Formulation flexibility

TPEO formulations give you the edge in a changing fuels and base stocks landscape

The marine market is looking for effective ways to reduce emissions and decarbonise while remaining competitive. Robert Glass, Infineum TPEO Product Manager, explains how the ability to offer flexible lubricant solutions is becoming increasingly important.

An increasing number of factors are influencing the marine world, from sustainability, emissions reduction, efficiency improvement and supply chain performance. This means trunk piston engine oils (TPEOs), used in medium speed four-stroke engine applications, are being formulated to meet an ever-expanding list of requirements. In recent years the emphasis has been on the changing fuels landscape.

Looking ahead, we can still see uncertainty in the quality of traditional fuels, which have become polarised at two different sulphur levels: those below 0.5% sulphur and those greater than 2.5% sulphur. There will also be an introduction of alternative fuels and increased market penetration of solutions such as methanol, bio-fuel, LNG and hydrogen. In addition, the disruption to supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with changes in the base oil market means there is an increasing need to formulate in higher quality base stocks, which became increasingly cost competitive and therefore attractive to the marine market.

To meet the specific needs of TPEOs formulated with Group II, Infineum developed, tested and gained OEM approval for a solution with improved asphaltene handling that also delivered the required level of engine cleanliness. However, as Rob Glass explains, with increasing complexity in the fuels landscape and cost pressures for the operators a key driver for today’s TPEO formulations is increased flexibility.

Flexibility built in

“When customers move from one base oil group to another the need to consider aspects of the formulation beyond cleanliness, such as viscosity and base number control and targeted fuel choice, are of equal importance. And we are generally finding that our customers are relying on us to meet a broader range of requirements. These might be based on any number of criteria including performance, logistics and supply considerations, fuel type, base oil quality and regulations. Increasingly what we see is that, depending on the balance of these requirements, different solutions are needed for different customers – or sometimes a specific customer may need a matrixed formulation approach."

"Infineum has a broad toolkit of components available and we see several of these continuing to play a pivotal role for TPEO formulations going forward. This includes salicylate detergents, which mitigate against many of the uncertainties presented by changes in the fuels and base oil landscape. Our TPEO portfolio already covers a broad formulation space, which allows us complete flexibility when building packages specifically designed to meet the needs of our customers and the industry as a whole.”

While a single package may make sense in some situations, as Rob explains, for others this approach is not such a good fit. “A single package may suit some customers, for example, those operating regionally, where optimising the formulation for a certain base oil allows them to get the best results in relation to oil performance and oil life. But this can have limitations and ‘give-aways’ in for example treat rate vs. performance requirements.”

“We are finding that more of our customers are looking for increased flexibility, perhaps for example to enable them to change base oil or to cover a wider range of fuel quality.”

“This drives optimisation in a certain direction, which in turn drives the need to consider the TPEO formulation. What is important here is that the approach we take lies within the established performance demonstrated across the formulation ranges.”

Optimising operations

In recent years the need to meet emissions regulations while also improving margins has been driving a number of decisions regarding fuel choice vs. aftertreatment installation and engine operating conditions. Now the wider adoption of sustainability goals and new carbon reduction targets mean the industry must look again at ways to optimise its operations.

“I think the range of options that are emerging in response to net-zero targets and sustainability goals will increase the need for the industry to be more agile."

“A modular formulation approach may enable some customers to remain competitive and be more sustainable. For example, in some situations we have calculated that by including an additive that is not needed, unnecessary CO2 emissions - sometimes in the region of 20% more - can be generated.”

“I can see customer requirements continuing to evolve as they are influenced by changing emissions legislation, the availability of new fuels and the growing need to consider sustainability and environmental impacts. This may require a different approach to future TPEO formulations particularly in light of future chemical restrictions and as we work to meet our own sustainability and net-zero targets.”

TPEO formulation flexibility

The number of factors influencing the marine world is continuing to grow, Rob suggests this is not only expanding the list of requirements lubricant customers have but also influencing the choices they make. “All this activity will drive the need for new ideas to help meet regulations, reduce costs, simplify operations and improve performance. In my view, to get the best results for our customers, the best approach would be a flexible TPEO formulation approach, with base stock flexibility built in and the capability to include boosters where they are required and necessary to meet specific needs.”

“Infineum has the fundamental additive understanding and formulation knowledge necessary to create advanced lubricants. We are applying decades of experience in additive technology into re-engineering (or re-thinking) our TPEO formulations in order to deliver against current targets and meet new requirements as they emerge.”

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