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Castrol Marine: Lubricants and engine health must not be overlooked as alternative bunker fuels emerge

Without the proper lubricant, alternative marine fuels may only be a partial component in efficient and safe vessel operations, says Gianluca Marucci, Castrol Global Marine and Energy Technical Services Director.




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Gianluca Marucci, Castrol Global Marine and Energy Technical Services Director, shared an article with Singapore-based bunkering publication Manifold Times to remind the shipping industry that proper lubricants must not forgotten as alternative bunker fuels become the main area of focus in maritime decarbonisation: 

As the maritime industry looks to decarbonise its operations, alternative fuels have become the focus. Yet, there is a risk of overlooking one aspect that will be important to the utilisation of alternative fuels: the lubricant. Without the proper lubricant, alternative fuels may only be a partial component in efficient and safe vessel operations. And, if we want to ensure a safe, efficient, and lower-carbon shipping industry, we need to consider starting with the right lubricant.

The importance of lubricants in maritime decarbonisation

When things go wrong in an engine, they can go very wrong. From issues with critical machinery to overheating, the list of reasons for engine failures is long. One crucial aspect to consider for detecting issues with engine health is the lubricant used in the engine. Any flaw in the lubrication can be fatal. In fact, lubrication failure has consistently been the number one cause of engine failure for many years, and it is an expensive thing to get wrong, with the average claim cost for a lubrication failure being in the region of $560,000.  

In the past, the performance of a cylinder oil was largely based on its base number (BN). Now, as the industry explores different fuel types with new attributes and qualities required by engine fluids, choosing the right lubricant has become considerably more difficult. The wrong lubricant with the wrong fuel could cause significant engine damage that could result in downtime, loss of earnings, repair costs as well as risking the lives of seafarers. 

Therefore, the introduction of alternative fuels means that lubricant suppliers and OEMs must work together to ensure they have the right formulation to avoid any potential disruption to engine health. An example of this is Castrol’s close collaboration with MAN Energy Solutions (MAN ES) on our Cyltech 40 XDC cylinder oil, which can be used for ships operating on LNG and methanol, as well as conventional fuels. 

With changing regulations, engines becoming more complex, and alternative fuels becoming a reality, marine lubricants will play an important role in the shipping industry’s decarbonisation journey.  Shipowners and operators will need to leverage the most out of their lubricant to overcome the complexities with the utilisation of alternative fuels to ensure crew safety, engine health, and vessel emissions.

Monitoring matters

As the marine industry continues to evolve, monitoring of lubricant performance will only grow in importance. 

On an ongoing basis, it is crucial that operators use tools such as used-oil analysis data, test kits and expert condition monitoring advice to look out for any issues. With deep knowledge of lubricant and equipment interaction necessary, shipowners need collaborations to keep their operations in sync with the latest OEM recommendations and environmental legislation.

Meanwhile, the substantial human expertise and know-how to assess and underpin these activities will continue to be key. The most efficient and effective solution to an engine issue is to speak to an expert who can interpret the data provided, wherever they are in the world. At the end of the day, marine engines are valuable, yet vulnerable assets and the expertise and experience of the Castrol team can be invaluable in supporting reliable and safe operations.

Condition monitoring technology has evolved significantly to incorporate digital solutions to support human intelligence. Meanwhile, real time smart monitor analysis, can identify issues early, helping owners and operators to make informed decisions. With easy access to the necessary information for an accurate real-time picture of the system's state, lubricant suppliers can make use of digital tools and human expertise, to advise operators in advance when issues arise. The operators may then be able to take preventive action before any major  damage occurs.

Waiting is not an option

As the marine industry continues to evolve, it is necessary for lubricant providers to continue to step up and offer end-to-end solutions. Cutting-edge technology, combined with industry expertise and real-world experience, will enable lubricant suppliers to support the marine industry much more effectively.


Photo credit: Castrol Marine
Published: 25 March 2024

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Singapore: Gazpromneft Marine Lubricants Pte Ltd to be wound up voluntarily

A liquidator was appointed for the company for the purpose of winding-up affairs of the company, according to a notice released on Government Gazette.





RESIZED Drew Beamer

A notice was published on Monday (1 July) on the Government Gazette to inform the passing of several resolutions for Gazpromneft Marine Lubricants Pte Ltd on 21 June.

The resolutions set out below were duly passed:

Special Resolution

  1. THAT the Company be wound up voluntarily.
  2. THAT Bakulin Dmitriy Aleksandrovich, care of 50 South Bridge Road, #03-00, Singapore 058682, be and is hereby appointed Liquidator for the purpose of such winding-up.
  3. THAT the Liquidator be empowered to exercise the powers set out in article 23 of the Constitution of the Company, with the sanction of a special resolution of the Company. 

 Sole Member: GPN-Operational Management Limited Liability Company

In 2019, Manifold Times reported Gazpromneft Marine Lubricants starting to produce high-tech marine oils at a production facility in Singapore.

Localising lubricants production under the Gazpromneft Ocean brand at the AP Oil partner facility reportedly would cut delivery times for Gazprom Neft products to the Port of Singapore by up to two days, and to ports in Malaysia by up to four days.

Related: Gazprom Neft starts lubricants production from Singapore blending plant


Photo credit: Drew Beamer
Published: 2 July, 2024

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Gulf Marine expands Singapore fleet to meet customer demand for marine lubricant delivery

Fleet expansion, involving two marine barges and a supply vessel, will enable firm to serve a wider range of clients and also address increasing customer demand for marine lubricant delivery in Singapore.





