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Innovations in low-carbon additive and base oil technologies

Innovations in low-carbon additive and base oil technologies

As the automotive landscape transforms, the rise of alternative powertrains is inevitable. With Bloomberg reporting that the peak of gas-powered vehicle sales occurred back in 2017, the shift toward non-internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles is gaining momentum. Projections from the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggest that electric vehicles (EVs) will make up over 50% of new car sales by 2035. This pivotal change underscores the industry’s evolution towards more sustainable practices.

However, the transition is not without its complexities. As discussed during F+L Week 2024 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, the persistence of ICE vehicles on the roads into 2040 is a reality we must address. With a typical vehicle fleet turnover spanning 10 to 15 years, millions of ICE vehicles will remain in use, necessitating innovations in low-carbon solutions for both new and existing vehicles.

Chevron Oronite’s strategic innovations

Emmanuelle Faure-Birchem
Emmanuelle Faure-Birchem

Chevron Oronite’s presentation, led by Emmanuelle Faure-Birchem, global product line manager, highlighted their commitment to this dual reality by developing additives that support a range of propulsion technologies including biofuels, hydrogen, and compressed natural gas. These initiatives are crucial for reducing the carbon footprint of the vast number of ICE vehicles that will continue to operate globally.

Oronite’s focus on developing formulations for re-refined base oil (RRBO) is particularly noteworthy. These efforts are essential in promoting a circular economy and reducing the lifecycle carbon footprint of automotive lubricants. Faure-Birchem also addressed the unique challenges posed by hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which face issues like fuel dilution, water buildup, and corrosion due to their operational patterns. Oronite’s development of a bench test method tailored to these conditions underscores their proactive approach in addressing the evolving needs of the automotive industry.

The adoption of hydrogen combustion engines (H2-ICE) presents another area of significant interest. Oronite’s intensive testing regime aims to tailor lubricant additives that enhance the durability and performance of H2-ICE, addressing the high moisture content these engines typically encounter. The successful completion of a rigorous 500-hour test on a 7.7-litre engine using SAE 10W-30 oil with a 0.9% sulfated ash lubricant additive demonstrates their capability in maintaining engine cleanliness and managing wear and corrosion effectively.

The role of synthetic lubricants in a low-carbon future

Alistair Westwood
Dr. Alistair Westwood

Dr. Alistair Westwood, global marketing manager at ExxonMobil, discussed how synthetic lubricants are helping enable the transition to a lower-carbon future in select technical applications and can play a bigger role going forward. The ExxonMobil executive highlighted the โ€œstep outโ€ performance of a new synthetic PAO technology for EVs. The synthesis and testing of more than 200 molecules led to the development of SpectraSynโ„ข MaX 3.5 PAO.

Taiji Yoshimura
Taiji Yoshimura

Taiji Yoshimura, an advanced professional in synthetic customer application development at ExxonMobil, presented the findings of efficiency testing conducted on the Tesla Model 3 drive unit. He indicated that e-fluid formulations incorporating ExxonMobilโ€™s novel PAO technology demonstrate improved energy efficiency compared to formulations based on Group III or Group III+ base oils.

Regulatory trends and future directions

The regulatory landscape continues to evolve, urging the industry toward safer and more environmentally responsible additives. Dr. Stuart McTavish of SI Group addressed this shift by introducing new antiwear and antioxidant technologies that comply with stricter regulations without compromising performance.

Stuart McTavish
Dr. Stuart McTavish

The proactive approach of industry leaders like Chevron Oronite, ExxonMobil, and SI Group in navigating both technological and regulatory challenges is vital. As they develop the next generation of automotive lubricants, their innovations play a critical role in achieving lower emissions and enhancing fuel efficiency.

The discussions at F+L Week 2024 highlighted the collective effort of the industry to adapt and innovate, ensuring a sustainable future for automotive technology.

To read the full version of this article in the Q3 2024 issue, subscribe to the digital edition of F+L Magazine.