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Q&A with Shell Tellus Product Developer on all things hydraulic fluids

Who are you and what is your involvement in Shell Tellus? Dr Mark Draper, Product Developer, Shell Tellus Range of Hydraulic fluids – mineral oil...

Dale Benton
|Nov 22|magazine21 min read

Who are you and what is your involvement in Shell Tellus?

Dr Mark Draper, Product Developer, Shell Tellus Range of Hydraulic fluids – mineral oil hydraulics, anything with a Tellus name is my product

Why the name Shell Tellus?

Tellus is the family name for our hydraulic fluids. Tellus has actually been around for around 70 years when it was created in 1947.

You recently launched the Tellus S2 MX/VX, what is Shell Tellus S2 MX/VX?

Our two products in this instance are Tellus S2 MX/VX. S2 denotes the main line main stream product. MX is targeted for stationary factory type applications. VX has a wider temperature operating window and optimised for outdoor mobile use. As part of the family we have S3 and S4 top tier products. They bring special properties and differentiated specifications dependent on the customer requirements.

How can a mining company/operator benefit from Shell Tellus hydraulic fluid?

I don’t think a mining operator or company would be any different in principle to any other user. What they are looking for is to protect their equipment and ensure it lasts as long as it is possibly able to last. We and the customers want the fluid to last a s long as possible between oil drains and changes. So you want to make the maximum oil drainage force you can, you want to be comfortable up to the OEM recommended service intervals and even beyond in some cases. It’s that piece of mind, reassuring you have that robust oil life.

During that oil interval and service life you want to maintain the properties of the fluid as close as possible to the day it was first put into the machinery. You don’t want to drag your tail off over 22,000 hours then change it and get another tail off, you want to do it as consistent as possible over the full cycle. That’s the portfolio of benefits that these new fluids are designed to bring to the market. Equipment protection, longer oil life and the consistency of operation and efficiency of operation during the service interval.

What makes it better than others?

One thing we aren’t aiming to do here is not chase down the cheapest price of fluid we can, that creates a false economy. The way we develop the fluid is to concentrate on making sure we achieve high levels pf performance. We demonstrate the wear protection, the life and the efficiency of the fluid. That begs the question, could you could go with a cheaper fluid? Yes, and on day one and for the first few days/weeks you may have cost savings, but if your equipment is wearing out more quickly, you have to change the oil more quickly and the performance while the fluid is in there degrades quickly which it will do with a lower quality fluid – it creates false economy. You might have a small initial saving from the fluid but extra downtime and shorter intervals and shorter equipment life in the long run.

What is the Bosch Rexroth approval standard and how does this impact fluid product development?

If you look at the way a fluid is qualified for service, there are various levels of manufacturer’s approval we must meet. The main approving bodies at the most basic equipment level would be the hydraulic pump manufacturers. So, we don’t have to go to every single component in the hydraulic system, the cylinders the filters and the coolers. It’s very much the pump that is the stressed component in the system and it is the pump manufacturers that dominate the basic equipment approvals. Traditionally, they have come from around three major companies – Parker Denison, France, Eton Hydraulics, North America, Bosch Rexroth, Germany – they are the three main players. Those performance standards have been relatively consistent over the last 10-15 years. But the world doesn’t stand still. Customers and users are now demanding more. They are demanding more value, more return from their investment. The fluid itself is having to work harder in the equipment as it is being used more intensely. The equipment is getting smaller and more compact; the fluid is circulating more quickly. If you’ve got smaller amounts of fluid doing more of the work it becomes much more stressful on the fluid itself.

Bosch Rexroth are taking the lead at the moment and they have recognised that the plain vanilla hydraulic fluid that might have met the standard of 10-15 years ago no longer applies. It’s no longer adequate. It won’t adequately protect equipment in more demanding modern applications. They have obsoleted their old approvals and listings and started again with a new listing of approved fluids. It’s a much more demanding performance bar than the legacy standards, so you have to demonstrate good overall performance in lab and screening tests and at the heart of that, a long pump test (essentially a test on a hydraulic rig) that operates under serious severe conditions, high speed high pressure high temperatures.

At the end of that they are looking for perfect equipment condition and fluid condition. They have to run that test themselves or through a licenced lab and process that’s been approved. There are very few fluids on the market at the moment that can demonstrate they meet that standard. Bosch Rexroth themselves designed this to exclude the bulk of existing fluids so they are looking to raise the performance bar. They’ve published a new list of approved fluids, and Shell Tellus are featured. As of today we are the only global supplier who can say they are in that position.

What market is Shell Tellus S2 MX/MV available in?

The market for the product is global and its developed globally. Looking at the product development, its tested in the UK, Germany, China, US and Japan. Its already been in field trial applications for many months in Asia Pacific, Europe and other markets.

It’s not initially going to be available in every country, but the north American launch ran parallel with the UK launch and its already launched in China and other parts of Asia Pacific and mainland Europe launches will soon follow in the coming weeks. By early 2017, 70 percent of our main product line will be converting over to the new fluid. The rest will follow over the coming years essentially as the supply chain as the base market completes that transition to this higher quality fluid.

How are the products effected by the different demands of different markets?

Our products are consistent globally. The products you buy in North America will be the same in China or the UK, but the sales and the promotion to customers is done locally with individual flavours. Some of that would be direct sales or third parties and very much done by local teams who tailor to what works best in those local markets.

Working across multiple markets, how does Shell Tellus stay in touch with the different economic pressures/demands of said markets?

Our commercial colleagues follow where each individual market is in its economic cycle. Is it in an upturn or a downturn? Is it a growing market?  is it a market under pressure? There are the obvious global trends - markets in the East tend to be growing and the Western markets are growing or are static. We have to respond to that and you work with the appropriate market and the appropriate circumstances.

What trends are defining the fluid development industry?

We have quite a big service organisation within Shell that looks after the performance of the fluids in the aftermarket and the customers in the aftermarket and that works at different levels of complexity. There’s the traditional approach of providing basically an oil analysis where an operator would take a sample and send it to an analytical service who would do traditional analysis in a lab and send a fluid condition report back in a couple of weeks. That’s got a good place in the market and has been offered for many years and will continue to be offered.

There’s trends towards more local measurements of parameters, measurements by the customer using little black box equipment and the next stage of that is integrating more of the fluid into the machinery where there is something in the hardware itself monitoring the condition of the fluid. We have development teams working actively on that approach. We are working closely with OEMs to accommodate that and its very much a part of our way of thinking.

How does Shell respond to innovation and technological advancements?

We keep the portfolio under review. It’s a bit different to the automotive market where there’s a new turn of specifications every year, things evolve a little more slowly on the industry side. We aren’t developing every product simultaneously, but we have parallel efforts on the gear oil family, looking at a number of new products across different tiers there and there will be more to say on that space in the future. At the same, we are always looking across the portfolio to keep it fresh and ensure products are there for the entire sector.


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