Shell notebook: ‘Starship’ to blast off, ‘Unsung’ wine heroes, employees unite after Harvey

Sept. 23, 2017
Demonstration of aerodynamic concept truck planned for 2018

SANTA BARBARA, CA. Shell Rotella said its “Starship” concept tractor-trailer is nearing completion, and will travel across the United States in early 2018.

Bob Mainwaring, technology manager of innovation for Shell Lubricants, said energy production and security will continue to be serious global challenges in the coming decades, especially when factoring in projected population growth and energy demand.

With freight transportation responsible for as much as 35% of energy usage, “we have no option but to think differently about energy moving forward,” Mainwaring said.

Mainwaring said Starship’s truck cab is made of “ridiculously light” carbon fiber, and those working on the project have been “obsessed” with aerodynamics. The vehicle should virtually eliminate the gap between tractor and trailer, and utilize skirts all the way around the vehicle that go almost down to the ground.

There are solar panels on the roof of the trailer, and the vehicle will feature the latest drivetrain and lubricant technology.

While mpg could potentially double from the 6.5 figure that is about the industry average, Mainwaring said a more important number is freight-ton efficiency.

The project, first announced in 2015, and is a venture with AirFlow Truck Co. owner Bob Sliwa. AirFlow has previously built two aerodynamic Class 8 tractor-trailers, one in 1983 and one in 2012. The latter vehicle, the Bullet Truck, ran coast-to-coast hauling 65,000 lbs. and averaged a record 13.4 mpg.

The 'Unsung' wine heroes

Shell’s media event coincided with the release of the latest installment of its “Unsung” documentary series. Since 2015, Shell has featured what it calls “the often-overlooked heroes who are working behind-the-scenes of almost every industry.”

The latest film focused on the family behind the Saarloos and Sons vineyard in Los Olivos, CA., a fourth-generation company of farmers, and more recently, winemakers. The film features owner Keith Sarloos and his father, Larry, sharing tales of the long hours and hard work it has taken to grow and maintain their business. The film also include Keith’s 13-year-old daughter, who appears well on her way to keeping the company going well into the future.

The full film spotlighting the Saarloos and Sons story is available on YouTube.

Employees unite after Hurricane Harvey

Dan Arcy, global OEM technical manger for Shell Global Solutions, has lived in the Houston area for 30 years. He has been through a number of storms, but he said he has not experienced anything like Hurricane Harvey.

Arcy said he was fortunate because he did not have house flooding, but acknowledged “there were a lot of people who did struggle,” including Shell employees.

Despite the hardships, the storm “has brought out the best of people,” said Arcy, who recounted the story of one employee who helped rescue a co-worker and elderly mother from a flooded home.

“It’s amazing how people came together,” he said, noting how hundreds of people were volunteering, even during the sweltering heat.

Within Shell, there were daily check-ins, and Facebook groups created so people could more easily keep in contact and find ways to assist each other.

Arcy credited workers in other states, including Shell Lubricants technical manager Stede Granger, for offering to do more work, providing Houston-based workers time to focus on their families.

Pam Rosen, who handles external relations for fuels, lubricants, and motorsports groups, said Shell has provided affected employees paid-time off so they could get things back in order.

Rosen said the company’s preparations ahead of the storm, in coordination with the city of Houston and other stakeholders, had helped bring energy production in this key hub “about back to normal” less than four weeks after the storm, without major price spikes.

She also noted Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner had named former Shell Oil CEO Marvin Odum as chief recovery officer for the city, a position created after the storm. Odum, who retired from Shell last year, said he would not take a salary.

About the Author

Neil Abt

Neil Abt, editorial director at Fleet Owner, is a veteran journalist with over 20 years of reporting experience, including 15 years spent covering the trucking industry. A graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., he began his career covering sports for The Washington Post newspaper, followed by a position in the newsroom of America Online (AOL) and then both reporting and leadership roles at Transport Topics. Abt is based out of Portland, Oregon.

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