Article by: Anirudh Raheja
Shell Lubricants aims at developing next generation lubricants in India.In line with its commitment to continue investing in India, Shell Lubricants will soon comission its technology center at Bangalore in India. Built with an investment of USD 500 million, the technology center will employ 1500 people. An extension of the R&D center Shell has in Bangalore for over 15 years now, and employs 1000 people, including scientists involved in the development of various solutions, the technology center will help develop lubes. Announced Nitin Prasad, Managing Director, Shell Lubricants India, “By 2016, Shell will have a new technology center at Bangalore. We will soon be able to test and design newer fuels and lubricants locally. The center will play a major role of working in close cooperation with Shell facilities to develop next generation lubricants.”

Expanding market reach

In an effort to expand its footprint, Shell Lubricants extended its product portfolio recently. It launched Shell Rimula APDEO CF 20 W40 diesel engine oil for medium and heavy duty engines with the aim of providing a one stop solution for diversified vehicle range as well as a range of equipment. The company has been working closely with a good number of equipment manufacturers for some time now. It is, in fact, extending gradually its services to include oil condition monitoring techniques for equipments. “Even though it was traditionally done offline, we are now working with online sensing technology that would help us to collect data that is necessary to gauge the condition of the lube. The process would also enable us to predict the condition of the equipment going forward. We are already sharing this data on highway sector. We are also expanding our services to the mining sector,” expressed Dr. Felix Guerzoni, Global Product Application Specialist, Shell Lubricants. The Shell Rimula T5 E 10 W30 oil, the company developed in close cooperation with Tata Motors offers fuel savings in the range of 3 per cent. This amounts to Rs 40,000 per truck savings for the operator. “Working with the OEMs allows us to understand the product better and develop the lubricants accordingly” mentioned Prasad.

Meeting the stringent emission norms

Prasad is also of the opinion that it is important to understand what will come the way of the following generation in terms of environment. “It is necessary to reduce pressure on OEMs, and thus co-engineer products with an understanding of what we are leaving out for the generations next in terms of environment,” said Prasad. “There are talks of jumping one complete emission standard which will impact the availability of fuel quality, lubricants along with the enormous pressure on OEMs to comply with better emission norms,” he added. Drawing attention to the federal system in India, and the need for it to improve and ensure cohesiveness all around, Prasad stated that GST is a good example where a policy can be created at the central level. States will however need to agree, he added, and should be able to implement. “All of us have to come forward and function together,” he explained. About the enormous investments involved in quick upgradation to BS VI and the subsequent passing on of the heavy costs associated to the consumer, Prasad said that it is the end consumer who will need to make a choice. “He will have to do it quickly and firmly. He could be better off by asking the price of clean air. What it will be like? If some kind of support from the government will be there? The outcome will point at the availability of cleaner, low sulphur fuel,” stated Prasad.

Explaining that the move from crude oil to those that are of good quality will remain a challenge, Prasad drew attention to the menace of piracy. “Being a market leader in the lubricants space, counterfeiting has been a major problem that Shell lubricants in India have not escaped from either”, he added. Mansi Tripathy, Chief Marketing Officer, Shell Lubricants India quickly pointed out that Shell has been actively working to ensure the right product reaches the end consumer, and is keeping a sharp eye on spurious products. “In the last three months we have initiated two legal proceedings. Though the menace of spurious products is limited to parts of Rajasthan, Gujarat and some south Indian states, we would like to send a strong message to the market that as far as quality is concerned, Shell does not make a compromise,” she said further.

Alternate fuel prospects and lubes

Various governments across the world have been very excited about the use of alternate fuels in an effort to offset environmental concerns; to deal with the risk of degrading air quality. Many have agreed to 5 to 10 per cent mandates in the ecosystem. Shell Lubricants is closely observing the rising preference of the Indian government for alternate propulsion medias even though they are less energy efficient. Prasad mentioned that alternate propulsion medias need to be better structured. Pointing at Brazil, he said, “It is important to source bio-fuel in a sustainable manner. We are looking forward to partnering with sources who we believe are doing sustainable agriculture without causing harm to the ecological balance.”

Gas-to-Liquid oils

Even though it is at a nascent stage, Shell Lubricants is banking heavily on Gas-To-Liquid (GTL) fuels. “If the lubricant market is growing at one to two per cent, GTL market is growing at 15 to 20 per cent. People are gradually starting to realise that it is economically better for them while progressing towards lower emissions,” Prasad mentioned. With OEMs looking towards longer oil drain intervals, Shell has already got 3,500 patents registered in the area of GTL technology. Sources close to the company claimed that solutions can only be found by collaborating; through a collaboration between various industry elements, think tanks, academia, NGOs and the government. India does not need to start from scratch, they added. Stressing upon the need to implement BS VI emission standards, Prasad mentioned that India can learn from other countries. He questioned if India as a society is ready to foot the bill? “There will be an increase in prices for certain. However, the question is, will there be a reduction in excise duties, state taxes to balance out the high costs? The answer to this is not clear yet,” Prasad concluded.

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