22 July, 2024

Industrial lubricants – the importance of connectivity and collaboration

26 October, 2017

By Andrew Hepher, vice president technology, Shell.

Today we hear a lot about connectivity within the context of concepts such as the Industrial Internet of Things and Industry 4.0. Indeed, the levels of connectivity that are now regularly discussed can give the impression at face value that we are simply adding more complexity to the equipment we use and rely on in our daily lives. So, it’s important to focus on how this greater complexity is worthwhile and how the intended benefits it offers can be harnessed.

First, let’s consider some background to the increasing need for greater levels of connectivity. We have a growing worldwide population; approximately 7 billion people anticipated to grow to around 10 billion by 2050 – with almost 70% of that population based in cities. To put this in context, this increasing level of required urbanization equates to adding a city like Milan or Prague every week for the next 40 years. That's quite a daunting prospect. Largely as a consequence of this trend, there is also a rising demand for mobility. There are less than 1 billion cars on the planet today, but this will likely rise to around 2 billion by 2060.

In terms of meeting the subsequent energy demand, which could increase by almost 60% by 2060, we are seeing the renewables market growing; with greater demand for photovoltaics etc. However, there will still be a demand for conventional energy sources such as oil and gas. So, the question is how do we meet that energy challenge while not compromising our goals for sustainability and protecting the planet?

Energy efficiency

Clearly, the answers to this challenge have to revolve around energy efficiency. To be more energy efficient we need smarter networks and smarter systems that can ensure we can derive more value from the precious energy we have at our disposal. However, we are seeing the operating conditions of industrial equipment getting harder, and pressure and temperature requirements getting higher. This is all putting more demand on the equipment, not least the lubricants used within it.

Challenges such as these are driving greater complexity within the equipment and systems designed to help plant and machinery operate reliably while also being as energy efficient as possible. These challenges are also driving an increase in the number of equipment manufacturers in the market; companies that are focused on developing solutions that are energy efficient and able to improve equipment reliability. Take an electric drivetrain, for example. The proliferation of transmission options has been notable over the past few years, with many smaller players coming onto the market to compete with the longer-established players. So, major challenges can result in more complexity and a major growth in the types of solutions that are brought to market.

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