ExxonMobil Mulls PAO Plant in Asia

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ExxonMobil Mulls PAO Plant in Asia
A closeup view of mechanical equipment gears at a factory in northern China. Industrial gear oils are among the applications for lubricants formulated with metallocene polyalphaolefin synthetic base stocks. © chinahbzyg

ExxonMobil is considering constructing a polyalphaolefin plant in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a recent posting on its website.

The posting provided no further details, and the company did not respond to requests for comment, but PAO demand in the region is growing, and several small plants have opened in China in the past two years.

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The reference to the potential project is on an ExxonMobil webpage about synthetic base stocks and titled “Supply reliability.” The undated page says the company is evaluating options for a “world-scale” facility that would produce high-viscosity metallocene PAO for Asia-Pacific. There is no mention of a timeline, possible locations or capacity.

ExxonMobil Chemical is the world’s second-largest PAO producer, with three existing plants – one in Gravenchon, France, and the others in Beaumont and Baytown, Texas, United States – with combined capacity of 284,000 metric tons per year.

The world’s biggest PAO producers are American and European. None has plants in Asia-Pacific, but four small facilities – with capacities ranging from 10,000 t/y to 23,000 t/y – have opened in China in recent years, and at least two more are under development.

The region’s demand for PAO is growing as its consumption of high quality lubricants rises. China is part of that trend, and its central government has stated a goal for the country to develop its own capacity in order to reduce reliance on foreign suppliers.