Q&A with Shell Tellus Product Developer on all things hydraulic fluids
Dr Mark Draper, Product Developer, Shell Tellus Range of Hydraulic fluids – mineral oil...
Who are you and what is your involvement in Shell Tellus?
Dr Mark Draper, Product Developer, Shell Tellus Range of Hydraulic fluids – mineral oil hydraulics, anything with a Tellus name is my product
Why the name Shell Tellus?
Tellus is the family name for our hydraulic fluids. Tellus has actually been around for around 70 years when it was created in 1947.
You recently launched the Tellus S2 MX/VX, what is Shell Tellus S2 MX/VX?
Our two products in this instance are Tellus S2 MX/VX. S2 denotes the main line main stream product. MX is targeted for stationary factory type applications. VX has a wider temperature operating window and optimised for outdoor mobile use. As part of the family we have S3 and S4 top tier products. They bring special properties and differentiated specifications dependent on the customer requirements.
How can a mining company/operator benefit from Shell Tellus hydraulic fluid?
I don’t think a mining operator or company would be any different in principle to any other user. What they are looking for is to protect their equipment and ensure it lasts as long as it is possibly able to last. We and the customers want the fluid to last a s long as possible between oil drains and changes. So you want to make the maximum oil drainage force you can, you want to be comfortable up to the OEM recommended service intervals and even beyond in some cases. It’s that piece of mind, reassuring you have that robust oil life.
During that oil interval and service life you want to maintain the properties of the fluid as close as possible to the day it was first put into the machinery. You don’t want to drag your tail off over 22,000 hours then change it and get another tail off, you want to do it as consistent as possible over the full cycle. That’s the portfolio of benefits that these new fluids are designed to bring to the market. Equipment protection, longer oil life and the consistency of operation and efficiency of operation during the service interval.
What makes it better than others?
One thing we aren’t aiming to do here is not chase down the cheapest price of fluid we can, that creates a false economy. The way we develop the fluid is to concentrate on making sure we achieve high levels pf performance. We demonstrate the wear protection, the life and the efficiency of the fluid. That begs the question, could you could go with a cheaper fluid? Yes, and on day one and for the first few days/weeks you may have cost savings, but if your equipment is wearing out more quickly, you have to change the oil more quickly and the performance while the fluid is in there degrades quickly which it will do with a lower quality fluid – it creates false economy. You might have a small initial saving from the fluid but extra downtime and shorter intervals and shorter equipment life in the long run.
What is the Bosch Rexroth approval standard and how does this impact fluid product development?
If you look at the way a fluid is qualified for service, there are various levels of manufacturer’s approval we must meet. The main approving bodies at the most basic equipment level would be the hydraulic pump manufacturers. So, we don’t have to go to every single component in the hydraulic system, the cylinders the filters and the coolers. It’s very much the pump that is the stressed component in the system and it is the pump manufacturers that dominate the basic equipment approvals. Traditionally, they have come from around three major companies – Parker Denison, France, Eton Hydraulics, North America, Bosch Rexroth, Germany – they are the three main players. Those performance standards have been relatively consistent over the last 10-15 years. But the world doesn’t stand still. Customers and users are now demanding more. They are demanding more value, more return from their investment. The fluid itself is having to work harder in the equipment as it is being used more intensely. The equipment is getting smaller and more compact; the fluid is circulating more quickly. If you’ve got smaller amounts of fluid doing more of the work it becomes much more stressful on the fluid itself.
Bosch Rexroth are taking the lead at the moment and they have recognised that the plain vanilla hydraulic fluid that might have met the standard of 10-15 years ago no longer applies. It’s no longer adequate. It won’t adequately protect equipment in more demanding modern applications. They have obsoleted their old approvals and listings and started again with a new listing of approved fluids. It’s a much more demanding performance bar than the legacy standards, so you have to demonstrate good overall performance in lab and screening tests and at the heart of that, a long pump test (essentially a test on a hydraulic rig) that operates under serious severe conditions, high speed high pressure high temperatures.
At the end of that they are looking for perfect equipment condition and fluid condition. They have to run that test themselves or through a licenced lab and process that’s been approved. There are very few fluids on the market at the moment that can demonstrate they meet that standard. Bosch Rexroth themselves designed this to exclude the bulk of existing fluids so they are looking to raise the performance bar. They’ve published a new list of approved fluids, and Shell Tellus are featured. As of today we are the only global supplier who can say they are in that position.
What market is Shell Tellus S2 MX/MV available in?
