Since, wind is likely to be the fastest growing renewable energy generation source in India, we have started focusing more on this segment as our long-term strategy, states Akhil Jha, Vice President Technical, Shell Lubricants India, and Felix Guerzoni, Shell Global Product Application Specialist while talking to POWER TODAY about their company´s newest products catering to the sector.
Shell has entered the wind sector in a big way. Tell us about this.
Akhil: The overall power scenario in India in terms of conventional energy is such that coal and gas are still the largest contributors. However, wind energy is the fastest moving alternate energy source with around 20-25 GW of installed capacity today. This is further expected to grow to around 50-55 GW by 2020.Besides its obvious growth and profit, wind energy is also environment friendly, and if calculated for every 55 GW of energy produced through wind capacity we would reduced CO2 emissions almost equivalent to 80 million tonne.
So this is the environment and climate benefit.
Also, India has the geographical advantage of a longer coastline coupled with low cost of construction which together creates really favourable conditions for this sector.
How well do you think is this market growing? What is Shell´s role and strategy here?
Akhil: If you look at some areas like in Gujarat or the southern states, there are a lot of wind energy projects coming up. Also, looking at the way wind original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like Suzlon and other major Indian player are growing, there are a lot of opportunities.
At Shell, our role in this segment will remain same as we do globally. This is one of our strengths and we will bring value to wind customers and OEMs.
Felix: The way we operate is across the full spectrum (value chain), which involves products for many OEM components like gear boxes and bearings, besides providing products through all stages of the construction phase, turbine installation, and operation and maintenance.
We thus have a full offering across the value chain, and as part of it, we also work closely with OEMs while supplying customised product range. Since, wind turbine manufacturers understand their requirements, it (customised products) also help them to lower their cost of operation.
Besides this, we also deal with the transitional affects on wind turbines parts as they move from construction phase to assembly, and finally focus on operational maintenance.
Therefore, a part of our role is also to work closely with the component manufacturers to understand and in some cases design a set specification of lubricants, greases and gear oils for those applications and allow them to operate more effectively.
Additionally, once the wind turbines are in operation, we also have to maintain and operate those as cost effectively as possible and that´s where we not only offer products but also provide round-the-clock services.
This is complimentary in the field and includes activities like oil analysis, with service technicians conducting tests on the gear boxes for example to understand the condition, operation procedures and effectiveness of the turbine.
What is Shell´s strategy to capitalise on the growth in RE?
Akhil: Shell´s strategy is to take a long-term view of the scenario. Expanding population, urbanisation and demand for power has made this sector a priority for us due to its environment friendliness, cost effectiveness and sustainability.
Felix: Shell is committed to wind energy and our strategy is to work with all major wind OEMs and industry bodies in this area. We currently have 450 test regimes conducted in our laboratories, while the field tests last for anywhere between 1-3 years, and sometimes longer. It is a detailed process wherein a product has to pass all the tests, after which we also work with OEMs individually to understand their requirements and specifications. Thus we are into every aspect of the value chain and can offer products
What are the products that you have to offer for the sector?
Felix: We start off with the full lubricant product for the segment in terms of the synthetic gear oil of which Shell Amara is for wind. This is our next generation synthetic gear oil, which we are bringing to the market, along with the Shell Omala S4 GX, which has had a long history in the market today.
We also have a range of high performance greases, which are designed specifically for the wind sector and then we have products for the main bearing like the Gadus S5 T460, which is used for the pitch drives in the turbines.
What sets Shell apart from its competitors in this space?
Akhil: When you look at turbine performance and efficiency in low and high temperature environments, the major concern is over how effective the greases and gear oils are going to be in such conditions. We are continuously working on low temperature fluidity and oil compatibility with the gears and surfaces and the other pipes and fixtures that are within the installation or on the surface.
Firstly, if you look at all major wind farms, they are located a very remote areas and the installations are at a height and therefore installation is difficult. So, clearly maintenance is a big issue and liability is a major concern. Reliability of the project on account of how far one has to travel to maintain it is another problem. While OEMs generally rely on the in-built sensors alone, there is a need for more assurance, which we provide through our operation and maintenance services.
Secondly, the turbines are under immense torque either when they are moving at low speeds, high speeds or static depending on the conditions and this can lead to a lot of problems with the installation. Lower the speed more the stress on oil and therefore at Shell we looked at how helicopter impellers are designed and lubricated and took a cue from that. We research, learn and develop oils for wind turbine blades based on this, and that is how we take our experience across markets and utilise it elsewhere. Thirdly, blade size has been increasing in proportion to the power expected to be generated from the installation. These bigger blades then need to be mounted and the problems with torque also increases, which is an area that Shell can help.
The fourth is when dealing with corrosion, which is the salt and mineral content in the air.
This poses a variety of challenges which are extremely critical and a good oil can help in such situations without compromising on the quality. Wrong lubricants can shorten the life of gears and damage them and therefore Shell stands out from its competitors here.