Fleet News

A day in the life: Fuels scientist

Johanne (Jo) Smith, a fuels scientist at Shell, started at the company in 1989 and has worked in various departments from analytical to fuels research and development.

A graduate in Applied Chemistry, her current role focuses on the successful deployment of new Shell fuels across the globe.

Fuels development is a long, complex process that can take a number of years to take an initial idea or concept through to deployment.

The process starts by talking to customers and understanding what they want from their fuel which then becomes the brief for the scientists and engineers to begin developing and testing new formulations.

It’s Smith’s job to work with the wider Shell Group to introduce new fuel formulas into Shell retail sites around the world and bring the products to life.

“I never thought when I was considering a career in science that I would be part of a team helping to develop and create fuels of the future.

"As fuels development can take a number of years, it’s very rewarding to see ideas comes to life and then to talk to customers and explain firsthand about Shell’s latest generation of fuels,” says Smith.

With 835 Shell sites in the UK alone, implementation of a new Shell fuel can be a real challenge.

“Different countries bring different challenges, they all have different ways of doing things and ways of working. It’s a challenging role as every day is different,” says Smith.

In the laboratory

Once an idea has been passed over to the laboratory, then the testing begins.

The team start off with simple experiments in the laboratory and then, as the fuel formulations become more successful, the scale of testing expands from test tubes to bench engine tests, vehicle testing and on-road fleet testing and market trials.

As diesel and petrol engines operate differently, the fuels interact differently with critical parts of the engine.

Additionally, as both fuels need to comply with relevant fuels specifications and standards, approximately 20 or so tests are performed to ensure they are fit-for-purpose.

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