"Reducing consumption is what our customers want and it is what society wants" - Richard Tucker

"Reducing consumption is what our customers want and it is what society wants" - Richard Tucker

Richard Tucker is responsible for the technology development for Shell's commercial and industrial lubricants and fuels. Prior to 2006, when he was appointed to the role, Richard held a number of marketing roles for Shell in the automotive and auto components industry. He talked to Simon Warburton at Shell's recent Energy and Technology Forum near Paris.

Richard has extensive experience developing lubricants technology alongside OEMs from time spent at Shell's Westhollow Technology Centre in Houston, Texas, where he was responsible for lubricants technology and OEM relationships.

Tucker joined Shell in 1987 after completing a PhD in Chemical Engineering at Cambridge. He joined Shell Research at Thornton in the UK, where he ran a programme to enhance safety at Liquefied Natural Gas facilities.

He then followed a variety of roles in diesel fuels research and development, as well as in fuels marketing.

j-a: To what extent does Shell make science at the forefront of its activities.

RT: We put a lot of effort into the science behind what we are talking about. The reason is we want to have a sound technological basis for what we are doing. We are in an industry where there is a lot of noise, a lot of emotion.

j-a: How does Shell anticipate likely legislation?

RT: We work with the people setting the specifications in different countries, but our general policy would be around engagement and in bringing knowledge. We are very much a proactive company.

A lot of our investments are in the planning for many, many years, they are mega-investments, billions of dollars.

j-a: Do you sometimes work with your competitors on generic issues?

RT: My very first job in Shell 26 years ago was with safety with liquid natural gas. Safety is a good example where we cooperate - it makes perfect sense. There are other areas - around legislation on fuel.

j-a: Is there a risk that as Shell Lubricants technology continues to advance, you could engineer yourselves out of future business prospects?

RT: Some people have said to me, why would an oil company sell a product that uses less fuel, but that does not even compute to us. It is obvious we should be doing that sort of thing.

We understand reducing consumption is what our customers want and it is what society wants.

j-a: Shell Lubricants uses the phrase "co-engineering" to describe its client relationships - how important is that to the business?

RT: We spend a lot of time talking to customers. We will sit with all the big OEMs and we have collaborations with all of them. We also spend time with people [for example] operating a fleet of trucks or wind farms. One of the powers we have got is feeding that back into our global marketing organisation.

The best partnerships are where [collaboration] occurs frequently. We can't have that with everybody. Where we have the best partnerships, we will be getting in at a very early stage.

j-a: Do you also work with Tier 1s and others?

RT: We work a lot with Tier 1s, for example ZF Friedrichshafen in transmissions. We work extensively with these guys and their competitors.

Also the next level down - it is not good just being with the big guys.

j-a: To what extent is Shell Lubricants under pressure to reduce its costs for customers?

RT: There will always be that cost pressure, that is fine, we understand. The penalties [for example] of not meeting CO2 legislation are extreme. If you can help them in that sense, there is definitely a conversation to be had.

j-a: How is the aftermarket important for Shell Lubricants?

RT: The aftermarket is an important part of what we do. We will always be focusing on the aftermarket...and perhaps OEM-branded products as well.

j-a: Is Shell still actively mulling the introduction of gas-to-liquid technology for the US?

RT: It is being considered at the moment. It is obviously something where you need to make very careful consideration [of] the financial situation.

That will be signed off at a board level - it is certainly under consideration. A whole bunch of other people are considering GTL in the US [at] the same time.

j-a: How does Shell Lubricants see future development, both from a future energy and lubricants perspective?

RT: The reality is - and this is quite a widely-held view - by 2050 two-thirds of vehicles are still likely to use more or less current engine technology and use more or less current fuels.

There is no silver bullet - it is a mosaic. There will be an uptick in various alternatives. All fuel options will be needed.

We will have ultra fuel economy fuel lubricants. We are going to see viscosity grades that we probably cannot imagine at this moment. But they are not going to compromise on oil drain interval [s].

It is ultra-fuel economy without compromise on any of the projects we have made. Synthetic lubricants will become the norm.

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