The market for the product is global and its developed globally. Looking at the product development, its tested in the UK, Germany, China, US and Japan. Its already been in field trial applications for many months in Asia Pacific, Europe and other markets.
It’s not initially going to be available in every country, but the north American launch ran parallel with the UK launch and its already launched in China and other parts of Asia Pacific and mainland Europe launches will soon follow in the coming weeks. By early 2017, 70 percent of our main product line will be converting over to the new fluid. The rest will follow over the coming years essentially as the supply chain as the base market completes that transition to this higher quality fluid.
How are the products effected by the different demands of different markets?
Our products are consistent globally. The products you buy in North America will be the same in China or the UK, but the sales and the promotion to customers is done locally with individual flavours. Some of that would be direct sales or third parties and very much done by local teams who tailor to what works best in those local markets.
Working across multiple markets, how does Shell Tellus stay in touch with the different economic pressures/demands of said markets?
Our commercial colleagues follow where each individual market is in its economic cycle. Is it in an upturn or a downturn? Is it a growing market? is it a market under pressure? There are the obvious global trends - markets in the East tend to be growing and the Western markets are growing or are static. We have to respond to that and you work with the appropriate market and the appropriate circumstances.
What trends are defining the fluid development industry?
We have quite a big service organisation within Shell that looks after the performance of the fluids in the aftermarket and the customers in the aftermarket and that works at different levels of complexity. There’s the traditional approach of providing basically an oil analysis where an operator would take a sample and send it to an analytical service who would do traditional analysis in a lab and send a fluid condition report back in a couple of weeks. That’s got a good place in the market and has been offered for many years and will continue to be offered.
There’s trends towards more local measurements of parameters, measurements by the customer using little black box equipment and the next stage of that is integrating more of the fluid into the machinery where there is something in the hardware itself monitoring the condition of the fluid. We have development teams working actively on that approach. We are working closely with OEMs to accommodate that and its very much a part of our way of thinking.
How does Shell respond to innovation and technological advancements?
We keep the portfolio under review. It’s a bit different to the automotive market where there’s a new turn of specifications every year, things evolve a little more slowly on the industry side. We aren’t developing every product simultaneously, but we have parallel efforts on the gear oil family, looking at a number of new products across different tiers there and there will be more to say on that space in the future. At the same, we are always looking across the portfolio to keep it fresh and ensure products are there for the entire sector.
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Axora: driving safety, sustainability and efficiency
“Axora was conceived to bring collaboration and industrial digital innovation to the next level,” pledges CEO Ritz Steytler. “We spoke with the heads of innovation and the operations leaders of oil & gas and metals & mining organisations. We understand the intense pressure they face to modernise their operations. We’re focused on offering solutions to support mining companies with the three biggest challenges they face: safety, sustainability and efficiency."
Safety, Sustainability & Efficiency
"We can help with everything from discovering the right solutions to solve specific problems, to evaluating physical innovation and then supporting the end to end process for actually getting that technology to deliver business value," continues Steytler. That’s realised through our support of the procurement cycle and helping companies with the deployment and maintenance of their chosen solutions to ensure they continue to deliver value where it’s needed most.”
Axora hosts over 150 innovative solutions from sector leaders to start-ups, universities, and consultancies. Examples include machine vision technology that identifies mineral ore contaminants three times faster than the human eye, and predictive modelling for oil rigs which uses built-in sensors and AI to maximise production. Axora's proven digital solutions help to reduce wasted investment, avoid duplication and accelerate business growth.
The World Economic Forum estimates digitalisation can create value to the tune of $400bn across the coming decade. However, the emergence of ‘digital mines’ isn’t just about the numbers. Digitalisation can transform mining into a far more sustainable enterprise by mitigating some of the big risks the industry faces. A digital mine can optimise operations, unleashing the power of data to understand and implement changes in the business.
With the right solutions it’s possible to effect radical changes in a process that is understood better. Solutions that have been road-tested across the oil and gas industry can deliver real benefits for mining companies, including early adopters like Glencore, explains Axora’s Mining Innovation Director Joe Carr: “Opex Group are using Machine Learning with an AI algorithm to pull in all the available sensor data to monitor a processing plant. Its solutions analyse output and look across all the pumps and motors to offer exact data on where to tweak them down. It’s cloud-based and can monitor, reduce and control operational emissions, optimise energy use and minimise environmental impact. It’s currently being used in the oil and gas industry and it's been shown to save up to 10% of power, but the driver of it was actually Co2.
