LOW-VISCOSITY ENGINE OILS

Improving fuel efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions

When Shell invested in and built the Pearl GTL plant – the world’s largest gas-to-liquids plant – along the coast from Doha, Qatar, in 2011, it was the culmination of hundreds of millions of hours’ work.
In fact, it was such a pioneering project that it took one million hours (the equivalent of 500 years of full-time work for one person) to complete its conceptual design.
Ten years later, and the decision to put that time and effort towards producing low-viscosity engine oils made from natural gas is paying off.
There is a growing demand for lower-viscosity lubricants that allow engine pistons to move more freely and easily through lower friction.
This shift is one of the key trends in the automotive lubricants market right now (1) – a move that is especially significant for drivers and workshops in Asia Pacific (APAC), the region that accounts for 60 percent of the global motor oil market (2).
Shell notes that we are already seeing APAC markets move to lower-viscosity engine oils, for example adopting SAE 0W-20 lubricants (amid growing interest in even lower viscosities) (3).
But what is driving this change? It says one element is the fact that new cars generally use lower viscosities, which means that the adoption of low-viscosity engine oils will grow as older vehicles are replaced.
Shell explains there are also many benefits of using low-viscosity oils made with GTL technology. Free of the contaminants inherent to conventional oils, they can generally provide better wear protection and longevity.
However, it says the main reason for the trend towards lower viscosity is the desire among drivers to achieve better fuel efficiency.
“We are seeing consumers become more conscious about the amount of fuel they use,” Shell APAC and China, PCMO Technology Manager, Hu Hua, said.
“Partly, it is a cost issue. The less they need to fill up the tank, the more money they save. Also, more drivers are paying closer attention to the sustainability of their vehicles. Improving fuel efficiency is an effective way to reduce the emissions each motorist generates – and aligns with the automotive industry’s wider decarbonisation goals.”
Shell says this is where low-viscosity engine oils come in. Advances in these lubrication products (including GTL) are now having a meaningful impact in improving engine performance and fuel efficiency.
For example, low-viscosity oils can work better in extreme temperatures. This essentially means that drivers can start their cars more easily in hot or cold conditions, saving on the fuel this process can often waste.
“To support this growing trend, Shell is driving the development of effective low-viscosity motor oils,” Hu Hua said.
“Engineered using our unique GTL technology, these lubricants provide 60 percent less friction (4). This enables customers to drive more efficiently and sustainably – saving up to two litres of fuel for every full tank (5).”
Shell says this is supported by the fact that simply switching to a premium low-viscosity oil can help to increase fuel efficiency by up to three percent5. And, with longer life, Shell says its passenger car lubricants reduce the oil consumption as well.
It notes this all helps drivers to cut the cost of every journey they make while also reducing their CO2 footprint. So, it says, a million hours to create the plans for the world’s largest GTL plant might sound like a lot, but that is how long it takes when you are designing the future of passenger car travel.

For more information, visit www.shell.com.au

1 www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180329005474/en/Top-Emerging-Trends-in-the-Global-Automotive-Engine-Oil-Market%C2%A0-Technavio
2 www.businesswire.com/news/home/20201216005613/en/Passenger-Car-Motor-Oil-PCMO-Market-to-Accelerate-at-a-CAGR-of-About-4-during-2020-2024-Technavio
3 www.infineuminsight.com/en-gb/articles/passenger-cars/new-fuel-economy-challenges/
4 Compared with several other fully synthetic 0W engine oils and based on coefficient of friction measurements in lab bench tests based on 0W-40.
5 Based on ACEA M111 fuel economy results compared with the industry reference oil