Lubrizol Opens Lab for Calcium Greases


Lubrizol Opens Lab for Calcium Greases
Lithium grease is shown in a drum. The high viscosity grease is used in a variety of industrial and automotive applications. © Pongchart B

Citing a need to find alternatives to increasingly expensive lithium, Lubrizol Corp. last week opened a grease laboratory outside Mumbai to develop formulas for products made with calcium sulfonate thickeners.

About two-thirds of the world’s greases are made with lithium soap or complex lithium soap thickeners, but lithium costs shot up the past few years because of rising demand from electric vehicles, most of which run on lithium-ion batteries. With EV sales expected to continue rising, analysts predict lithium costs will, too, although governments and industry are scurrying to develop more lithium sources.

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“Lithium demand isn’t slowing, and grease manufacturers will very soon require a reliable thickening alternative,” Lubricant Additives India Chairman and Director Sanjeev Kaul said in a Feb. 27 news release. “We want to help manufacturers throughout the region stay ahead of the curve and sharpen their competitive edge with possible alternate solutions.”

The new lab is located in Navi Mumbai, part of the Mumbai metropolitan area. Lubrizol did not disclose the size or cost of the facility nor the number of people working there. It did say the lab offers benchmark testing allowing customers to compare performance of individual greases against industry standards and performance testing to measure performance properties in application.

Lubrizol is headquartered in the United States and is one of the world’s four main suppliers of lubricant additive packages. Grease manufacturers around the world are grappling with lithium costs, but officials said the lab was built in India partly because the nation has a dearth of

“India is a unique market with unique demands,” Kaul said. “There is limited support available in the form of third-party testing labs in India focused on greases. With this lab, we are supporting small- to mid-size grease manufacturers in the region with grease development and testing services and support that can promote the development of calcium sulfonate based greases and increase their sales.”

The most authoritative measure of the global grease market, the National Lubricating Grease Institute’s annual Grease Production Survey Report, showed conventional lithium soaps and complex lithium soaps being used to thicken 49% and 20%, respectively, of grease produced worldwide in 2021. The combined percentage using those categories of thickeners have been falling in recent years.

Calcium varieties are the next most popular category of thickeners, used in 16% of products according to NLGI. Below that comes polyurea and aluminum soap thickeners, used in 6% and 4%, respectively.

Among calcium thickeners, anhydrous calcium is most popular, used in 8% of global volume, according to NLGI. Calcium sulfonate is used in 4% and hydrated calcium in 3%.

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