Gulf Marine expands Singapore fleet to meet demand for marine lubricant delivery

Singapore-based marine lubricant supplier Gulf Marine on Thursday (16 April) announced the expansion of its Singapore fleet with the addition of two marine barges and a supply vessel.

The fleet expansion will enable the company to serve a wider range of clients and also address the increasing customer demand for lubricant delivery in Singapore. 

Gulf Marine expands Singapore fleet to meet demand for marine lubricant delivery

It also marked the beginning of its global fleet expansion programme, with plans to progressively expand fleets in other key ports worldwide over the next six to 12 months.

“Our commitment to excellence and customer satisfaction drives us to continuously enhance our services,” said Vicky Lew, Regional Operations Manager.

“The addition of these three new vessel enables us to better support our clients with timely and reliable delivery of marine lubricants, ensuring their vessels remain operational and efficient.”


Photo credit: Gulf Marine
Published: 20 May 2024

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Lubmarine: Supporting shipping’s decarbonisation towards a carbon-free future

Dr Olivier Denizart of Lubmarine, the marine lubricants business of TotalEnergies, discusses key findings on Lubmarine’s latest R&D projects on future bunker fuels.





Lubmarine: Supporting shipping’s decarbonisation towards a carbon-free future

Dr Olivier Denizart, Technical Manager at Lubmarine – the marine lubricants business of TotalEnergies – shares some of the key findings on Lubmarine’s latest R&D projects on future marine fuels including experiments on an ammonia-fuelled engine that it has been modified – and the critical importance that safety will have to play in shaping the implementation of new fuels:  

The last 18 months has seen the global shipping industry really start to accelerate its decarbonization journey.

LNG is now recognised as a mature and best immediate option to help reduce shipping’s CO2 emissions today, whilst at the same time providing the technological platform for the transition to new fuels including biofuels, ammonia and methanol.

As the speed of new fuel development ramps up, the challenge for lubricant manufacturers is to stay ahead of those changes to ensure that, when those fuels do become commercially viable, we have lubricant solutions available that are tried, tested and ready to support our customers as we evolve towards a carbon-free future.

From its inception over 70 years ago, Lubmarine has always embraced a pioneer spirit with the goal of developing and delivering market leading marine lubricants. And as we enter this multi-fuel future, this ethos remains at the forefront of our development – with a significant investment in our own R&D and a willing and active commitment to cross-industry collaboration.

Along with methanol, ammonia has been recognised as a viable fuel solution, one that, whilst offering opportunities towards GHG reduction targets, also poses key challenges from the perspectives of safety (both environmental and human) and practicality. Providing good combustion in a dual fuel engine, another advantage to shipping is that ammonia should face less competition with other areas of the transport sector – unlike some of the other fuel alternatives being considered.

Ammonia storage already exists in 120 ports globally, enabling both ship to shore and ship to ship bunkering solutions alongside reasonable liquefaction temperatures. But it is far from plain sailing when it comes to ammonia with significant challenges around its volumetric energy density and of course its deadly toxicity and the need for stringent safety solutions.

At the same time OEMs are developing NH3 engines with MAN ES and WinGD anticipating it will launch a two-stroke ammonia fuelled engine in 2024.

It’s a fuel solution we are actively researching here at Lubmarine, with our R&D teams having redesigned a 1.5 litre passenger car diesel engine to run on ammonia enabling us to run our own in-house tests to better understand the impact that ammonia will have on engines and specifically for us, the impact, and challenges for effective engine lubrication.

With any new fuel, we must understand the interactions and impacts of the relationship between lubricant, fuel, and engine to ensure that our lubricants are delivering the desired performance and, through lifecycle assessments, be assured that there will be no carbon generation.

It’s a methodology that starts in our labs with our ammonia engine oil development project.

Our Test Approach

From an initial perspective, we wanted to show that NH3 can interact with lubricant chemistry so our challenge is to fully understand its operating behaviours to enable us to adapt lubricant formulations to meet specific needs.

When it comes to lab testing, our key objective is to develop an engine oil technology that allows reliable, clean, and efficient use in Ammonia-fuelled internal combustion engines.

To meet these objectives, we need to:

Observe - lubrification challenges in a real engine environment - deposits, wear, corrosion, oil ageing.
Evaluate - sensitivity to engine oil composition.
Calibrate - laboratory test severity.

Our challenge is to understand the impact that NH3 has on oil components and their performances, the availability of NH3 ICE tests (performance, endurance), access to large engine prototypes and our need to run and understand evaluation test results.

Key observation and assessment areas when we are running ammonia engine tests include:

  • Ammonia dilution
  • Nitro-oxidation
  • Corrosion
  • Cylinder wall degreasing
  • Water handling
  • Deposit control
  • Material/Elastomer compatibility

Testing protocols look at three specific areas:

Oil formulation – including base oils and additives.
NH3 Alteration Tests –influence of temperature and crankcase gases composition.
Performance evaluation

2024 will be a very key year for us here at Lubmarine with regards to lubrication development to reflect new fuels.

Thanks to our R&D and OEM‘s partnership we’ll start lubricating tug boats using an ammonia-fuelled four-stroke engine this year.

On the methanol side, we are starting trails with methanol two-stroke commercial engines.

From our lab test results to date we have been able to analyse the oxidation and main characteristics of our lubricants where they have been adapted to methanol-fuelled engines.

What we have been able to do is widen our testing to incorporate actual field tests on these new engines which is providing invaluable data from which we are able to evaluate, implement and apply to further tests to support product development.


Photo credit: Lubmarine
Published: 20 March 2024

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