Royal Dutch Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil and gas company, will establish a new lubricants technical centre in China to cash in on the booming automotive industry in Asia-Pacific.
Gunsel: Partnerships will be made easier
The new research centre, staffed by local scientists and engineers and anticipated to open next March, will focus mainly on next-generation automotive and industrial lubricants and greases.
Selda Gunsel, the vice-president of global commercial technology, said the new complex will be one of Shell's main centres apart from its three innovation hubs in Houston, Amsterdam and Bangalore.
"Based on our previous experience, building partnerships with original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) is difficult, because they are far away. That's why we want to be close to our customers, particularly the OEMs, to co-engineer our products," she said, adding that the centre wishes to work with research institutes in the region.
Shell has already embarked upon partnerships in Asia such as developing passenger car engines with Geely in China and Tata in India and emission engines with China's Fast Auto Drive Group.
Ms Gunsel said Shell is developing a wide range of fuels to support rising global energy demand, which is expected to double by 2050, with the population set to increase to 9 billion from 7 billion at present.
"This is a very big problem, and there are no single solutions. For example, for fuel we are looking at low-carbon fuels such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) and biofuels," she said.
LNG is relatively clean with better emissions, as it has no sulphur or heavy metals. The fuel is also affordable and abundant, she said.
"But to make it successful for road transport, we have to work with gas engine manufacturers such as Caterpillar and Volvo," said Ms Gunsel.
She also stressed the importance of developing second-generation biofuels that do not compete with the food supply such as straw or crop-based biofuels that Shell is in the process of researching.
Shell is also looking to bring its gas-to-liquids (GTL) technology to Asia.
GTL's application in diesel has been commercialised in the Netherlands and Germany, while some trials launched in very crowded cities such as Shanghai proved its benefits in terms of lowering emissions and improving air quality.
Shell spends US$1.2-1.3 billion on research and development each year, the highest among international oil companies, said Ms Gunsel.
The group also plans to introduce E20 in Thailand later this year in support of government policy after selling E10 for more than five years.
About the author
- Writer: Nanchanok Wongsamuth
Position: News Reporter