O futuro dos óleos básicos
A demanda global de lubrificantes acabados está estável e a entrada no mercado de lubrificantes de mais alta especificação pode limitar ainda mais o crescimento, estendendo a vida e uso de lubrificantes em múltiplas aplicações. Isso limitará a necessidade de trocas de óleo e os volumes de reposições, sejam eles nos setores automotivo, comercial ou industrial.
Os produtores da API Grupo l já começaram a sentir os efeitos da entrada dos básicos grupo II e grupo III, que entram nos vários mercados globais.
O desaparecimento do grupo l está em andamento há alguns anos, com o fechamento de refinarias e alterações na produção. Era esperado que a produção dos básicos grupo l desapareceria totalmente e seria substituída por uma nova geração de básicos grupo II e III, além do uso crescente de ésteres e polialfaolefinas.
LUBES’N’GREASES EMEA Vol.12 Issue 10
BASE OIL REPORT – To the Fourth Quarter and Beyond
BY RAY MASSON
Global finished lubricant demand has plateaued and the effect of higher specification lubricants coming onto the market may limit growth by extending the life and use of lubricants in multiple applications. This will limit the need for oil changes and top-ups, be they in the automotive, commercial or industrial sectors of the industry.
Something has to give. API Group l producers will cede further to one or more of the newer types of base oil and have already started to feel the effects of the ingress of Group II and Group III products entering the various global markets.
This is nothing new, since the demise of Group l has been ongoing for some years, with ample closures and production alterations. Past thinking was that Group l production would disappear totally and be replaced by a new generation of Group II and III base stocks, in addition to the increasing use of polyalphaolefins and esters.
Then followed a discussion about whether some lubricants, such as marine and various process oils, still required a higher viscosity component that was not yet available from Group II and certainly not Group III oils. There were also some areas of the world, such as parts of West Africa, the Middle East Gulf and Asia, where the price of base oils was of paramount concern and where ongoing preference always favors lower-cost Group l components.
Could Group l oils become specialized products in niche markets, based in limited areas and locations where perhaps a premium could be attached to some of the grades being produced, such as brightstock?
The bad news is that most Group l production is dated in terms of the age of the process and plants. So to continue producing these base oils in the longer term will require investment and upgrades. But why would any right-minded oil company with a continually updated and upgraded refinery producing the new range of fuels outlay on producing what could become an antiquated product for a declining sector of the market? They would not.
While looking at the developing Group II scenario, some Group l producers are concerned that they will not be able to achieve sufficient sales at acceptable contribution levels to sustain ongoing production of all grades. This could indicate further closures of marginal plants, leaving fewer and fewer Group l facilities in production.
At the same time, large sums of capital were, and still are, being allocated to new facilities in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia to promote Group II and Group III production, not just for local markets but for global growth markets. One outcome of this path is that Europe may follow the U.S. route, where Group II base oils have become the workhorse grades used in formulations for the new ACEA 2016 implementation happening in December this year.
The future is again certain in that ACEA 2018 will be implemented during December 2020, whereby the move to 5W and 0W auto lubricants will be adopted in Europe along with the subsequent rise in the use of Group II and Group III to accommodate these specifications. Even some partly approved Group III grades appearing in Europe can now be described as Group III+, and these grades in the longer term will most certainly be used in the production of 0W oils, limiting the need for more expensive polyalphaolefins in the blending process.
There are still grey areas, such as marine, where cylinder oils in particular require a heavier viscosity component to blend into the finished lubricants, and a proposal to use naphthenics as a substitute for heavier viscosity brightstock. This is unpopular with marine lube blenders. Impending sulfur regulations will have profound effects on future marine lubricants, but until a decision as what types of fuels will actually be used, the question of which lubricants will be required remains unanswerable.
Group l base oils will not disappear altogether but will, perhaps, be less available. This may not incur any real problems since these grades will not be used as now, along with Group III grades, as a diluent to produce current grades of finished lubricants. Instead, that place will surely be taken by Group II. Export destinations will still be around for Group l products, but again, over time there will be a shift towards Group II and III even in those regions.
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