South Africa does not yet have hydraulic system original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs), which limits innovation at local level, says oil and gas producer Shell South Africa’s commercial technical manager, Raymond Abraham.
Hydraulics OEMs are traditionally based in Europe and the US. Shell’s research and development centres, which are based in Chester, in the UK, in Hamburg, in Germany, and Houston, in the US, have always worked closely with hydraulics OEMs, he states.
Shell South Africa makes recommendations and submits proposals for product changes, developments and new ideas on a yearly basis, Abraham notes. Appropriate suggestions are then fed into the global development pipeline.
“The company conducts many field trial studies to validate products developed in its research centres,” Shell mining lubricants product application specialist Joseph Galdes says.
Shell completed a field trial with gold producer Barrick Gold, in Australia, during the first quarter of 2011, to compare the energy efficiency of the synthetic Shell Tellus S4 ME hydraulic fluid with that of Shell Tellus S2 ME hydraulic fluid.
“This study was conducted on a hydraulic motor and started in June 2010,” Galdes notes. At the end of the trial, energy savings of 5.3% were achieved with Shell Tellus S4 ME.
Further, Shell launched its Shell Tellus S3 M lubricant in the second quarter of this year.
This product increases hydraulic pump life and reduces maintenance costs, as well as health, safety, security and envi- ronmental impacts, Galdes states.
Shell Tellus S3 M can also help protect components from damage and provide customers with significantly less wear on equipment, the company states.
The product meets the requirements of a range of industry bodies and equipment manufacturers, it adds.
In addition, the product is an ashless technology, which can deliver up to twice the longevity of Shell’s conventional mainstream products, with improved pump protection and high efficiency levels, Shell explains.
“Engineered to work under hot and heavy-load conditions, it is suitable for most manufacturing and mobile equipment operations,” Galdes notes.
The lubricant’s reduced environmental impact can help progressive operators manage the environmental impact of their overall operations.
“Currently, we are considering ways to further develop Shell Tellus S3 M and will introduce a more advanced fluid onto the market in the next couple of years,” Galdes notes, adding that continuous innovation is a focus for Shell.
Shell asserts that challenges in the hydraulics sector also relate to the mining and business sectors.
In the mining industry, customers seek to increase their total cost of ownership to ensure that investment in large and expensive equipment delivers an appropriate return, the company states.
“This leads to higher demand for extended asset life and has become a continuous focus for Shell,” Galdes explains.
In addition, he notes that hydraulics OEMs are building larger hydraulic units that allow for the manufacture of larger excavators, decreasing the need for multiple smaller ones and emphasising the criticality of maintenance, as downtime is prohibitive.
“All industries have a responsibility to increase energy efficiency and reduce energy and maintenance costs. South African industries are also becoming more sensitive to carbon dioxide emissions and environmental impacts.
“These challenges are constant and continuous development and innovation are needed in these fields,” Galdes states.
Further, he notes that a common mobile equipment hydraulics challenge is leaking fluid from burst hydraulic hoses, owing to falling rocks in mining operations, higher operating temperatures and wear.
Maintenance can, to an extent, help pre- vent this problem and more advanced monitoring techniques can also be used to monitor hose temperatures and pressures, Galdes explains.
He adds that current hydraulic challenges can be tackled through a combination of approaches. “Changing a product is not a silver bullet. Shell, therefore, focuses on providing technical support.
“We have lubricants technical advisers that continuously follow up with customers on best practice. It is not only about having the expertise to recommend the right product but also about working with the customer to maximise the value the customer can get out of it,” Galdes notes.
Shell states it has emerging technologies entering the market to assist in energy efficiency and emissions challenges, which it aims to tackle through strategic partnerships with OEMs.
The local hydraulics market is fairly mature, with new business opportunities arising beyond South Africa’s borders. As such, there are opportunities for the development of energy-efficient hydraulic oils in the local market, Abraham states.
Current energy efficiency and emissions challenges also determine the type of hydrau- lic products entering the market, Galdes points out, adding that these challenges have created a need for improved fuel economy through the use of diesel additives.