Chevron Expands Group III Output in Richmond


Chevron Expands Group III Output in Richmond
Chevron's refinery in Richmond, California. The company announced it began making 4 centiStoke API Group III base stocks this month at the refinery's base oil plant, which has made 6 cSt Group III oils since 2019. Photo courtesy of Chevron

Chevron said Sunday that it began making 4 centiStoke API Group III base stocks this month at its refinery in Richmond, California – a facility that has made 6 cSt Group III oils since 2019.

The change will boost United States output of Group III stocks, which remains slight. Chevron officials said it will help accommodate rising demand for the category while reducing dependence on imports.

“This is particularly important for customers in North America who have mainly been relying on imported Group III from Asia and the Middle East to meet tightening specs,” Luyen Vo, the company’s senior manager for global technology sales and business development of base oils, said in a news release.

Along with China, the U.S. is one of the world’s two largest finished lubricant markets and base oil producing nations. The nation’s base oil supply base, though, is heavily weighted toward Group II oils, which accounts for 59% of U.S. production capacity, according to Lubes’n’Greases Base Stock Plant Data. Even after the addition of 4 cSt oils to the production slate in Richmond, Group III accounts for just 1% of U.S. capacity. The category accounts for 14% of global base oil capacity.

To begin making the 4 cSt product, which Chevron markets as Nexbase 3043, the Richmond plant will reduce output of Group II oils, which is most of what that base oil plant makes. Officials said the plant has a high level of flexibility to shift production between Group II and IIII and will adjust the balance according to demand, but they list the plant’s capacity breakdown as 19,000 b/d of Group II and 2,500 b/d of Group III.

Chevron began making the 6 cSt oil, marketed as Nexbase 3060, in 2019 under a toll production agreement with Finland-based Neste. In 2022 the U.S. energy company bought the Nexbase business in a deal that gave the company rights to sell Nexbase oils produced at Neste’s wholly owned base oil plant in Porvoo, Finland, and at its Bahrain joint venture with Bapco and Nogaholding.

Sunday’s news release stated that the 4 and 6 cSt oils produced in Richmond match the manufacturing specifications of oils made at the Finland and Bahrain plants. The Porvoo refinery stopped processing Russian crude oil after the European Union banned importation of such products over the war in Ukraine. The change in crude slate required adjustments in refinery operations, but Chevron officials said the base oils produced there continued to meet the company’s specifications for them.

Nexbase 3043 will be available on the U.S. West and Gulf coasts, Chevron officials said, though product sold on the Gulf Coast may come from any of the plants making Nexbase base stocks.

As Chevron officials noted, demand for lighter Group III base oils has been increasing, largely due to a shift toward lower-viscosity automotive engine oils. In the past 25 years, for example, passenger car motor oil demand in developed markets has been shifting from 10W multigrades to 5W and now 0W products.

“The markets for [passenger car motor oil] and, to a lesser extent, [heavy-duty motor oil] are moving to lower-viscosity oils to improve fuel economy and extend oil drains,” Chevron General Manager for Base Oils Alicia Logan said in a news release, adding that this has raised demand for 4 cSt Group III.

HF Sinclair’s Petro-Canada Group II and III plant in Mississauga, Canada, is the largest Group III source in North America, with capacity to make 4,000 b/d of that category. Small amounts of Group III are also produced at Calumet’s refinery in Shreveport, Louisiana; Motiva’s refinery in Port Arthur, Texas; Avista’s waste oil rerefinery in Peachtree City, Georgia; and Novvi’s biorefinery in LaPorte, Texas.