SK Lubricants announces entry into thermal management business
Photo courtesy of SK Lubricants

SK Lubricants announces entry into thermal management business

SK Lubricants, a subsidiary of South Korea’s SK Innovation, announced an equity investment of USD25 million in GRC Inc. (Green Revolution Cooling), a liquid immersion cooling solution provider for data centers based in Texas, U.S.A. 

The investment will accelerate SK Lubricant’s liquid-based thermal management business and execution of its Carbon to Green ESG strategy.

A signing ceremony was held on March 29 presided by SK Lubricants CEO Cha Gyu-tak and GRC CEO Peter Poulin.

As part of this investment and collaboration, the companies will jointly develop high-grade single phase immersion coolants and liquid immersion cooling systems for data centers, working together to drive rapid standardization and commercialization of these systems and increasing their presence and dominance in the market. Together, the companies will also strive to drive awareness and recognition of liquid immersion cooling as the best choice for data center sustainability and the cornerstone of data center designs that reduce carbon emissions and ultimately generating carbon credits.

Liquid immersion cooling solutions are clearly positioned to be the cooling technology of choice for next-generation thermal management, delivering high cooling efficiency to data center servers by immersing them in high-performance non-conductive coolant. Compared with conventional chilled air-cooling, liquid immersion cooling can lower total data center power usage by 30% by eliminating most of the energy used for cooling, dramatically reducing power usage and thus reducing carbon emissions as well. 

The industry expects the liquid immersion cooling market to grow rapidly because lower power usage leads to an approximately 20% reduction in investment and operating costs compared with air cooling, an obvious advantage that makes the choice of this technology more economically attractive. Air cooling is one of the most common conventional thermal management technologies that circulates cold air around and uses fans to cool data center servers. A disadvantage of air cooling is that due to air’s poor thermal conductivity, much more electricity is consumed due to the operation of pumps, chillers, and fans compared with liquid cooling solutions.

SK Lubricants has strong capabilities in its traditional lubricants business, which includes base oils and lubricants. Leveraging its capabilities, the company seeks to use premium base oil, Group III in particular, as a premium single-phase immersion coolant to substantially grow its thermal management line of business in the future and to become a liquid-based thermal management solution provider.

With this investment in the liquid immersion cooling technology for data centers, SK Lubricants will further look closely into different options to make the business of liquid immersion for thermal management more tangible. The company expects liquid immersion cooling will help reduce power usage, contributing to carbon emission reduction and enabling it to implement its Carbon to Green ESG strategy.

“As the AI, the VR and the self-driving industries are gaining traction, the high-density data center market is expected to grow dramatically,” said Cha. “I believe this equity investment in GRC will maximize cooperation between the two companies and help us be the first mover in the market while helping us grow into a liquid-based thermal management solution provider and accelerating the execution of our financial story in the long term.”

GRC is a pioneer in the data center liquid immersion cooling field that has carried out research and development for more than 12 years, accumulating business experience, key technologies, and know-how in liquid immersion cooling. As an authority in liquid immersion cooling, GRC owns many patents for the technology and has built strong partnerships with data center companies, with a goal of accelerating mainstream adoption of the technology and expanding market share.

“We’re delighted to partner with SK Lubricants, and this most recent investment will allow us to expand the important work we are doing to future proof the cooling infrastructure of data centers globally,” said Poulin. “With the increased attention on data center efficiency and more broadly proposed environmental reporting standards for organizations across the globe, the investment will also help GRC contribute to a more sustainable data center environment while having a positive impact on the bottom line.”