Formulating the answers to the marine industry’s most challenging lubrication questions

Yannis Chatzakis, Global Marine Technology Program Manager, ExxonMobil

Marine traffic of a busy harbour from above. Nautical vessels cruising different directions at the port.

The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) ambition to reduce the carbon intensity of international shipping by at least 40% by 2030, pursuing efforts towards a 70% reduction by 2050, compared with 2008 , is likely to dramatically change the fuels landscape. To meet these objectives, new alternative fuels are being considered as well as wholly new engine configurations – the scale of the impending changes for vessel operators, and the wider maritime sector, is unparalleled.

Significantly, these new fuels and engine designs – covering both two- and four-stroke applications – will create additional challenges for lubricants, such as increased temperatures and operating pressures, the consequence of engine designers pushing performance boundaries. As a result, engine oils will need to ‘do more’ as inadequate lubrication performance could result in insufficient engine cleanliness and protection, potentially leading to deposits and engine damage, higher maintenance costs and increased downtime.

Put simply, lubricants of the future will need to provide the same levels of engine protection as today, but in radically different engine environments. It’s a big task as the potential fuel options, such as biofuels, LNG, methanol, ammonia and hydrogen, all have unique combustion characteristics and challenges, which in turn will likely require bespoke lubricant formulations.

We’re already underway

The journey to a lower carbon future has already begun. The IMO’s first carbon intensity reduction target is less than eight years away and vessel operators are therefore asking questions about their possible fuel options and about how these choices will impact their lubricant selection.

That’s why ExxonMobil has already started to formulate the answers to some of the marine industry’s most challenging lubrication questions. We are trialling next-generation lubricants created using our balanced formulation methodology and developing products and services to help our customers navigate their journey towards a lower carbon future.

To achieve the best results, ExxonMobil is working with a wide range of marine industry stakeholders, including standards bodies and Original Engine Manufacturers (OEMs). The information that we receive provides us with invaluable insights – information that we can leverage as we continue to support our customers’ needs through the marine industry’s transition to a lower carbon future.

Unique operational information

Of particular importance is our work with the OEMs, who continue to provide unique operational information about future engine designs. The data we receive – including feedback from test engines and sea trials – deliver vital input that ExxonMobil uses when developing next-generation lubricants, which will have a critical role in helping newer, more efficient engines achieve optimum performance, as well as aiding customers maintain reliable operation of their vessels. This collaboration is already in evidence with the development of Mobilgard™ 540 AC, a premium 40BN marine cylinder oil granted Category II status by MAN Energy Solutions and recommended for use in its Mark 9 and higher two-stroke marine engine designs.

Keeping pace with the on-going evolution of engine design will require more advanced, higher quality oil formulations; lubricants of the future will be expected to offer improved high-temperature viscosity, greater thermal stability and better detergency. Faced with an ever-expanding operational envelope, next-generation cylinder oils will require a far greater investment in development and testing.

ExxonMobil is making good on that task – we understand that lubricants are not just another consumable – they’re a vital engine component that help provide confidence and ensure reliable operation. Choosing the most appropriate formulation in an increasingly complex fuel environment will therefore be essential. To learn more about ExxonMobil’s marine lubricant offer, click here.

1 Initial IMO GHG Strategy

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