Synthetic Lubricants: A smart investment
Synthetic Lubricants: A smart investment

Synthetic Lubricants: A smart investment

Akhil Jha, Vice President Technical, Shell India Markets
explains the need and benefits of Synthetic Lubricants.

India has strong demand for lubricants consumption with growing opportunities in the future. Lubricant technology is driven by evolution in equipment hardware design, legislation changes, emerging customer needs and market competitive considerations such as cost, return on investment etc. Different models of equipments will require different types of advance technology lubricants as stress factor will vary from model to model. The demand from OEMs and end customers for better quality lubricants leads to technology developments, especially in the area of Synthetic Lubricants. Shell being ´first to market´ with many lubricant innovations and the company´s commitment to research and development reflects that it is well placed to introduce the next generation of world-leading lubricants.

Why Synthetic Lubricants:
Need of the hour:

  • Greater life-span
  • Better protection of components at varied temperatures
  • Better lubricity
  • Better oxidation and thermal stability
  • Extended oil drain intervals
  • Reduced energy consumption

Synthetic lubricants are becoming more popular and are increasingly used widely worldwide. Higher fuel costs, lower cycle times and stricter emission norms make OEMs, lubricant suppliers and end-users to find ways to improve lubricants performance to meet these emerging requirements.

Shell synthetic lubricants are formulated to provide component protection, fuel economy and long-life operation, faster cycle times for most of the equipment. The company has a wide portfolio of synthetic lubricants for automotive & industrial applications and our technical advisors work very closely with customers for offering solutions to their needs (see in the box) by using Shell synthetic lubricants.

The main objective to develop synthetic lubricants is to safeguard capital investment by protecting customer´s equipment from wear and corrosion even under the most severe conditions, whether it is application of Shell synthetic greases for protecting heavily loaded bearings in the high-temperature or wet conditions of plants/equipments or Shell synthetic gear oils for wind turbines operating in remote locations where equipment durability and reliability of operations are critical. The exceptional protection, long life and system efficiency offered by Synthetic Lubricants are proven to increase productivity in real applications helping increase the profitability of one´s business.

What is Synthetic Oil?
To explain it further, Synthetic oil is a lubricant consisting of chemical compounds that are artificially made (synthesized). Synthetic lubricants can be manufactured using chemically modified petroleum components rather than whole crude oil but can also be synthesized from other raw materials. Synthetic oil is used as a substitute for lubricant refined from petroleum when operating in extremes of temperature because in general, it provides superior mechanical and chemical properties than those found in traditional mineral oils. Synthetic oils have high viscosity index which means less change in viscosity with temperature. Therefore they adapt to perform better in hot and cold conditions by staying thin enough to flow in cold and thick enough to protect at high temperatures. Synthetic oil also has lower coefficient of friction which helps to maximize both volumetric and mechanical efficiencies in an application. Hence, Synthetic Lubricants are a smart investment.

Types of Synthetic Lubricants
The use of synthetic lubricants in various industrial and automotive applications is becoming more and more common considering the large advantages. The word ´synthetic´ has nearly become synonymous with high quality or high performance. The selection of right type of synthetic oil is essential carefully considering the application and OEM recommendation. It depends on key criteria of selection, such as extended drain interval, component durability, energy efficiency, fuel economy, high loads, high temperatures etc. Other factors like OEM recommendations, Low temperature performance, volatility, bio degradability etc are also considered important.

There are many types of synthetic oils. Some of the most popular fluids are Poly Alfa Olefins (PAO), Polyisobutylenes (PIBs), esters, Polyalkylene glycols (PAGs), silicones, alkyl benzenes, alkylated napthalenes and fluorinated polyethers. Besides Poly Alfa Olefins, other synthetics are not compatible with conventional mineral oils. Hence extreme caution needs to be exercised.

Besides the above mentioned synthetic fluids, GTL (gas to Liquid) technology has been rapidly picking up, since its invention by German scientists Fischer and Tropsch. The process has three steps. The first is partial oxidation of hydrocarbon (natural gas) to hydrogen and carbon monoxide. This gas mixture is known as synthesis gas or syngas. The second stage involves catalytic polymerization of the syngas into heavier, largely paraffinic liquid (waxy) hydrocarbons. This is the Fischer-Tropsch reaction, the gas-to-liquids part. Stage three requires hydroisomerization of the waxy material to form cuts suitable for fuel and lube base stocks. These base stocks are expected to be very pure, free of sulfur and with excellent volatility and viscosity characteristics. Currently Shell has the largest capacity of GTL production globally with over 140,000 bbl/Day.

