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Shell’s GTL technology for lubricants and fuels

For decades, Shell has pioneered ways of unlocking more value from natural gas, and the perfect example is our proprietary gas-to-liquids or GTL technology. Since Shell’s Pearl GTL plant in Qatar came on stream in 2011, it is now the world’s largest GTL plant capable of producing a wide range of products each day, including fuels (kerosene, diesel), chemical feedstocks (naphtha, paraffin), waxes, and of course, base oils.

Because Shell GTL base oils are made from small building blocks of methane, their molecular structures are highly consistent and essentially free of the impurities commonly found in base oils manufactured from crude oils. Consequently, Shell GTL base oils exhibit many attributes such as excellent low temperature characteristics, low volatility, high viscosity index, and outstanding response to additives. This makes them highly desirable for wide ranges of applications including lubricants and greases as well as process oils, transformer oils, and other specialty oils. Shell is the first company to produce lubricants made from natural gas using this GTL technology.

Shell develops and deploys leading-edge technology through three key pillars – innovation, understanding critical customer applications, and working in partnership with equipment manufacturers, customer as well as industry leaders. A specific example is that for engine oil applications, Shell technology teams have been highly successful in leveraging GTL base oils to formulate lighter viscosity grade, fuel economy lubricant that will meet future automotive requirements, by applying proprietary additive technologies and co-engineering with key OEMs and partners.

These new engine oils typically provide valuable product benefits, such as (1) enhanced viscosity control for easy cold start-up while maintaining oil performance in high temperatures; (2) reduced friction allowing for improved fuel economy benefits ; (3) better piston cleanliness resulting in more efficient engine operation, and (4) reduced oil consumption due to lower volatility. For many other applications including industrial, driveline, and specialty oils, Shell is now also offering portfolios of GTL-based, differentiated products with demonstrable functional and value enhancement.

A recent new addition to Shell’s comprehensive GTL technology toolkit is the proprietary isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) technique, which can reliably detect the presence of GTL components in mixtures of different kinds. Traceability enabled by this technique can be an effective & efficient tool for anti- counterfeiting effort as well as many other purposes.