ExxonMobil announced today that it has increased low-viscosity polyalphaolefin production capacity at its Gravenchon, France, plant by 19 percent to 105,000 metric tons per year.
The company said in a press release that it undertook the 17,000 t/y expansion in order to meet growing demand for synthetic base stocks.
The oil major reported that it has also improved its supply chain network through expanded sales hubs and upgraded carriers, as well as by placing more emphasis on efficient trucking, shipping and rail operations.
With this expansion, global PAO capacity sits at about 738,600 t/y, nearly all in the United States and Europe. In addition to the Gravenchon facility, ExxonMobil can make 196,000 t/y at its Baytown and Beaumont, Texas, plants, giving it about 40 percent of global capacity.
The companys capacity is split at 209,000 t/y of low-viscosity PAO, which is typically used as synthetic base stock, and 92,000 t/y of high-viscosity PAO, which is most often used as lubricant additive.
Ineos Oligomers is the worlds second-largest maker of PAO. The producer plans to open 120,000 t/y of new capacity at its Chocolate Bayou, Texas, petrochemical complex before the end of this year. That addition will put Ineos ahead of ExxonMobil as the worlds largest source for PAO.
Citing data from consultancy Kline & Co., ExxonMobil expects demand for synthetic lubricants to grow more than 20 percent from 2017 to 2021. PAO is an important base fluid for synthetic lubricants, especially the types of low-viscosity engine oils that are swiftly picking up market share in North America and Europe.