there
are discussions, but on the whole, the dividing line between original equipment and lubricants is clear, “if it’s
mechanical, it’s them, if it’s liquid, it’s us.” However, he made the point that in Japan, the tradition of co-patenting calls
for a different strategy.
“We think that technology, technology leadership differentiates us from our competition and allows us to get close to our
customers. Getting close enables us to understand their business better and by that we hope to add value to our products
and services. Technical intimacy is a key part of our strategy for driving business growth and by doing not only do we
have to convince ourselves, our customers and our stakeholders that we’re industry leaders, but we have to actually be
able to follow through and demonstrate our competency in this area. We certainly believe that many of the people we’
ve got are world-class in the field.”
“Getting close to the customer is the catalyst for innovation. When you’re getting the insight into what problems the
customer is having, that becomes a huge technology advance for us. So we’re not doing technology for its own sake, it’s
part of a platform that delivers growth.”
Dr Watson held up Shell’s relationship with Wärtsilä as a prime example of cooperation, explaining that “We helped
Wärtsilä , through our joint research into oil stress in 2-stroke engines, to understand how to further optimise and adapt
the lubrication systems of today’s large two-stroke engines. In addition this work also provides a sound basis for Shell
formulators to design more effective cylinder lubricants that focus on combating more aspects of oil stress than just
dealing with acid neutralisation and detergency“. He also made the point that Shell is active in a number of industry
committees (such as API, ASTM, ATIEL) and is therefore playing an active role in steering the future of the industry.
In the longer-term, the industry as a whole is expected to shift from mineral oils to their synthetic equivalents, due to a
combination of demands for ever better performance and increased availability. The latter owes a great deal to Shell’s
world-scale gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant in Qatar, which produces synthetic hydrocarbons from natural gas via the Fischer-
Tropsch process and which will produce 120,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day of natural gas liquids and 140,000
barrels per day of GTL products. Those GTL products are cleaner-burning diesel and kerosene, base oils for top-tier
lubricants, a chemical feedstock called naphtha, which is used to make plastics, and normal paraffin. Tantalisingly,
nanotechnology was mentioned as a key means of delivering additional performance going forward, but the Shell team
were loathe to give away details at this early stage. However, they did say that they have been finding some advantages
in fine particles, such as higher penetration, reduced friction and wear and that they are in the early stages of the R&D
pipeline. The speakers also said that producing such particles on a large scale would probably be the biggest barrier to
An interesting point was that the industry is experiencing a never before seen pace of innovation, driven by new fuels,
the use of new materials particularly in seals, the need to reduce CO2 and other emissions and that this creates a real
challenge given the amount of substantial incremental change, which is having to be managed without full experience
of the implications of the previous round of design changes. This in turn, in Dr Watson’s mind, is increasing the need for
greater collaboration between lubricant manufacturers and their customers – essential if the expected benefits in energy
efficiency are to be delivered.
In terms of general efficiency, the team mentioned that improvements of around 2% are manageable, but we are
already getting towards a plateau and delivering further improvements via better lubricants will require lots of changes to
optimise each system in its entirety. Shell Lubricants is also working to help deliver performance improvements to
electric cars and the next generation of hybrids. In particular, they are developing the coolant systems for fuel cells.
