chevron sailing a collaborative route to support maritime’s lower carbon future

A key enabler of the maritime sector’s transition to a lower carbon future will most certainly be the adoption of alternative fuels. Already a mix of lower carbon fuels is emerging, and this trend will accelerate rapidly over the coming few years. To ensure that the appropriate lubricants for all such fuels are available, Chevron is collaborating closely with stakeholders across the entire value chain. 

As shipping strives to find ways to comply with the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, it is clear that no single solution exists, and that no individual company has all the answers. Collaboration is, therefore, essential. Since the accepted consensus is that alternative marine fuels will play a central role in lowering emission levels, Chevron is working closely with engine manufacturers, industry associations, customers, and internal company partners to match the lubricants used to the range of fuels entering the market.



Staying abreast of engine developments


Engine manufacturers have long been able to offer dual-fuel engines capable of operating with both conventional marine diesel and gaseous fuels, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG). Biofuels can be used in most diesel engines as a drop-in solution that does not require any engine modifications, and the fuel mix is beginning to include methanol and ammonia, as well as hydrogen. As this engine development work continues, Chevron Marine Lubricants (CML) focuses on staying abreast of all engine developments and creating the appropriate lubricating oils. 

One important aspect of CML’s work has been to develop an oil that could be used with both gaseous fuels, such as LNG, and low-sulphur liquid fuels, such as distillate and biofuels, without the need to match one oil to one fuel. Here, collaborative actions with engine manufacturers have been essential. 
For example, the company’s development of a new lubricating oil, HDAX 9700, involved extensive field testing with MAN Energy Solutions. The new oil is approved for use with MAN’s four-stroke engines running on either LNG or distillate fuels with a sulphur content of up to 1,000 parts per million (0.10%). HDAX 9700 has also successfully completed testing on a Wärtsilä dual-fuel engine. The oil’s purpose is to provide a solution for engines that run on multiple liquid and gaseous fuels, and for applications that require a low sulphated ash lubricant. 
“HDAX 9700 brings many benefits for operators of four-stroke engines. We worked to develop an optimised engine oil that could be used with multiple fuels without the need to specifically match one oil to one fuel, be it diesel, natural gas, LNG, compressed natural gas (CNG) or biofuel,” explained Luc Verbeeke, Senior Staff Engineer at Chevron Marine Products. 
Following collaborative discussions, this new oil underwent a two-year study to assess its reaction in a medium-speed engine operating with pure, 100 percent biofuel, or FAME (fatty acid methyl ester). FAME is produced from vegetable oils, animal fats or waste cooking oils by transesterification, where various oils (triglycerides) are converted to methyl esters. This is the most widely available type of biodiesel in the industry and is often blended with regular marine diesel.

In particular, the tests studied the effect on selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems and diesel particulate filters (DPFs). Exhaust aftertreatment manufacturers require oils with lower levels of sulphated ash, phosphorus and sulphur. Failure to use the correct oil can cause plugging or poisoning degradation. The concern is that there is insufficient ash containing components to provide enough alkalinity to protect against acidic corrosion. 
The biodiesel tests proved no negative effects on either engine performance or after-treatment systems. Except for viscosity loss during biofuel operation, all other used oil analyses remained well within the engine manufacturer’s allowable limits at all times.

Chevron sailing a collaborative route to support maritime’s lower carbon future Chevron sailing a collaborative route to support maritime’s lower carbon future

An industry alliance 

An industry alliance between Chevron Marine Lubricants and the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation (GCMD) has underlined the significant advances being made in the use of biofuels for marine applications.  
As part of a larger effort to establish an assurance framework for drop-in green fuels, GCMD launched a pilot that comprises a series of supply chain trials. The first two supply chain trials involved five vessels and approximately 4,700 tonnes of biofuel blends. 
During the first supply chain trial, Chevron conducted concurrent tests onboard the Singapore Voyager, a very large crude carrier (VLCC) operating with a fuel blend of 80% HSFO and 20% cooking oil methyl ester (UCOME), a so-called B20 blendand investigated the performance of its lubricating oils. 
As a result of these tests, Chevron was able to determine that its Taro Ultra 140 cylinder oil and Veritas 800 Marine 30 crankcase oil can be matched with a blend of biofuel and high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO). 
These tests marked an important breakthrough in understanding the compatibility of marine lubricants with biofuels. Chevron’s post-voyage analysis confirmed that the ship’s engones sustained mechanical integrity. 
Since the marine sector has little experience with blends of UCOME and HSFO, these separate pilots by GCMD and Chevron represent an important step in providing assurances regarding the possibilities for the wider adoption of biofuels by the shipping industry. 

Chevron’s continuing cooperation with marine engine manufacturers includes analytical evaluations and testing programmes with various biofuels currently available to determine their compatibility with different lubricants. 



A transition based on flexibility and efficiency 


Fuel flexibility and efficiency gains are broadly acknowledged as being central elements in achieving lower greenhouse gas emissions from shipping. In seeking to comply with emissions regulations, more and more owners and operators are looking to switch to lower carbon alternative fuels, while seeking efficiency gains that can lower fuel consumption. 
Engine lubricants need to be in-step with this ongoing transition. To allow vessel operators to switch from gas to low sulphur diesel and biofuels, without the need to change the lubricant each time, versatility is needed. This is emphasised in Chevron’s important development of its HDAX 9700 lubricant.  
The hybrid technology controls ash accumulation in combustion chambers to minimise the risk of pre-ignition, as well as the rough engine operation that can be linked to engine misfire and detonation. The HDAX 9700 lubricant developed by Chevron is formulated to offer good oxidation and nitration resistance, with a strong alkaline reserve that has the ability to help protect against the effects of acid attack and oxidation. This significantly prolongs the service life of the oil. It therefore promotes both engine efficiency and fuel flexibility, the prerequisites for future regulatory compliance. 



A difficult voyage requiring navigational skills 


The maritime sector’s rapid transition to lower carbon energy sources is a complex process that requires many pieces of a vast puzzle to fall into place. It is a transition that affects all aspects of the industry; owners, operators, port authorities, suppliers, manufacturers, infrastructure developers, and the entire supply chain. 
The International Maritime Organisation’s greenhouse gas reduction targets are demanding. The revised goals are for net zero greenhouse gas emissions to be reached by, or around, 2050, with the strategy being to commit to supporting the use of alternative zero or near-zero fuels by 2030, with checkpoints in 2030 and 2040. Navigating the channels needed to arrive at this destination will require skill and determination. 
While various technologies are being introduced to lower emissions, it remains almost certain that marine engines will continue to be the prime means of propulsion and power for ships. Electric and hybrid solutions will naturally play a role, as will fuel cells eventually, but engines operating on lower emission fuels will be at the centre of the industry’s voyage in search of net zero greenhouse gas emissions. 
For this reason, efficient engine lubrication is, and will increasingly be, essential for achieving the efficiency and performance levels essential for compliance. The importance of Chevron’s development and testing programmes cannot, therefore, be underestimated. These include not only the development of new lubricants, but also supporting digital tools, such as the company’s Fluid Analysis and Trending (FAST™) digital solution. 
FAST™ is an onboard app that monitors the condition of marine engine oil. The better the condition of the oil, the better it can help improve fuel efficiency, thereby lowering emissions and reducing cost.  
In finding the shortest and most effective route to lower carbon marine operations, the various industry stakeholders can all make valuable contributions.  Collaboration has to be at the front and centre of this ongoing transition if the IMO’s targets are to be realised.



Originally published in Dry Bulk Magazine, May 2024