Shell offers a comprehensive range of synthetic lubricants for variety of Automotive and Industrial applications backed by thousands of OEM Approvals and demonstrated value records. Shell Lubricant technical advisors can assist customers to choose the most appropriate type of synthetic lubricant depending on the type of application.

Advantages of synthetic lubricants
One of the major advantages of synthetic oil over mineral-based motor oil is its greater lifespan. In most types of engines and under any driving conditions, synthetic oil has potentially less frequent recommended change intervals than traditional motor oil under similar circumstances. This is because synthetic motor oil is both slower to decompose chemically and less susceptible to evaporation over time. However, it is still likely to become contaminated eventually and a regular service schedule should still be observed, even if engine oil level readings are normal. Synthetic motor oil also has superior composition to that of mineral-based motor oil. Because its components are produced under chemically controlled conditions rather than through conventional refining natural process, synthetic oil is free of the impurities that comprise a significant percentage of the volume of most traditional motor oils. By being both more chemically stable and containing no undesirable impurities, synthetic oil causes fewer problems.

Shell Lubricants´ Synthetic product range includes
Hydraulic fluids
Industrial gear oils
Turbine oil
Compressor oils
Synthetic lubricants can add value to customer operation in terms of energy efficiency and maintenance costs which can help to:

Reduce lubricant consumption with extended life products
Shell Rimula R6 range of heavy duty diesel engine oils are designed to have outstanding oxidation and shear stabilities. Resisting oxidation helps to extend oil-drain intervals. If one wants to lower lubrication costs and still keep vehicles on the road, one would need lubricants and greases that help to extend oil-drain intervals.

Deliver fuel savings with synthetic technology oils
Lower viscosity oils can help to reduce fuel consumption by reducing the energy loss caused by friction. However lower viscosity can lead to concerns about the oil´s ability to protect against wear. Shell´s synthetic oils are designed to deliver fuel savings and protect through the life of the oil.

Extend filter-cleaning intervals with low-SAPS products
Shell´s synthetic oils have a high viscosity index which means that the oils change less with temperature. They adapt to perform better in hot and cold conditions by staying thin enough to flow when cold and thick enough to protect at high temperatures. Synthetic-base oils also provide better protection in cold start than mineral oils with excellent low-temperature flow even at - 40¦C.

Protection for your equipment
Shell synthetic lubricants can help to safeguard your capital investment by protecting your equipment from wear and corrosion even under the most severe conditions. Whether your compressors, gears, hydraulics or bearings operate at extremes of speed, load or temperature or in wet and contaminated conditions.

Long oil and grease life
Shell synthetic lubricants offer the longest life oils and greases in the Shell range. These products enable to extend oil-drain and greasing intervals. Extended lubricant life saves money by cutting maintenance costs and reducing product consumption. And hence Shell synthetic lubricants can help to increase productivity by enabling twelve times longer life to equipment, eliminating failures and it processes to operate more efficiently. They can even help to cut costs directly by reducing energy consumption.

Helps in reducing environmental foot print
As mentioned, Synthetic lubricants offer the longest life oils and greases. These products enable to extend oil-drain and greasing intervals with confidence that your equipment is being protected for the entire period. Extended lubricant life saves money by cutting maintenance costs and reducing product consumption. Using less oil and grease can also help to reduce environmental footprint and cut disposal costs.

Shell synthetic products far exceed industry lubricant-life standards. For instance, Shell Tellus S4 ME synthetic hydraulic fluid has an oil life over 10 times the minimum in industry-standard tests. And Shell Corena S4 R synthetic oil for rotary air compressors can deliver up to 8,000 hours´ oil life (or about three years of factory operation compared with about 2,000 hours for more basic, conventional compressor oils.

Market demand for Synthetic Lubricants in India
The total demand for synthetic oil is mainly is in consumer segment and industrial sectors. In consumer segment, it is 100 % for high end cars and bikes and for standard cars and two wheelers, it is about 2-3%. Total demand of synthetic lubricants is about 10 million liters annually for consumer segments. The industrial sector synthetic oil demand is about 0.8-1% of total lubricant demands totaling synthetic requirement which is close to 8 million liters. Among Industrial sectors power sector is having a maximum demand for synthetic lubricants, especially for wind turbine, turbine governing system and gas turbine applications.

While it is estimated that the current consumption of synthetic lubricants is about 6 per cent of the global lubricants consumption, it is expected to be about 10 per cent by 2020.

As stated earlier, benefits of using synthetic oils for an application needs to be examined considering several factors such as duty cycle, operating condition, sump size etc.

Reduction in Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) should be the overall driver for recommending synthetic oils for an application.

Akhil Jha Vice President Technical, Shell India Markets
Synthetic oil is not only slower to decompose chemically it is also less susceptible to evaporation over time.

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