Wind: reliability is key
The topic of wind energy was also presented by Dr Watson. He began by pointing out the extreme range of conditions
under which turbines operate, such as wide temperature swing, a lot of slow motion, the fact that bearings can be static
for long periods of time. Another key point is that the increase in wind turbine size, from a few hundred kilowatts to 5-
10MW in just a few decades, has required novel designs and the introduction of new materials, such as the use of super
alloy steels. He compared it to when the oil and gas sector began working in the North Sea for the first time, in terms of
the lack of experience in the current operating environment. As with other sectors, Shell Lubricants has been directly
involved in the wind turbine design process and has been working closely with OEMs, with a strong leading position in
China. A key issue is that many hydraulic fluids have their properties enhanced by the use of polymers, which can break
down under severe conditions. Another challenge is the fact that modern pitch (blade) turbines, over the operational life
of a turbine, undergo many small movements in a narrow range to reduce blade vibration, as opposed to the full
rotational motion, typically handled by bearing systems. Such motion is much more wearing on a bearing, given that it
effectively pushes the grease within it away, without providing a chance for redistribution. For this challenging
application, Shell developed Rhodina BBZ which effectively protects against this specific wear effect and at -50˚C is
still soft enough to be pumped. It has also been designed to resist seawater, courtesy of of oxidation and corrosion
inhibitors. For the main bearing, Shell has developed Stamina HDS, which is a synthetic polyurea-based grease, which
can operate in a -40 to 180˚C range and has been successfully tested in wind turbine applications. The company’s
products for wind turbine gear boxes have an 80% market share in China.
Shell Lubricants has developed greases that are still effective at very low temperatures
Dr Watson raised several interesting questions, such how much more could the load on bearings be increased and
whether there is a natural limit on wind turbine designs. He also suggested that there might be an upper limit on what
could be done with existing lubricants and that further increases in wind turbine size could well require a move to a
radically-different design, both in terms of the overall turbine but also in terms of bearings. However, he made the point
that the increasing environmental and visual impact could prove to be the limiting factor. He also indicated that current
performance requirements are so high, that that mineral oil based lubricants are expected to be phased out in the next
14-20 years, with fully-synthetic lubricants taking their place. He said that there is growing demand for lubricants to be
biodegradable, but presently there remains considerable confusion over what constitutes an acceptable definition.
Transformers, roll out…
Dr Peter Smith then gave a briefing on Shell’s oils for transformers. He began by explaining that the underlying
fundamental design technology hasn’t changed dramatically, but that the scale of transformers has increased, with some
requiring 150t of oil and having ultra high voltages for long distance power transmission. Dr Smith made the point that
with intended operational lifetimes of 30-40 years, this is another application where reliability is absolutely critical and
where operating conditions are severe, courtesy of high temperatures and electricity. A critical issue is the need to
prevent degradation from producing volatiles. One of the primary qualities required for oils in this application is low
viscosity to maximise their ability to cool the coils through convection currents. Insulating properties are also key, with
purity and low water content aiding in this regard, as particulates can be conductive. There has been a shift toward oils
with lower sulphur content as certain sulphur species can lead to the formation and precipitation of undesirable
conductive copper sulphide under specific conditions. In terms of the company’s in-house testing and screening regime,
tests are performed at far more severe conditions than the typical field operating conditions, such as at 120˚C and in the
presence of catalysts and oxygen, to obtain a better idea of how the oil will perform over its operational lifetime, in an
acceptable product development timeframe. Dr Smith also indicated that Shell’s research efforts in this area are being
driven by customers requiring oils to last for longer with maintained performance.
Turbines: smoothing the way
Dr Smith subsequently turned the attention to Shell’s activities in fossil-fuelled power generation, focusing on immobile
land-based turbines. These can feature journal bearings of up to 1 metre in diameter supporting rotors which operate at
3000-3600rpm for around 4-5 years between scheduled maintenance intervals. He explained that turbine bearings are
fitted with thermocouples, which if the oil temperature reaches a trigger temperature typically around 115˚C, trigger an
unplanned shutdown or outage, potentially costing operators hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions a day. As
a result, choosing the right oil for the job can deliver significant savings. For example, one UK power company was able
to obtain savings of around US$72,000 in avoided downtime, by selecting Shell Turbo GT 46 for its hydroelectric
turbines, which had been previously experiencing operational temperature increases on their turbine bearings, as well as
taking advantage of Shell’s LubeAdvisor assessment service. Introduction of the new oil resulted in an 8˚C reduction in
thrust bearing temperatures, giving the company time to work on an engineering fix.
