Based on its recent analysis of the lubricants industry, international growth consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan Shell Lubricants received the 2014 sub-Saharan Africa Frost & Sullivan Award for Product Leadership, the consultancy announced last month.
“This ground-breaking Shell PurePlus technology is a game changer in the lubricants industry,” says Frost & Sullivan. Unlike most lubricant producers that derive their base oil from crude oil, Shell has been using its proprietary patented technology to produce base oil from natural gas at its Pearl gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant, in Qatar, since 2012.
In 2014, Shell announced that all its premium motor oil brand, Shell Helix Ultra with PurePlus technology, will be produced using Shell PurePlus technology base oils from the Pearl plant. These base oils, which typically make up 75% to 85% of motor oils, are cleaner, more effective and offer better performance than typical Group III base oils, while still being cost comparable with other fully synthetic lubricants.
“The Shell PurePlus technology is based on its proprietary Shell Middle Distillate Synthesis process,” notes Frost & Sullivan programme manager Avril Harvey.
“Through this process, natural gas is piped from the ground and mixed with pure oxygen to create synthesis gas, which is catalytically converted into liquid form known as syncrude. The syncrude is then cracked into the product ranges and distilled to create Shell PurePlus technology base oils, which are completely clear and colourless base oils.”
The Shell PurePlus technology base oil contains significantly more isoparaffins than Group II and other Group III base oils derived from crude oil and has fewer impurities. The synthetic oil is then enhanced with Shell’s Active Cleansing technology, which protects against the build-up of performance-robbing deposits to deliver enhanced cleaning power that exceeds industry standards by as much as 65%.
PurePlus technology is also differentiated in that it can be used to formulate motor oils such as SAE 0W-16.
Owing to its purity, improved viscosity and volatility, the product requires consumers to top up less often, even on the longest original- equipment manufacturer oil drain intervals. This reduces the consumer’s overall maintenance costs and helps extend the longevity of the vehicle and vehicle parts.
“Shell credits its success in continuous innovation to its matrix structure. Although it has large technology, marketing and supply chain teams, they operate as a single team.
“Further, the large volume of production from the Pearl GTL plant allows the GTL base oil to be distributed globally from Pearl to distribution hubs and is then redistributed. As a result, the formulation is consistent globally,” notes Harvey.
Shell is the only manufacturer to have produced base oils from natural gas on a commercial scale. Over the lifetime of the project, the Pearl GTL plant can process gas equivalents to nearly three-billion barrels of oil. It produces GTL liquids, including base oils, at a rate of 140 000 bbl/d of liquid, while other plants can process less than 20 000 bbl/d.
Frost & Sullivan asserts that it is the sheer scale of the Pearl plant and the unique manufacture of base oils from the GTL process that will continue to differentiate Shell into the future.
Frost & Sullivan Awards
Each year, Frost & Sullivan presents the Product Leadership award to the company that has developed a product with innovative features and functionality and gained rapid acceptance in the market. The award recognises the quality of the solution and the customer value enhancements it enables.
The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global markets for demonstrating outstanding achievement and superior performance in areas such as leadership, technological innovation, customer service and strategic product development. Industry analysts compare market participants and measure performance through in-depth interviews, analysis and extensive secondary research to identify best practices in the industry.