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Ferrari and Shell debut natural-gas derived oil

23 Sep 2014

Last weekend’s 2014 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix saw Ferrari running a new, higher performing oil from suppliers Shell for the first time. The Shell Helix Ultra race formulation is notable for using natural gas instead of crude oil as its base, providing enhanced cleansing and engine protection, resulting in greater efficiency.

“The engine of the (Ferrari) F14 T produces in excess of 600 horsepower, and the turbocharger, which rotates at up to 2000 revs per second, can be operating at up to 1,000 degrees Celsius,” said Ian Albiston, Shell’s trackside manager for Ferrari.

“The new oil has to cope with these conditions, while also achieving the level of protection to reach the 4,000-kilometre engine life required with only five engines per driver allowed for the season. In the high temperature, high stress environment of an F1 engine, the right motor oil can provide a crucial advantage.”

The technology used to produce the oil is a revolutionary gas-to-liquid (GTL) process, developed over 40 years of research, that converts natural gas into a crystal-clear base oil with virtually none of the impurities found in crude oil. Base oil is a key component of finished lubricants and this one is produced at the Pearl GTL plant in Qatar, a partnership between Shell and Qatar Petroleum, and currently the world’s largest source of GTL products.

Through the integration of the gas value chain in Qatar and Shell’s global lubricants supply chain, Shell’s GTL technology is already being made available to motorists in countries all over the world. And now, after three years of intensive testing, the new Shell Helix Ultra race formulation is also available for use in Ferrari’s latest V6 F1 engine.

Dave Salters, the Ferrari team’s head of engine development, said: “There has been a dedicated and successful development programme to develop an F1 oil based on Shell PurePlus Technology that has provided a good step in engine efficiency whilst maintaining the protection necessary in this type of very highly loaded Formula One engine.

“With Shell’s development team we are working together very aggressively to develop and introduce new technologies in both the oil and fuel to improve the efficiency and fuel consumption of the power unit. The current regulation and engine architecture reward these types of efficiency gains that have been developed with this advanced oil technology.”

Combining the pure base oil made from natural gas with a selection of high performing additives results in a higher quality motor oil race formulation. It cleans and lubricates the engine, which helps to minimise frictional losses and ensure that the maximum amount of fuel energy reaches the wheels throughout the race. It also helps to deliver improved fuel economy - which has become even more important with the limitation on fuel (100 kg per race) enforced by the 2014 technical regulations.

“Shell Helix Ultra for Scuderia Ferrari is designed and developed to improve the power and efficiency of the engine by reducing the losses inside it,” said Mark Wakem, F1 engine-oil development leader for Shell. "Wherever the lubricant is protecting and keeping surfaces apart, the more you reduce that friction, the more power is left from the fuel to get out to the wheels for optimum performance.”