North American Grease Output Declines

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North American Grease Output Declines
Lithium grease in various colors © Pongchart B

Lubricating grease production in North America declined 17% in 2020, according to the National Lubricating Grease Institute’s latest yearly survey. Production of greases made with aluminum soap, calcium soap, lithium soap and polyurea were all down compared to 2019 volumes.

The decline is based on comparative data for consistently reporting companies in North America. Officials with the United States-based NLGI have noted that grand totals should not be used for year-to-year comparisons of data because the pool of reporting companies can shift.

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The 39 North American grease plants that participated in the survey produced about 359.3 million pounds of grease last year, or 15% of the global total of 2.5 billion pounds.

Greases made with conventional lithium soap thickener accounted for 20% of grease production in North America in 2020, down from 22% in 2019. Grease made with lithium complex soap thickeners comprised 44% of the region’s demand in 2020, compared with 43% in 2019.

Calcium soap grease production made up 14% of the region’s grease production last year, up from 13% in 2019. Aluminum soap greases accounted for 7% of North America’s grease production in 2020, unchanged from 2019. Polyurea greases comprised 7% of the region’s grease production last year, also unchanged from 2019.

Aluminum soap grease production dropped 20% from 2019. Calcium soap grease production decreased 8% last year. Total production of greases thickened with lithium soaps fell 18% from 2019. Polyurea grease production declined 19% in 2020.

In the Caribbean, Central and South America, 14 grease plants participating in the survey produced 69.5 million pounds of grease in 2020, accounting for 3% of 2.4 billion pounds of global production. Comparative data was unavailable for the region.

Greases made with conventional lithium soap thickener accounted for 82% of the region’s grease production last year. Grease made with lithium complex soap thickener comprised 15% of the region’s production in 2020. Production of grease made with calcium soap accounted for 2%, and grease made with sodium soap thickener made up 1% of the region’s grand total last year.

The survey also compiled grease production data by base oil type. Among the 258 million tons of grease in North America for which base fluid type was reported, 77% used conventional, 15% used synthetic, 7% used semi-synthetic and less than 1% used biobased fluids.

In the Caribbean, Central and South America, all respondents reported base fluid type. Among the region’s 69.5 million pounds of grease reported by base fluid type, 99% used conventional base fluids. Less than 0.1% used synthetic and semi-synthetic base fluids, and no participants reported using biobased fluids.

The full 30-page report of 2020 grease production includes prior year data going back to 2017 and is available to download at the NLGI website. NLGI member companies can obtain a free copy, and nonmembers may purchase the report, which contains data categorized by geographic region, thickener type, base oil type and year.