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In a new white paper, Setting sail for 2050: Imagining the future of marine lubrication, to be published this week, the energy major highlights that: ‘Next generation engines will operate at higher pressures and combustion temperatures, creating a far more severe environment for lubricating oils.’

The paper considers how the changes demanded of shipping in the light of 2050 environmental targets will impact on cylinder lubrication.

As Steve Walker, Global Marine Equipment Builder Manager at ExxonMobil, explains in his introduction to the report: ‘Driven by regulatory and commercial pressure, the progression towards more efficient engines and lower sulphur fuels will require increasingly sophisticated technology from bow to stern.

‘This is especially true in the area of cylinder lubrication, where higher levels of performance will be instrumental in meeting evolving engine needs.’

Walker also emphasises that preparation for the changes ahead must begin sooner rather than later.

‘The 2050 deadline may seem far away, but vessels being designed and commissioned today may still be on the water in 30 years, rendering the timescale rather more immediate,’ he says.

The paper notes that as OEMs continue to work on pushing the boundaries of engine design, ‘there is a pressing need for cylinder lubricants to “do more”’. Furthermore, failure to choose the correct lubricants for modified or new engine designs could potentially result in engine damage, higher maintenance costs, and increased engine downtime.

Keeping pace with the evolution of engine design will require more advanced, higher quality oil formulations, and the white paper highlights that: ‘Cylinder lubricants of the future can, therefore, be expected to offer improved high-temperature viscosity, greater thermal stability and better detergency.

‘Product lifecycles are also likely to shorten significantly, favouring suppliers who can invest heavily in R&D to keep pace with engine builders’ performance requirements.’

As shipping transitions to an increasingly multi-fuel future in order to meet 2050 emission targets, owners and operators should also make preparations for the use of alternative fuels, as well as more fuel switching. Putting strategies in place to cope with this increasing complexity will require owners to place a ‘growing emphasis on strong relationships with fuel and lubricants suppliers, as well as on lubrication solutions that meet their changing needs’.

The paper also points to a future where cylinder oils will be required to control deposit levels more than ever before, while ‘Detergency and oxidation control will become increasingly important, and we may even see oils that are compatible with multiple fuel types’.

In the run up to 2050, a rise in onboard digitalisation will be accompanies by increase in performance data and, given the introduction of more complex engine and fuel technology, it is imperative that full use is made of such information resources.

ExxonMobil emphasises that: ‘It has never been more important to start planning for tomorrow, particularly if you are considering purchasing new build vessels now and running them for their full lifecycle - by which point the 2050 deadline will be upon us.

And the paper concludes: ‘Lubrication will be a critical factor in helping newer, more efficient engines achieve optimum performance.

‘Faced with an ever-expanding operational envelope, next generation cylinder oils will require a far greater investment in development and testing, and reformulations will become more common. In parallel, cutting-edge condition monitoring platforms will play a growing role in identifying potential issues and offering solutions to mitigate them.’

The new white paper, Setting sail for 2050: Imagining the future of marine lubrication, can be accessed here


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