Synthetic lubricants enhance bottom line


When it comes to keeping your fleet working efficiently, protection across the driveline is crucial. High performance lubricants – based on synthetic technology – offer a wide range of benefits over traditional mineral-based lubricants. Raymond Abraham investigates.

Every fleet manager or maintenance engineer wants to be certain that when using an oil for their fleet, it provides the right level of protection to the engine. The lubricant must reduce friction and protect the engine against acids, deposits, and wear in extreme temperatures and in a range of operating conditions.

The introduction of synthetic and semi-synthetic oils represents a huge change for the heavy-duty transport industry. With advancements in engine technology, there is an increase in demand for high performance lubricants that deliver the performance improvement aims of the engine manufacturers, especially regarding fuel economy.

By using advanced lubricants technology developed under laboratory conditions, these oils help mitigate the risk of breakdown and keep vehicles on the road for longer.

Traditionally, lubricants have been based on mineral oil, a component of whole crude oil used in thousands of everyday applications from engines to cosmetics. Thanks to modern refining technology, today’s high-quality mineral oils provide adequate protection. But mineral base oils are complex mixtures of naturally occurring hydrocarbons and may contain impurities. Synthetic lubricants contain synthetic base oils.

These are made with chemicals from simpler hydrocarbon substances for excellent low-temperature flow properties, high resistance to thermal degradation and low oil consumption. Increasingly customers are appreciating the value that top tier synthetic products can bring to their business despite a higher initial cost: 1) Reduced oil change intervals 2) Lower maintenance costs 3) Less wear on parts. This means more value in the long run.

Advances in synthetic oil technology have delivered lubricants that offer many benefits over traditional mineral oil-based engine oils. An important function of lubrication, for example, is ensuring the engine continues to be protected under extreme temperatures, including cold starts, and at high operating temperatures.

High quality synthetic base oils are engineered for excellent low-temperature flow properties, high resistance to thermal degradation and low oil consumption. When combined with advanced additive technology, this results in products that are well placed to deliver best-in-class engine protection. Compared to some mineral oils, this means that synthetic products can help to extend equipment life.

The latest generation of synthetic lubricants also fulfils additional functions that can help improve cost efficiencies. Traditionally, delivering enhanced fuel economy meant lower viscosity (thinner) oils, which helped to reduce friction in the engine but with the perceived trade-off of reduced engine protection.

“A basic understanding between synthetic and mineral oils, can give fleet managers the confidence to gladly accept an oil change which will ultimately lead to a cleaner engine that operates more efficiently, delivers more power and consumes less fuel,” says Abraham.

He says that using synthetic oils can last up to three times longer than regular oils as they are designed to flow more easily at start-up temperatures. They are more resistant to oil degradation and protect against wear more readily.

With high quality synthetic lubricants this is no longer the case. Scientists at Shell have developed heavy duty diesel engine lubricants which combine high-quality, low-viscosity synthetic base oils are combined with advanced additive technology, to deliver robust fuel economy and wear protection performance. One example is semi-synthetic Shell Rimula R5 E, which has been shown to result in 30% longer engine oil life and 1% increase in fuel efficiency compared to standard SAE 15W-40 oils.

Fully-synthetic Shell Rimula R6 LME contains high quality synthetic base oils and advanced additive technology that instantly act when needed, helping keep equipment protected and clean. Developed in collaboration with Daimler, Shell Rimula R6 LME provides increased protection and piston cleanliness, exceeding Daimler’s most demanding limits.
Axle, transmission and gear oils also have an important role to play.

Fully synthetic protection across the whole vehicle driveline can help contribute to fuel savings versus mineral gear and axle oils. Shell Spirax S6 AXME - axle oil - and Shell Spirax S6 GXME – gear oil - have special frictional properties and high fluidity that reduce power loss, lower the operating temperature and offer higher mechanical efficiency. These properties can help to cut fuel costs for businesses.

Selecting a high-quality lubricant is critical for businesses because providing the right level of protection helps to extend equipment life, protecting valuable assets. Under challenging conditions, high quality synthetic base oils and advanced additive technology used in synthetic products are well placed to deliver the best all-round engine protection.

As CO2 emission standards continue to be driven by regulators, this in turn drives engine technology which places significant demand on oil manufacturers to produce more innovative and fuel efficient lubricants. Shell has spent many years developing and understanding the science behind energy efficient lubricants and Shell Synthetic range of Lubricants is the outcome, says Abraham.

Raymond Abraham

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