Shell Lubricants opened up its newest technology center in Shanghai, China, last week to the first group of foreign journalists to tour the facility, which opened in March.
This is Shell’s third global center dedicated to research and development for lubricants and oils. The others are in Hamburg, Germany, and Houston here in the U.S.
Why China? Shell says Asia is the fastest-growing regional lubricants market in the world: it represented 43% of global volume in 2012. China is the fastest-growing and second-largest lubricants market in the world. Research shows it will overtake the U.S. as the world’s No. 1 market in the near future.
Research work is already under way at the new center, covering a wide range of product applications for the commercial vehicle industry including heavy-duty diesel engine oils, transmission fluids, as well as specialty oils and greases. The nine-story facility in a technology park has five floors dedicated to laboratories. It's located in one of China’s most high profile technology and innovation parks, near other well-known global companies such as Dow, GE, AstraZeneca and Borg Warner.
Although the primary reason for the new center is to get closer to the fast-growing Asian market, Shell officials told HDT it will have some relevance for lubricants in the North American market as well.
"We have researchers and scientists across the world," said Selda Gunsel, vice president global commercial technology. "They all work cooperatively, not in isolation, and that allows us to bring best practices from all parts of the world. They work closely with customers in the region to get market insights, and these are shared in this global network of technologists."
"We're operating a global network, so everything is integrated," explained Richard Tucker, GM technology, commercial fuels and lubricants. "We could have a lab in Timbuktu and it would still be integrated, but we like to have labs close to where trends are being set. Trends in China are going to impact the world globally." For instance, he notes, Caterpillar and Eaton are customers of China's largest transmission maker, FAST. Volvo and Chinese truck maker Dongfeng Motor are working together.
"The PC-11 products (the upcoming API oil classification) will be tested here as well," he said. "We'll do some field trials here with some different severity factors. And we will develop talent here as well from the Chinese population." There's also a world-leading university in tribology (the study of friction) in China that Shell is working with on basic research, as it does with MIT here in the U.S.
The investments in technology, R&D facilities and technical staff at the Shanhai facility will enable enhanced collaboration and joint development programs with original equipment manufacturers and improve technical services for customers and OEM partners. Players in this sector are looking for vehicles to be able to withstand high workloads and demanding work cycles, while maintaining efficiency.
The research work at the Shanghai facility focuses on lubricant product development and application for brands including Shell Rimula, Shell Rotella, Shell Tellus, Shell Gadus and Shell Spirax.
China was chosen as the location for the new Shell Technology Centre due to the central role the market plays in the company’s long-term growth strategy. Shell Technology Centre, Shanghai supports China and the wider Asia region covering countries such as India, Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. The facility also works closely with the other two Shell R&D centers in Hamburg, Germany and Houston, USA, and is part of a wider 10-center global network of Shell R&D centers.
Aimin Huang, general manager, Shell (Shanghai) Technology Limited, said; “On top of product research and development, an important part of our work is providing hands-on technical services to customers; working closely with them to help deliver more fuel efficient products and services. The laboratory facilities at the center in Shanghai will enable the running of field trials, performance demonstrations and bench-testing.”
For more photos, click here for a photo gallery. Watch for more stories from China this week from Editor in Chief Deborah Lockridge, including a visit to a Chinese truckstop.