Evonik announced on Monday it is expanding its production capacity for polyalkylmethacrylate-based viscosity modifiers by 15 percent to meet rising demand. The oil additives provider has a global production footprint, including three plants in North America.
The company said it will increase its production capabilities through plant expansion projects and debottlenecking operations. Half of this capacity increase is already implemented; the remainder is scheduled for completion in 2021, Evonik stated in a press release. The company has plants in Europe in Darmstadt and Weiterstadt, Germany, and Lauterbourg, France; in Asia in Singapore and in Shanghai, China; in the United States in Mobile, Alabama, and Houston, Texas; and in Canada in Morrisburg, Ontario.
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Evonik did not respond to questions by deadline.
The press release stated that the expanded production capacity is associated with its efforts to consistently grow its oil additives business for specialty applications.
“Asia-Pacific is driving demand for polyalkylmethacrylate-based viscosity index improvers,” said industry consultant Geeta S. Agashe, president of Geeta Agashe & Associates LLC. Agashe noted that while the trend in some markets toward lower viscosity engine oils that meet new engine oil specifications – such as the ILSAC GF-6 passenger car motor oil category – could depress demand for V.I. improver additives, growth in other lubricants that use such additives and a shift in some regions to multigrades should help boost demand growth.
“Actually, 0W and 5W viscosity grades require lower V.I. improver treat rates as say, compared to the 10W, 15W, etc.,” Agashe explained to Lube Report. “Therefore, the optimization of formulation for lower viscosity oils to meet, say, GF-6A and 6B will have a negative impact on demand for V.I. improvers. Also, low viscosity oils offer longer drain intervals as compared to heavier viscosity multigrades. This too might subdue demand.”
However, she added, growth in fill-for-life automatic transmission fluids, gear oils and hydraulic fluids – especially in fast-growing regions – will help demand growth, as will the shift from monogrades to multigrades in several growth markets.
Agashe explained that polyalkylmethacrylate polymers provide very good viscosity index increase, are shear stable and have excellent low-temperature fluidity, which is important for fill-for-life ATF, gear oils and multi-viscosity hydraulic fluids, especially those designed to be fire-resistant. “They are also used in top-tier PCMO applications, especially Japanese formulations, due to some friction benefits,” she said. “PMA polymers are also used as pour point depressants.”
Evonik officials said during a September 2016 Lubes’n’Greases site visit to the company’s Darmstadt, Germany, headquarters that the oil additives business sales were split roughly evenly among the Americas, Europe-Middle East-Africa and Asia. At the time, the company estimated the global market for V.I. improvers at about 2 billion (U.S. $2.2 billion).
In 2015, Evonik completed an expansion at its Singapore oil additives plant to nearly double capacity at that site, which produces Viscoplex brand V.I. improvers and pour point depressants, along with Viscobase brand base fluids. When announced in late 2013, the company had cited expanding mobility and increasing demand for high-performance lubricants with higher additive content in Asia as justification.
Evonik is headquartered in Darmstadt, Germany.