Shell Lubricant's Turbo GT product offers significant benefits for gas turbine operators.The subject of the future direction
of lubricants in this application was also discussed, with Dr Smith saying that there has already been a shift away from
American Petroleum Institute defined Group 1 based mineral oils, to more highly refined Group 2 and 3 oils, as they are
more synergistic with additives and are lower in heterocyclic sulphur and unsaturated compounds which are susceptible
to more rapid degradation. There has also been a trend towards higher oxidative resistance. In the case of turbine oils,
testing and R&D focuses primarily on the use of screening to simulate deposit formation as this reduces the ability of the
oil to function as a lubricant, increasing the temperature within the bearing and leading to a cascade effect in deposit
formation. A key point is that the low amounts of additives within turbine oils can make them somewhat vulnerable to
contaminants (eg hydraulic or engine oil) which can be introduced during production, which can wreck the surface
properties, by creating foaming or a stable emulsion. As a result, Shell uses dedicated manufacturing facilities and
stringent quality control systems to ensure high purity and that the additive systems remain consistent no matter where in
the whole World the turbine oil is purchased. Dr Smith finished by pointing out that not every company in the industry is
so rigorous in this regard.
Later on, IFandP was able to talk with Dr Smith for some time on the particular challenges facing turbine operators and
how they can look to reduce unplanned outages via consideration of lubricant issues. Dr Smith made the point that
modern systems are operating at higher temperatures and that this increases the severity of the operating conditions for
the oils, requiring them to be more robust, along with the additives. The trend towards rapid cycling had meant that
many systems are operating with smaller reservoirs and that this reduces the time for entrained air to leave and for water
separation to take place. This requires base oils of a higher quality to ensure more rapid air release and high performing
demulsifiers to remove the water.
He explained that: “All oils will break down and degrade. There is no oil that will last forever. But what we can do as
formulators and manufacturers of oil is to slow that rate down and control it. There will always be a finite lifetime for a
user production in normal lubricated applications.” Dr Smith explained that adequate flushing and filling is essential in
the first instance, due the the fact that “often there’s all sort of debris in the turbine after its been made and there can be
solid or liquid contaminants, which can wreck the properties of a turbine oil.” It is also vital during an oil change, as
dead-ends in the system can potentially store oil deposits, which if not removed can catalyse fresh oil degradation. Dr
Smith concluded by emphasising the importance of oil condition monitoring, which involves frequent monitoring of the
oil’s parameters, such as its viscosity, acid value and oxidative stability. An important point was that the absolute value is
less importance than its performance against a benchmark over two to three years of previously acquired data.
Thijs Schasfoort gave an overview of Shell’s activities in the gas engine sector, beginning by pointing out that lubricants
used in this application are exposed to combustion gases and high temperatures. In the gas engine sector as a whole,
Mr Schasfoort said that the general trends are towards higher output and greater efficiency, which in part are limited by
knocking. The situation is complicated further by the fact that as some oil will be burnt by the engine, the amount of
additives that can be used in its formulation is limited as they form ash when combusted. Thanks to Shell’s extensive
R&D capability, its Mysella XL product for gas engines is currently the market leader in Pakistan and is considered to be
the industry benchmark, despite more recent offerings from competitors. The main characteristics behind its success are
a combination of long life, good deposit control, and often a significant reduction in oil consumption (32-50%
according to customers). According to Mr Schasfoort, a CNG business in India using Caterpillar & Waukesha gas engines
for its compressor sets were able to extend its oil interval by 60-70%, by using with Shell Mysella XL, resulting in annual
savings of around US$83,000 a year.
Mr Schasfoort also said that the increasing use of biogas has increased the demands on such lubricants, given the
amount of contaminants that can enter the system, particularly if the biogas was produced from a landfill site and
contains acidic compounds and siloxanes that can promote deposit formation. Shell is looking to launch a new product
next year, specifically formulated to handle biologically-produced sour gas applications. The product is being
developed with the aim of a significantly longer oil drain than the company’s internal benchmark (Shell Mysella MA) or
that of established competitor products. All lab development has been completed and the product has clocked up 6000
running hours in the field with very good results. The oil drain will be dependent on fuel quality, but Shell has already
seen it extended by 50%. Shell is working with selected customers to further obtain performance data. The product is
due to launch early next year.
