Shipping’s challenges are coming from all sides, which is why Jan Toschka, Shell Marine General Manager has prioritised applying cylinder oil research, technical services expertise and logistics to the day-to-day trials of ships in operation.
Shell Marine General Manager Jan Toschka heads a marine lubricants business drawing on over 40 lubricants blending plants and 15 grease manufacturing plants, covering close to 700 ports across 57 countries, and supplying over 10,000 vessels. With offices in Singapore, London, Shanghai and Houston, and the Marine & Power Innovation Centre (MPIC) in Hamburg, delivering the marine-engine cylinder oils and specialist greases that make shipping tick is a truly global responsibility.
“We operate a complex global business and so do our customers. I meet many shipowners and their view of the global economy can differ sharply from what we read in the headlines,” he says. “They are entrepreneurs who identify competitive opportunities; when facing tough times, they need to make the right decisions.”
Shipping’s continuing tonnage oversupply has brought very low freight and charter rates for customers, Toschka observes, with more modern ships still to come into the business. “At the same time the increasing complexity and reach of regulations have caused higher operating costs for vessel owners. Environmental regulations such as ECA zones and a global sulphur cap will present more challenges and also uncertainties.”
Ships operating inside and outside ECAs now run on fuels featuring different sulphur contents, while the advent of slower steaming from 2009 exposed newer two stroke engine types to the risks of cold corrosion. Combined, these challenges have required responses from cylinder oil suppliers that are both comprehensive and address the detail of operational issues.
“As an integrated energy company we collaborate with all relevant parties to provide the right lubricant solution and technical services in an increasingly complex shipping environment, helping our customers to cope with their full range of operating conditions,” says Toschka. We work closely with the engine manufacturers as well as with our colleagues from fuel trading and refining, while we have our own in house testing capability and extensive field experience, coupled with the monitoring, analysis and advisory services to respond to the market with proven and comprehensive solutions.”
Shell Marine’s latest thinking emerged at SMM in Hamburg, with an insight into its latest work to protect the most modern ultra-efficient diesel engines against cold corrosion while still optimizing cylinder oil feed rates. Mr Toschka took the opportunity to disclose that, following its formulation and exhaustive laboratory testing in 2015, the new ultra-high BN (140BN) cylinder oil Shell Alexia 140 had successfully completed over six months of shipboard trials with a Shell Marine customer.
Shell Alexia 140 joins a suite of cylinder oils developed for two stroke engines whose lowest base number product is the 25BN Shell Alexia S3, formulated for ships operating on low fuel sulphur content within emissions control areas. The range also includes 60BN, 70BN and 100BN variants, formulated for different vessel operating conditions and fuel sulphur contents. Shell Alexia 140 is targeted for use in ultra-efficient engines as a standalone product or as part of an onboard lubricant blending or mixing solution where high sulphur content fuels brings the risk of the cold corrosion that can induce cylinder liner wear.
MAN Diesel and Turbo (MDT) told this year’s CIMAC in Helsinki that it had been trialling ‘ACOM’ (Automated Cylinder Oil Mixing), with the intention of establishing best practice in matching lubricant BN to fuel sulphur content whilst minimising lubricant feed rates. Toschka points out that the first ACOM unit has been running since September 2015 in cooperation with a ship-owner on an oil tanker featuring a 6S50ME-B8 MAN B&W main engine and using Shell Alexia S3 (BN25) and Shell Alexia S6 (BN 100).
Toschka emphasises that Shell Marine has needed to be just as agile in developing its technical services to ensure cost efficiency as well as reliability from the cylinder oil performance point of view. Many shipping companies make Shell technical services part of their planned maintenance, he points out, with Shell Marine expecting to analyse about 18,000 cylinder drain oil samples in 2016 alone.
“Major OEMs now recommend cylinder drain oil analysis as a way for ship owners to optimise feed rates as it allows them to strike the right balance between corrosion protection and minimised oil consumption,” says Toschka.
The cost benefits are tangible, the General Manager says. He cites a collaborative project to cut fleet running costs with Hamburg-based owner Oskar Wehr, which sought to optimise cylinder lubrication feed rates on the main engines of 25 vessels (13 bulk carriers and 12 container ships) within OEM guidelines, using the Shell LubeMonitor Service.
“The monitoring revealed that the cylinder oil feed could safely be reduced by a significant 25%, cutting its cylinder oil costs by reducing the oil feed rate by 0.2 g/kWh in each of 25 vessels while complying with the equipment manufacturer’s feed rate recommendations,” says Toschka.
Shell LubeMonitor also played a critical role in Berge Bulk Maritime Pte Ltd switching its choice of cylinder oils from a 60BN product to the 100BN product Shell Alexia S6. The higher BN product successfully addressed the owner’s cold corrosion concerns, but it also satisfied a request to reduce the consumption of cylinder oil and lower its operating costs.
Using the Shell LubeMonitor programme the vessels’ crews received regular scavenge drain oil analyses and advice and, over time, reduced the average feed rate on two vessels from the 520 l/d needed for 60BN product to a rate optimised for Shell Alexia S6 of around about 370 l/d. Based on approximately 280 sailing days a year, Berge Bulk Maritime estimates net annual savings of around $113,000 across four vessels.
SMM also saw Shell Marine unveil a notable upgrade in its Shell LubeMonitor service, following the introduction of the ‘Marine Connect’ a software package, designed to optimise data management and reporting functions in a simpler, faster and better way. The revitalised service offers reports that are easy to read, complete engine overviews, historical onboard and lab data, and comments from Shell experts which define areas of concern or possible optimisation opportunities.
“I’m proud of the approach we have been taking at Shell Marine in this challenging business environment,” says Toschka, who stepped up to the global role in 2014, having previously been Shell Marine General Manager for Europe. “We needed to review our strategy and response. We have strengthened our marine team at Shell over the last couple of years. We’ve created real commitment and passion for this industry with a good mix of experienced and new people. Being serious about winning has enabled us to grow our business despite a flat, if not shrinking, market.”