IMO sulfur cap: Choosing the right lubricant to protect your engine

Written by Marine Log Staff
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Joris Van Brussel, Shell Marine General Manager

SEPTEMBER 3, 2018 — Ship operators need to consider verifiable cylinder oil performance data and engine testing to cover all operating conditions when choosing their marine lubricants to address IMO’s 0.5% global sulfur cap on marine fuels starting January 1, 2020, according to Joris Van Brussel, Shell Marine’s new General Manager.

Many of the lubricant choices will be driven by how ship operators choose to comply with IMO’s global sulfur cap—whether by burning HFO and installing exhaust gas scrubbers, burning compliant 0.5% Marine Gas Oil or installing dual fuel engines to burn an alternative fuel such as Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

 “Recent months have seen some movement by mainstream shipowners towards exhaust gas scrubbing to meet the 2020 marine fuel sulfur cap,” says Van Brussel. “These customers will continue using high sulfur heavy fuel oils with two-stroke engines, and demand lubes that are proven to protect cylinders against cold corrosion under extreme stress, such as Shell Alexia S6 or the higher BN Shell Alexia 140.

“However, with just over a year to go before the new restrictions enter into force, a significant part of the market will shift to fuels with less than 0.5% sulfur, where other cylinder oil formulations with a lower BN number is expected to deliver optimum performance.”
Continues Van Brussel, “The two-stroke product portfolio for 2020 is largely in place, but we expect that there will be a requirement for significant volumes of higher BN cylinder oils to be replaced by BN40 or BN70 grades.”

Van Brussel also says that, with engine makers still developing technology aggressively, and the fuels market mix evolving, sulfur emission-free Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is also securing a position as a marine fuel requiring widespread distribution.

For example, MAN Energy Solutions in Copenhagen recently unveiled its MAN B&W ME-LGIP engine, the world’s first two-stroke and only dual fuel LPG marine engine.

Shell continuously uses test engines installed at the unique Marine & Power Innovation Centre (MPIC) in Hamburg, putting promising formulations through their paces in the most extreme conditions oils can face before field trials and OEM validation tests. Latest work at MPIC is focusing on the final tests of a new 40BN cylinder oil for two-stroke engines that is already undergoing field trials and is expected to be available in the market in the early part of 2019.
“Today, the work we do at MPIC has to be part of that multi-faceted strategy for customers that has developed into MILES, where we address the most pressing operational concerns customers have,” continues Van Brussel. Shell’s Marine Integrated Lubrication and Expert Solutions (MILES) program aims to help by combining purchasing options, services and an extensive lubricant range into a strategy that addresses these pressing operational concerns. This unique approach to lubricants management can help to improve reliability, efficiency and profitability.
As well as providing optimal port lifting recommendations, a MILES package can include the entire lubrication management for a vessel, combining stock levels and demand planning for a given operating profile, feed-rate optimization, and even ‘flexi pay’ schemes.
“Shell Marine has also been concentrating on developing its technical services for a world where there is much more uncertainty and the likelihood is that the quality of fuel will vary,” added Joris. Better monitoring of lubricant performance for engines in service, for example, backed by advanced technology to communicate data from ship to shore improves decision-making when it comes to lubricants logistics.

Earlier this year, maritime contractor Van Oord signed a five-year agreement with Shell Marine covering the lubrication needs for its entire fleet of vessels, based on the MILES offer. The agreement included arrangements to take advantage of Shell Marine’s LubeMonitor 4T program to help manage oil consumption.

“Our tests and customer feedback show that reductions in feed rates can be achieved with an overall cost reduction to customers,” says Van Brussel. “In another case, customer had seen the use of our Shell LubeMonitor was able to cut their cylinder oil costs by 25% whilst still complying with the engine maker’s recommendations.”

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