Jerry Hammett followed, giving a quick overview of how Shell expects the energy sector to change going forward and
what implications this will have for the global fuel mix. He made the point that the possible transition of the maritime
sector to cleaner fuels, which could be driven by tighter environmental standards and the shift in refining to maximise
distillate production at the expense of bunker fuel, could have a dramatic impact on the downstream sector and also on
other businesses currently dependent on distillates such as the trucking industry. Even if this does not occur, lower NOx
and SOx limits will mean significant challenges for both maritime engine manufacturers and lubricant producers (in
terms of formulation). While significant reductions in these pollutants can be achieved via exhaust gas recirculation,
catalytic reduction and lubricant design changes. An important issue is the relatively long lifespan of assets in the
shipping sector (20-25 years) and the resulting slow rate of turnover. Mr Hammett made the point that Shell Fuel Oil
Plus, which has been designed for large industrial boiler applications has already resulted in a 80% reduction in
particulate emissions, a 3% improvement in fuel consumption and higher local air quality. It’s cleaner burning nature
also translates into lower maintenance costs and an extension in equipment life.
During the tour of Shell Lubricant’s laboratories, IFandP was shown some of the many different types of tests developed
by Shell better characterise the performance of its lubricants and develop the next generation of its products. The scale
of some of the facilities was impressive, such as the presence of two 800kW four-cylinder diesel engines, complete with a
huge fuel storage building, which allows the company to attain economies of scale in terms of fuel purchasing and
handling. The company’s commitment to the safety of its employees was equally impressive, in the form of rigorously-
enforced regulations and dedicated facilities, such as a system designed to ensure continuous supervision of personnel
involved in polyurea manufacture (due to the necessary use of isocyanate compounds). Also clearly on display was the
expertise and enthusiasm of the staff, who took every effort to clearly explain the intricacies of their work and the added
value it generates for Shell and its customers.
news from industrial fuels and power
Shell Lubricants delivering value through continuos improvement
a visit to Shell Lubricant labs in Hamburg Germany by IF and P team
Shell Lubricants has developed greases that are still effective at very low
(EnergyAsia, August 19 2011, Friday) --- Royal Dutch Shell said it has opened its
first lubricants technical service centre (TSC) in China to better serve its
customers in the fast-growing country.
The European major said the facility in Zhuhai city in Guangdong province is the
latest addition to its global technology centres, bringing together teams of world-
class scientists and engineers.
The Zhuhai location is Shell’s largest lubricants manufacturing complex in Asia
matched by the size of the China lubricants market for Shell. The company owns
and operates a lubricant blending plant, and is building a grease plant in Zhuhai.
Technology leadership is a key differentiator of the products and services from
Shell Lubricants, which has been ranked as the number one international
lubricant supplier both globally and in China for the past four years (Source:
Kline & Company). With over 70 years of innovation through investing in research
and development, Shell’s world-class scientists have created some of the most
advanced lubricant products available.
Shell expects its industry customers and automotive original equipment
manufacturers (OEMs) to benefit from the centre’s offering of technical research,
marketing and training services related to their lubricants application. It will also
serve as a platform for working with leading OEMs and research institutes.
At the centre’s opening, Mark Gainsborough, Shell’s Head of Downstream
Global Commercial, said:
“The TSC is another example of how Shell can help meet China’s current needs
and aspirations for smarter energy solutions. It is part of our downstream
selective growth strategy and allows us to support the needs of customers
based in China such as one of the largest joint venture car manufacturers,
Shanghai General Motors.”
Lim Haw-Kuang, executive chairman of Shell Companies in China, said:
“China is the world’s fastest growing and second largest lubricants market and
demand is growing fast. We are working hard to meet our Chinese customers’
needs and serve them well to support them in their growth. The TSC opening
underlines Shell’s confidence in the China market and commitment to Chinese
Shell Opens first Lubricant service center in