PennEnergy Q&A: Using synthetic lubricants to achieve productivity and sustainability targets

As the demand for reliable energy continues to grow worldwide, it’s clear that oil and gas will continue to be a major source for global energy supplies.

To meet this increasing demand, oil and gas producers must work to enhance equipment availability, reliability and worker safety.

A proactive equipment maintenance strategy is essential for both onshore and offshore applications, as operations are located in increasingly remote areas and equipment is subjected to harsh conditions, such as high temperatures and high loads and pressures.

One of the most essential steps to a successful proactive maintenance program is to utilize high-performance synthetic oils and greases that are expertly formulated to deliver exceptional, long-lasting equipment protection in these demanding applications.

Recently, PennEnergy caught up with Travis Lail, marketing advisor, ExxonMobil Lubricants & Petroleum Specialties Company, to discuss how lubricant selection can help oil and gas producers increase productivity, improve safety and minimize environmental impact. 

Q1: What are some of the key challenges that companies in the oil and gas industry face today? 

Today, leading oil and gas producers are continuing to pursue reserves in even harsher environments.

As they pursue the challenge of gathering harder to access supplies, companies are looking for the best solution that can help them become more competitive, while at the same time maintaining the highest standards of safety and sustainability. 

Q2: What role do lubricants play in the oil and gas industry? 

Lail: Lubricants are the lifeblood of equipment that finds, produces, processes and transports the energy supplies that we rely on. 

Selecting high-performance, technologically advanced lubricants can help oil and gas explorers and producers meet and exceed production targets more safely and more efficiently, while offering many sustainability-related benefits - such as reduced energy consumption and less oil waste. 

To best protect the critical equipment that drives their day-to-day production, such as gas engines and turbines, many oil and gas producers now, more than ever, are realizing the benefits of choosing high-performance synthetic oils and greases. 

Q3: How are ExxonMobil lubricants used by companies in the oil and gas sector to achieve productivity and sustainability targets?

Lail: For more than 100 years, ExxonMobil has developed advanced lubricant technologies that are dependable, durable and provide exceptional protection.

Working closely with customers and leading equipment builders has helped us to gain unique insights into their latest innovations and lubrication requirements. These insights are the foundation from which ExxonMobil’s research scientists and lubricant formulators build cutting-edge lubricants. 

This approach makes the products highly effective in the equipment they lubricate, meeting or exceeding customers' stringent demands.

For example, the company’s Mobil SHC-brand of synthetic lubricants are expertly formulated through extensive research and testing conducted with leading equipment manufacturers. They offer a valuable tool for oil and gas producers who want to maintain high levels of reliability and safety that support productivity.

Mobil SHC synthetic lubricants can last up to six times longer, with upper operating temperature limits that can typically reach 50°C (90°F) higher than mineral oils. As well as helping to improve productivity, there are also associated environmental and safety benefits. These potential benefits may be realized, because during any maintenance event there is an increase in risk of injury or leakage. Consequently, the longer equipment can run for, the better all round.

In many applications, Mobil SHC synthetic lubricants offer drain intervals up to six times longer than mineral oils. This helps increase worker safety and minimize environmental impact by reducing the amount of time personnel needs to spend on oil change-outs and the amount of oil disposed.

Mobil SHC-branded synthetic fluids commonly used for oil and gas applications, include: 

- Mobil SHC™ Pegasus - synthetic gas engine oils with energy efficiency benefits* 
- Mobilith SHC™ Series - synthetic greases for extreme conditions and high-temperature applications 
- Mobil SHC™ Polyrex Series - synthetic greases for extreme temperature applications 
- Mobil Rarus SHC™ 1020 Series - synthetic oils for booster pumps and air compressors 
- Mobil SHC™ 600 Series – excellent/outstanding-performance, gear, circulating and bearing oils with energy efficiency benefits** 
- Mobil SHC™ Gear – excellent/outstanding-performance, gear and bearing oils with energy efficiency benefits**

Q4: Can you describe ExxonMobil’s process for developing lubricants?

Lail: ExxonMobil devotes significant resources to product research and development. We use an advanced, scientifically engineered formulation approach that helps leverage the company’s technology leadership and application expertise.

We call this ExxonMobil’s Balanced Formulation Approach.

This comprehensive process enables us to develop lubricants that deliver exceptional performance across all critical areas for each application – such as oxidative stability, component wear protection, corrosion control, filterability, shear stability and extreme temperature performance.

From the start, our scientists select advanced technology base stocks and carefully design additive systems to complement the excellent lubricating properties of these base fluids. We then put our technology-driven lubricant candidates through a comprehensive range of industry-standard laboratory tests.

While some lubricant development programs would end here, ExxonMobil carries on with its testing.

Team members from ExxonMobil Research & Engineering Company work to supplement industry-standard testing with full-scale, industrial equipment rig tests. These proprietary rig tests are designed to stress the lubricant candidates under conditions that are even more demanding than they are likely to experience in severe operating environments.

Finally, we follow in-service testing protocols to validate the performance of our lubricants in field demonstrations.

Only after successful completion of all of these testing protocols will a lubricant be designated as a fit to become part of our Mobil SHC family.

So, while competitors may formulate lubricants to deliver exceptional results solely for one or two criteria, we know that if you focus on maximizing performance in just one area, it may negatively impact the others. That’s why we continue to embrace our proven balanced formulation approach.

Q5: With ExxonMobil operating in the upstream sector, how has this impacted on the development of your Mobil SHC™ synthetic lubricants?

Lail: As we develop advanced lubrication solutions for the oil and gas industry, we work to leverage our own in-depth knowledge of upstream operations. We apply our lubrication application expertise with our upstream operations and look to identify opportunities to support our own safety, sustainability and productivity goals.

* The fuel efficiency of Mobil SHC Pegasus relates solely to the fluid performance when compared with ExxonMobil's standard SAE 40 natural gas engine oils. The technology used allows up to a 1.5% increase in fuel efficiency compared with Mobil Pegasus 1005 and 805 Series when tested in standard natural gas engine applications under controlled conditions. Efficiency improvements will vary based on operating conditions. The energy efficiency claim for this product is based on test results on the use of the fluid conducted in accordance with all applicable industry standards and protocols.

** Energy efficiency relates solely to the fluid performance when compared with conventional reference oils of the same viscosity grade in circulating and gear applications. The technology used allows up to 3.6% efficiency compared with the reference when tested in a worm gearbox under controlled conditions. Efficiency improvements will vary based on operating conditions and application.

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