Shell Marine has geared its lubricant portfolio to its expectations of the post-2020 sulphur cap environment, explains Shell Marine global technical manager Sara Lawrence
The choice of cylinder oil is typically determined by three factors: the marine engine itself; the fuel being used; and the vessel’s operating conditions. As such, the IMO’s limitation of 0.5% sulphur content in marine fuel from 2020 will have a significant impact on cylinder oil selection.
Shell Marine’s expectation is that 90% or more of the shipping fleet will switch to fuels with a sulphur level of <0.5% in the run up to January 2020. This will be a mixture of very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) and distillate fuels.
We believe that fewer than 2,000 ships will be fitted with scrubbers to continue running on high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) by that date and that, with a high-end estimate of 200 ships running on LNG, combined, no more than 10% of ships will be accounted for by HSFO, LNG or any other alternative. Our expectation is that up to 3M b/d of HSFO demand will be displaced by <0.5% sulphur content fuels.
The Shell Marine two-stroke product portfolio is largely in place. However, the post-2020 scenario poses different challenges for slow speed cylinder oils to those original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have been focusing on over recent years, where BN80-BN100 oils have been needed to defend newer engines against cold corrosion under part-load conditions burning higher sulphur fuels. 0.5% sulphur fuel use will drive demand towards lower BN oils.
Shell Marine’s expectation is that significant demand for BN40- and BN70-grade cylinder oils will come into play. Shell Alexia S3 – the BN25 cylinder oil developed for use in Emissions Control Areas – has already proved itself in service as being well suited for lubricants of 0.1% very low sulphur content in the two-stroke application. However, Shell Marine has a new BN40 product under field trial, for launch in 2019 to meet demand.
Crankcase oils also need to be examined for use in the post-2020 sulphur cap environment. In this respect, Shell Marine recently upgraded its four-stroke Shell Gadinia and Shell Argina crankcase oils to be ‘2020 ready’. The new oils have been optimised to deal with the faster viscosity increase and BN depletion experienced by oils in modern medium speed engines, which work at pressures between 10-17% higher than their predecessors and oil temperatures approaching 300 degrees at the top crown.
Shell Marine does expect LNG to establish a presence in the market in the years ahead. Our Shell Alexia S3 oil offers the solution for two-stroke engines, while our Mysella range already provides the answer in the four-stroke sector.
We also expect HSFO prices to drop after shipping turns en masse to lower sulphur fuel, which may entice some owners to look afresh at scrubber return on investment. We expect 30% of the market could be using scrubbers by 2025-2030, which is likely to see demand recover for higher BN lubricants, although their use may then drop off if new environmental legislation restricts the use of scrubbers.
One challenge arising in the post-2020 world is likely to be variable fuel quality. While not directly a lubricants issue, this will demand scrutiny of lubricant performance, backed by the ship-to-shore connectivity and analytics that has recently become a feature of Shell LubeMonitor. Even owners grappling with the cost of EEDI / MRV / CO2 / 2020 and ballast water management systems will concede that one lesson learned from engine cold corrosion has been that saving on cylinder oil technical services can prove a false economy.