“If you're running an oil platform, your power is essentially free because you're pumping it out of the ground. But in a mine the biggest power user, outside of the trucks and shovels, is the process plant. It uses around 21 kilowatt hours per tonne of processing power to run, right? Obviously, that's dependent on the plant, but it's a power-hungry situation. Diesel is not cheap, especially in remote locations. Being able to save five to 10% of your power usage for no issue in terms of production could be a big win for mining.”
Carr highlights there is also the real opportunity to significantly reduce Scope 1, Scope 2 and even into Scope 3 emissions where Opex Group’s solutions could be used in a smelter to go for the “low hanging fruit” and cut Co2 emissions. “It's a win-win all around, and yet it's a technology which the mining industry doesn't use today, but it exists in a parallel industry.”
To further reduce emissions, Axora is offering solutions which are involved in the scheduling and optimisation of haul truck fleets. “If your fleet is idling for even 10 minutes a cycle, that is wasted fuel,” notes Carr. “It just goes into the atmosphere. And very rarely do the drivers turn the trucks off because they don't want to be stopping and starting those big engines. The mine may be in an extreme climate so even something as basic as saving idling can contribute towards a company’s net zero targets.” The Axora platform also features a system to manage shipping and logistics. “Are you moving your material in the most effective way in terms of routing for fuel usage and speed?” asks Carr.
“Being able to program those variables in terms of Co2 tonnage produced offers new capabilities. We’re able to help our customers understand what they want to achieve. Scope 1 emissions might be the easiest to impact with the haul fleet. Scope 2 focuses on the processing plant and the downstream movement. Understanding what a mining company’s customers are using its materials for makes Scope 3 more difficult to impact – for iron ore it would be a steel melt…”
To that end, Axora offers a predictive maintenance system for aluminum smelting which Carr notes can reduce downtime by up to 20%. “Aluminum smelting tends to come from hydro which can be very clean – it’s energy intensive,” he explains. “But the same system could easily be applied to steel or copper processes where you don't want to be turning them on and off. You don't want to be running your autoclave in a gold mine with a varying sulfide input because the heat goes up and down and it messes with your recovery and you're using a lot more power to heat and cool your autoclave.”
The Axora Platform
“Challenge us and we will find it for you,” asserts Steytler when explaining how he envisages the Axora platform developing. “We aim to match a technology provider to a particular business buyer, somebody that has a real problem that needs to get solved. They can then collaborate to deploy that technology successfully.” Steytler is positioning Axora beyond the sales and procurement process. “There’s no such thing as on time and on budget with a digital transformation effort, right? It’s a difficult thing to achieve, we’re not talking about shrink-wrapped software. That’s why partnerships are extremely important and we can help facilitate those to deliver the value required.”
Reacting to Trends
Against the backdrop of record years for many mining companies – with copper and gold production and prices on the rise – what trends are the team at Axora seeing across the industry that will necessitate a response from its multi-solution platform? “Despite the uncertainties of the global pandemic, mining companies have taken a practical approach,” notes Carr. “What we’ve seen during the pandemic is that miners have realised they need to embrace the digitisation journey. The past year has proved to be a gateway with younger guys coming through the system ready for change.”
Carr highlights that with Covid, engineers couldn’t simply fly to West Africa or Chile so the door to digitsation opened. Where has he seen the biggest push? “How do we get the data we want and then what do we do with it?” he counters. “Miners have so much data that it's in Excel sheets, and it's got macros, and it's historically stored on a server somewhere that nobody's looked at for five years since it was sent out. Our clients' demands today are more around how do we do something with that data? Because we know the benefits are there. The sensor data around predictive maintenance and all these things exist, but they're having such a struggle to deal with it and deliver meaningful insights.”
However, Carr concedes it's a cyclical business. “If it comes down to buying another truck or buying a data server, what's going to get more tonnes out of the ground? But with the right data we can see what will actually benefit operations in the long term… That push towards digital has seen what we thought would take the next five years actually happen in one year because remote capabilities and enhancement to operations centres have advanced to meet demand. At Axora, we’re seeing mining companies assess solutions to improve health and safety on their sites by reducing members of the workforce exposed to risk and in harm’s way and keen to discover how they can drive efficiencies to make more tonnes for less. Ultimately, it’s part of our job to make it simple in terms of a value calculation.”
“Axora is here to accelerate digital transformation in the mining industry,” asserts Steytler. “We can simplify that process. And with investment in that transformation expected to reach $6.8trn between 2020 and 2023 as the world economy digitizes, there’s never been a better time to realise the benefits.”